After an eight day long coaching search, UTSA Athletics Director Lisa Campos has made her selection for UTSA’s next head coach. Texas high school football coaching legend and current Arkansas Running Backs Coach Jeff Traylor is expected to be introduced to the media tomorrow after an early morning vote of approval from the UT Board of Regents is passed.
Traylor comes to UTSA with a resume strikingly similar to that of UTSA’s previous coach Frank Wilson. Both are former high school coaches, both are known primarily for their recruiting prowess, both came to UTSA as SEC running backs coaches, and both have never been a collegiate coordinator or head coach.
Despite the similarities, Traylor’s experience is a bit more fleshed out than that of Wilson. For starters, Traylor was a high school head coach for 15 years, versus just three years for Frank Wilson. Traylor is one of the most revered coaches in all of Texas football as he delivered three state titles to his alma mater Gilmer High Schoool. Despite Gilmer moving up to more difficult classifications under Traylor’s watch, Traylor managed an unbelievable 176-26 record in his time as a head coach.
While Traylor has never been a full-on offensive coordinator, he did receive a promotion to be running game coordinator and special teams coach in his time under Charlie Strong at UT. My understanding is that Traylor has been extremely hands-on with offensive game planning at all stops of his coaching career, and was an early adopter of the power spread offense during his time at Gilmer HS. He’s no Joe Brady or Graham Harrell, but it’s safe to say Traylor and his staff should be a bit more innovative on the offensive side of the ball than Frank Wilson was.
Of course Traylor won’t be able to accomplish much without a staff full of studs. Traylor will lean heavily on his ties to the state of Texas to flesh out his roster. I would expect Traylor’s first hire to be his son Jordan. A current scout for the New Orleans Saints, Jordan Traylor will likely settle into a role coaching wide receivers or quarterbacks.
It would probably take a large pay cut, but Craig Naviar could be in play as defensive coordinator at UTSA. Naivar and Traylor have a strong relationship and Naivar could be looking to take over a defense of his own with the Longhorns working on bringing in an external hire as defensive coordinator. If Naivar and the next defensive coordinator at UT clash then UTSA would be a terrific soft landing spot for the 24-year coaching veteran.
If UTSA is priced out of Naivar’s services then Van Malone would be a solid option as defensive coordinator. Malone and Traylor spent the 2017 season together at SMU before Head Coach Chad Morris took the Arkansas job. Malone is currently the cornerbacks coach at Kansas State and is an elite recruiter of the state of Texas.
Traylor’s hiring has been met with praise from folks that worked with him in his time at UT, SMU, and Arkansas. Many Razorback fans hoped that Traylor would be retained so that their recruiting class could stay in tact. When Chad Morris left SMU for Arkansas, many members of the SMU team started a Twitter campaign for Traylor to be hired as the Mustangs’ head coach. It’s clear that Traylor is held in extremely high regard by those close to him.
A dozen SMU players have now lobbied with #JeffTraylorForHeadCoach: Judah Bell, Michael Badejo, Shaine Hailey, Ken McLaurin, Jordan Ward, Mikial Onu, JT Williams, Brandon Benson, JR Griffin, Myron Gailliard, Ke'Mon Freeman and Xavier Jones https://t.co/mwOdZpiEiZ— Adam Grosbard (@AdamGrosbard) December 6, 2017
There’s a lot to like about this hire, including the fact that UTSA unsuccessfully tried to hire Jeff in 2016. His Texas ties are great, recruiting should be fantastic, and the hire seems to have stirred up a lot of good PR for UTSA in the state. However it’s a bit of a disappointment that UTSA was unable to secure a candidate with head coaching or full-time coordinator experience. “Never make the same hire twice” is a common refrain in college football, and UTSA appears to have done just that.
UTSA needs a coach that can come in and win on day one. I think Traylor is capable of that, but my comfort level with this hire would be much higher if he had coached a team to bowl games as a coordinator or head coach before taking over the Roadrunners.
With just over a week until early signing day, Traylor should primarily focus on retaining UTSA’s current top commits while plotting out roster needs with his staff. It will be interesting to see what kind of staff Traylor is able to build, and how much UTSA is able to pay Traylor and his assistants. More details should come to light after Traylor’s contract is officially approved by the Board of Regents tomorrow morning.