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Duane Taylor Officially Hired by the Vegas Vipers

The Vegas Vipers have officially completed their 2023 Coaching Staff. With Duane Taylor as the offensive coordinator, the Vipers should have a creative attack in 2023.

It’s been long reported that Duane Taylor would join the Vipers after the college season ended as their offensive coordinator by the best insider in the business…Mike Mitchell. Taylor is a former alternative league player himself, having seen time as a quarterback, wide receiver, and kicker indoors. He would play with two leagues the National Indoor Football League, and the American Indoor Football League.

Shout out to the XFL reddit community who caught the change to the website immediately.

Quarterback Turns Coach

Duane Taylor would play primarily quarterback in college, which actually would help him transition into his future as a coach. Connell Maynor was the quarterback’s coach for Fayetteville State at the time. Maynor was somewhat of a legend in the Arena Football World he would set records by playing in all three phases of the game.

He is the only player ever in the AFL to collect over 5,000 yards passing, 500 yards receiving, 400 yards rushing, and 400 yards in the kick return game. After his retirement, Maynor would up coaching in the college ranks.

In his first season as a coach, he would cross paths with Duane Taylor and serve as his quarterback coach for the rest of his college career. Ironically, Taylor’s career as a player followed a very similar path. He would leave college and end up playing five seasons between the two indoor football leagues.

When he got into coaching, he would begin at the high school level before leaping into the college game. Coaching for Hoke County, and Tower High Schools he helped develop players that would later go on to be well-known in the professional ranks.

Beginning of College Coaching Career

In 2010, Connell Maynor would be hired as a head coach for the first time in his career. Winston Salem-State handed him the keys to their division II program hoping for the best. I don’t think they ever could have expected the success Maynor, and his staff would have. On that staff was Duane Taylor, who was hired as the wide receiver’s coach. In four seasons with the program, the pair would win 45 games and lose just 6 regular season games, 2 bowl games, and 1 early exit in the playoffs.

Their success was unprecedented for the program, and it left lasting marks. Two of Taylor’s players turned into record-setters for the school. Jameze Massey and Jahuann Butler would go on the best receivers in school history under Taylor. During his four seasons with the program, he had four receivers earn CIAA Rookie of the Year honors an unbelievable run of success at the position in a short amount of time.

Duane Taylor

In 2014 Coach Maynor decided to take a position with Hampton as their head coach. A division I FCS program was a step up in competition from his previous position with Winston-Salem. However, this time around Taylor would coach quarterbacks. Once again Taylor would find success coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers. In his second season with the team, he was promoted to assistant head coach and wide receivers coach. He would help Jerrell Antoine produce over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in a 5 game stretch as a freshman.

In the following season, when Taylor oversaw receivers, the school added future NFL and CFL quarterback David Watford. This would help top target Twarn Mixson have an explosive season, and give us a glimpse of how creative Taylor might get in Vegas. Mixon would see opportunities as a passer, runner, and receiver in 2014 and 2015. Producing his career seasons under Taylor.

He would carry the ball 7 times for 10 yards, and throw 5 passes completing 3 for 53 yards and 3 touchdowns, he also caught 109 passes for 1,642 yards and 15 touchdowns. This showcased what Taylor could do with professional-level talent, and ultimately earned him the offensive coordinator position for his alma mater Fayetteville University in 2016. Just six seasons into his collegiate coaching career. 

Fayetteville University 2016

When hired by Fayetteville, he was hired to serve as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, and wide receivers coach, as well as help recruit players. This again just showcased the kind of coach Taylor was and is even at an early stage in his career. He wants to serve as the architect of a passing game, in which he not only designs and calls plays but teaches them at the positional level as well.

Duane Taylor

In 2016 he would lead an offensive attack that leaned heavily on running back Stevie Green who was a redshirt freshman at the time. Green would turn into the workhorse of the offense collecting 225 touches for 1,174 yards, and 6 touchdowns. He would initially try and start JUCO transfer DeMarius Davis who had joined the program a year before, over first-year transfer Devin Knudson. It wasn’t until Knudson took over that their passing game finally started to let it fly with efficiency.

Knudson would produce 8 touchdowns to 4 interceptions in his short stint as the starter producing 4 straight victories to close the season, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to end up with a winning record. Gedari Liverman was his leading receiver at the time, another smaller, shiftier receiver that saw use as a runner as well as a receiver. Could we see Mathew Sexton or Jeff Badet used in this manner in 2023?

Return to Hampton University

After one rough season with Fayetteville, he would return to Hampton this time as the offensive coordinator once again under his mentor Maynor. During his lone season as the offensive coordinator for Hampton, he oversaw a quarterback room that included Delmon Williams, Brendan Greene, and Kenji Bahar (who would go on to play in the USFL). Again we saw a smaller, shiftier receiver get involved in the run game.

This time it was Ronald Bell who stood 5’6 162 pounds, he would carry the ball 7 times for 111 yards and 1 touchdown, including carries in 6 different games. He also led the team with 47 receptions. He produced 534 yards and 5 touchdowns. His running mate, Aulden Knight wound up adding the deep element to the offense catching 28 passes but managing over 600 yards, and 6 touchdowns. This role would make perfect sense to be filled primarily by Martavis Bryant.

After the 2017 season, Maynor would accept a position with Alabama A&M as the head coach after four seasons with Hampton. He produced a 20-25 record as the head coach during his time with the school. He would join Alabama A&M with a career win-loss record of 65-31 over 8 seasons as a head coach. His record with Taylor by his side? 59-25.

Alabama A&M

During their time together at Alabama A&M, the pairing of Maynor and Taylor have continued to find success. The past five seasons with the school have seen them produce four winning seasons. Including an undefeated run in the covid shortened 2020 season. Taylor was instrumental in the development of Aqeel Glass which led to speculation he would end up with the XFL.

While Glass wound up with the USFL, we can still look to his career for cues as to what we can expect from the Taylor-led offense and its quarterbacks in 2023.

In 2017 as a true freshman Glass struggled with interceptions under former offensive coordinator Andy Fuller who was in his 11th season at the school before leaving with the previous staff. Playing in 9 games he threw the ball 219 times completing less than half of his passes. He would throw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, and add little to no value in the run game. Despite this Taylor arrived on the scene and saw what the 6-5 quarterback could be.

In his sophomore season, it was like Glass was a different player. Going from a 1-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a freshman to a 2-1 ratio in his sophomore year. He would improve his completion rate by 8%, while playing in 11 games, and attempting twice as many passes as the year before. This only begins to demonstrate the year-over-year progression that Glass had under Taylor.

Over the next three seasons, Glass would continue to improve. In 2019 he produced a career-high with a 61.3% completion rate, 32 passing touchdowns to 11 touchdowns, and 3,600 passing yards. In just two seasons working under Taylor, he had gone from producing twice as many interceptions as he had touchdowns to producing three times as many. It’s a turn-around that I can only liken to Josh Allen’s large leap from his first two years to his third season.  

By his final season with the school in 2021, Glass would throw over 400 times managing his highest completion rate yet, 63% throwing 36 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions his highest ratio to date. His transformation under coach Taylor complete, he opted to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. He went unselected, before trying out with the Buccaneers. He was not signed but wound up landing with the New Orleans Breakers in the USFL, while Taylor lands with Luis Perez, Jalan McClendon, and if rumors are true, Bryan Scott.

2022 Season

Early on in 2022 whispers about Taylor moving to the professional level for the first time began to leak out. Mike Mitchell as mentioned before at the forefront of this. Taylor continued to run the offense after Glass left. His signal callers, Xavier Lankford and Quincy Casey would split time in the 2022 season. Lankford was the more mobile of the two quarterbacks, adding the run threat the defense simply couldn’t ignore.

Duane Taylor

Regarded as one of the top assistants at the HBCU level, Taylor was named the offensive coordinator for the NFLPA collegiate bowl. This game would pit him head-to-head against his future head coach Rod Woodson who served as the defensive coordinator for a staff that may as well have been named Team XFL.

Rod Woodson (Defensive Coordinator), Jonathan Hayes (offensive coordinator), Anthony Becht (tight ends coach), Marcus Lewis (defensive line coach), and Willie Wright (offensive intern) were all on the opposing staff. He would also coach next to Wade Phillips (defensive coordinator), Andre Gurode (defensive line coach), Nick Novak (specialist assistant), and Morgan Ford (general assistant).

He also happened to coach right next to active USFL player wide receiver Chris Rowland of the Philadelphia Stars. Could we see Rowland selected in the supplemental draft coming up next month?

Two Quarterback System on the Horizon?

Could we see a two-quarterback scheme in 2023 with the Vipers? Currently, the Vipers have two very different players at quarterback. Luis Perez, and Jalan McClendon. The rumor is Bryan Scott will be heading to Vegas by the new year as well. If Scott or Perez don’t set themselves apart could we see a quarterback-by-committee approach for Perez again in 2023 even after jumping to the XFL? McClendon certainly has the requisite athleticism to play the part of De’Andre Johnson in this scenario.

The big knock on McClendon has always been experience. He was seldom used as a passer in four seasons of college whether at North Carolina State or Baylor. He would attempt just 138 passes in 23 games. His sophomore and junior seasons saw him run more than he passed. His time in the XFL may have been different given a full season but as the inexperienced backup in 2020, he attempted just four passes running twice.

Since then McClendon’s only experience professionally came indoors. After the XFL shut down for the 2020 season McClendon signed with his hometown Carolina Cobras of the National Arena League for the 2021 season. In 2022 he landed with another local team the Charlotte Thunder. However, this has done little to remove concerns about his ability to start at the XFL level.

There are still some very big questions to answer with the supplemental draft coming up quickly. Where will the Vipers play? Is Bryan Scott joining the team? When will we see the schedule? Buckle up Vipers fans, the news cycle is about to hit a fever pitch over the next month.

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