By: Bob Bakken
The secret to college recruiting is building relationships, said a coach who has been considered one of the top at his craft in football.
Arkansas State University cornerbacks coach Carl “Trooper” Taylor talked about his life and career to the DeSoto County Touchdown Club at the Boiling Point Restaurant in Southaven Tuesday.
Prior to coming to Jonesboro, Ark., Taylor was instrumental in attracting recruiting classes as an assistant coach at Auburn, recruits that were ranked as high as third in the nation in 2011, according to ESPN.com.
“I try to be very thorough,” Taylor said. “If he’s not talking to you, you can bet he’s talking to somebody. People make mistakes when they generalize. Every kid is different because everyone’s situation is different.”
Taylor was Auburn’s assistant head coach and wide receivers coach from 2009-2012, a tenure that included a national championship season for the Tigers under Gene Chizek in 2010, when Auburn finished 14-0 and beat Oregon for the BCS title 22-19.
Red Wolves’ coach Blake Anderson, a college teammate with Taylor at Baylor for a brief time, hired Taylor soon after Anderson was named Arkansas State’s head man in December, 2013.
Anderson has stabilized a coaching staff that went through several changes in the three years prior to his hire, a coaching carousel that included Hugh Freeze going to Ole Miss, Gus Malzahn heading to Auburn and Bryan Harsin taking over at Boise State.
“When Blake came back after Christmas (the first season), the players all stood up and clapped,” Taylor said. “What it did in a strange kind of way was all the changes made the players get close. That makes a big difference.”
Much of Taylor’s talk, however, centered on his life as one of 16 siblings in Cuero, Texas in a family that lost their father when Trooper was a young boy.
He said his coaches became his “father figure” and he tries to pass that on to his players.
“Those guys bridged the gap,” Taylor said. “I learned that blood makes you kin. Love, trust, respect, discipline, hard work: that makes you family. Those guys became a part of my family. I don’t make many choices today that I don’t run by my high school coach.”
One decision Taylor said won’t be made is for Arkansas State, part of the Sun Belt Conference, to decide to take on cross-state rival Arkansas of the SEC.
Especially since both teams have had recent success in bowl games and such, many football fans in the Razorback State have pushed for the contest, which Taylor said would be a “lose-lose” contest for both schools.
However, the non-conference slate of Southern California followed by Missouri this fall has to be pretty impressive, and it’s done for a reason.
“It’s going to be an opportunity. It helps us because of recruiting,” Taylor said. “I promise you, our guys are going to compete. On one Saturday for 60 minutes, I love it, give us a shot.”
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397, ext. 240.