New coach to develop team skills

Taylor Stubblefield Colby Patterson
Coach Taylor Stubblefield points to junior defensive back during practice. Photo by Preston Zubal.

Coach Taylor Stubblefield points to junior defensive back during practice. Photo by Preston Zubal.

In football, being tough and upfront can be two of the most important qualities in a coach.

Taylor Stubblefield, Utah’s recent hire as wide receiver coach, is trying to prove that this football season. After Tuesday’s practice, Stubblefield got after his receivers because of their poor routes and not fighting to make catches. He was honest in mentioning how there was a lethargic tone to the group.

“I do not know if we came out with a mentality that we want to compete with,” Stubblefield said. “I thought we did some good stuff, but overall our give-a-crap meter was not very high today.”

Stubblefield’s stubbornness stems from his days as a wideout with the Boilermakers of Purdue, where he was a consensus All-American, setting numerous school and conference records. After a few stints as a professional in the NFL and the Canadian Football League, he decided to become a coach. Over the past six years, Stubblefield has coached at five different schools, including Central Michigan, New Mexico and Wake Forest. With a résumé of building All-Conference receivers, he continued to bounce to bigger and better programs.

In hopes of cultivating a new attitude, as well as developing the skills of the receivers he has, Stubblefield said he wants to change the perspective some of the players have, making them appreciate the opportunity they have to play. He believes by doing that, he’ll be able to get more out of the group than he now has.

“We, as coaches, have to make the unattainable attainable,” Stubblefield said. “We got to make them understand that every day is a work day. We have to practice as if we are going to play against the Seattle Seahawks. My guys know that I am going to be on them and that I expect their best, on the field, off the field, in their personal life, in everything. If I don’t, I am only using them.”

While in the process of filling out the depth chart, a certain pair of wide receivers are under the microscope more than the others — Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott. Anderson was the Utes’ leading receiver in the 2013 campaign with 53 catches for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns, while Scott suffered a season-ending ankle injury in last season’s opener.

Scott is back on the field this spring but has been kept out of live drills toward the end of practices and is not expected to be returning at full strength until the fall. However, just being able to throw the pads back on and to have the return of his best friend, quarterback, Travis Wilson, has been huge for Scott.

“It feels great to be back,” Scott said. “It has just been a long time to finally put the cleats back on and stuff. I’ve missed catching touchdowns, but to be honest, just working up a sweat and grinding with these guys is the thing I missed the most.”

Scott has been looked to as one of the leaders on this football team, and Stubblefield is fully aware of that. However, the new coach is not impressed just yet.

“Scott right now could and needs to bring more leadership,” Stubblefield said. “Because at the end of the day he is not practicing right now, only half of the time. I have heard of the legend of Kenneth Scott. I have not seen the legend of Kenneth Scott … I am excited and can’t wait until he does do that, but right now, his responsibility is to lead. At times he has been great. At times, he hasn’t.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu