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Q&A with Arizona’s outside wide receivers coach Taylor Mazzone

Hear from the younger Mazzone

Taylor Mazzone is one of two wide receivers coaches the Arizona Wildcats have on their coaching staff.

Mazzone, the son of Arizona offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone, coaches the outside receivers while Theron Aych tutors the inside receivers.

The younger Mazzone comes to Arizona from Texas A&N where he spent the last two seasons as an offensive quality control coach.

Before that, he was the quarterbacks coach at UCLA from 2013-15 where he mentored Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen.

In 2012, Taylor was a graduate assistant for the Bruins. He also worked at Arizona State, where he was a quality control assistant in 2010 and graduate assistant in 2011.

He was hired by Kevin Sumlin this past January and Monday and he spoke to the media for the first time. Here is what he had to say.

Here’s the full interview with Arizona Football outside receivers coach Taylor Mazzone

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, April 9, 2018

How much further along is the offense?

It was practice No. 12 today so it was kind of good. We got into situations with two-minute drills so that’s always something new for the guys to understand. How we are going to execute it from communication from the sideline and then just understand what you’re doing with the football in your hands. I think we are taking steps closer. We understand that this is our last week, getting things on film ready for fall camp. This is stuff that if we are going to call it in fall camp, let’s get it one film and get Khalil and the rest of the guys on board.

What was your assessment of the offense’s overall performance in the scrimmage the other day?

It is always great to get into that stadium and see our guys perform on that turf, have the atmosphere of gameday. I thought that we had some good plays downfield early with (Shawn) Poindexter, who’s been here for awhile. He’s an older guy, a senior. You can tell Khalil (Tate) has that confidence him to be that playmaker downfield. I thought all in all we are just trying develop more depth, that’s the key. Who’s going to be our 2’s, who’s going to be our 3’s, and the communication of what’s our standard and how we’re going to play. It was a pretty good, solid day for us.

In your group, who has stood out to you the most?

Shawn’s ability to use his length, him being 6-5, 6-4. The red zone is kind of his number and that’s where we’re going to try to use him more in the red zone. Cedric (Peterson)’s doing a great job learning the offense, he’s a smart kid. I thought the whole group as a unit they’re taking in this new offense and trying to develop what their role is for us. I’m very pleased on how each day preparing and trying to be on top of everything before we cross that white line to play.

What about Devaughn Cooper?

Devaughn Cooper has been doing well. He got a little banged up a bit with his shoulder. We’re trying to get him more reps. The kid has ability. He’s going to quick at the line of scrimmage. He’s tough to put hands on. You got to use your strength and his strength is his speed and him getting open at the line of scrimmage and then downfield attacking the safeties. He does a great job.

What do you look for in terms of the size and weight and that all stuff for an outside receiver in this offense?

Outside receiver, speed is something you’ve got to have. If teams are going to go Cover 1 and put all their guys in the box to stop the run game, you’ve got to run by that Cover 1 DB. We’ve got to have a guy that makes the defensive coordinator call a 2-high shell to stop the one-on-one throws. So speed is number one then it goes size. How tall is he? I’ve seen a lot of great outside receivers from 5-10 to 6-5. But we do want to have a bigger profile outside receiver, a little bit more physical at the line of scrimmage to get open. I think we look for ability to catch the football and how he uses his speed.

Do you see a situation where Shun Brown might be in that position?

Yes. He’s very comfortable out there, as an outside receiver. You see him in the past playing outside receiver. So playing outside for him is very simple. I mean today he played a little outside receiver for us. He’s very comfortable about being that guy that can be both, inside and outside. He’s very intelligent, his football IQ is very high. I’m excited to see his future.

How would you compare your coaching style from your dad’s? What would you say you picked up from your dad and the things you do completely opposite?

That is a good question right there. My style, you’ve got to have your own personality. We both have very similar mannerisms but (I’m) a little bit more detail oriented I would say. He kind of shoots from the hip, and that makes him a tough play caller. It’s hard to cover what he’s trying to call and his tendencies and all that. With my style, being young you want to have the most knowledge. He’s been there and done that, he knows what he likes to do and doesn’t like to do. Whereas me, I like to have all different styles of offense and put them together as mine. But all-in-all we are pretty similar in many ways, the way we talk and the way we have the kind of sayings that I’ve learned from him. I mean I’ve been with him for 9 years. I mean it’s been fun. The father-son business is still rolling together and I’m happy to be back in the Pac-12.

When did you make the decision to go into coaching and why?

I played my last game in the Liberty Bowl in 2009 versus Arkansas. I was at East Carolina. And we were driving back to North Carolina and it was done. I was done playing, and I was looking to get into construction management. I thought construction management was what I wanted to do out there in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I sent about 10 emails out and at the time my dad got a job with a guy named Dennis Erickson, up north from here. And he goes, ‘Hey do you want to live life in Arizona?’ You know I’m 22 years old and trying to get job. I’m not getting returns on my email so let me figure this out. So I googled Arizona and I realized how amazing this state is and how beautiful it would be to come out there and just coach ball and be around that staff. I had a great time and got into it. Day one we spent 15 to 16 hours in the office talking ball and he was like ‘Alright that’s it.’ I was like ‘that’s it?! that’s work?!” I played at Ole Miss as a freshman and my dad was my position coach there in 2005. So I kind of knew being in his quarterback room and listening to him coach, I just kind of sat back and was like ‘I can definitely do this someday.’

Was that the only time he was officially your coach?

Yes. It was only one year, and that was when I was at Ole Miss in 2005.

But he’s always been your coach from afar right?

It’s kind of funny, I’ve always asked him ‘Hey can you get me in contact with that quarterback coach at Florida?’ You listen to your dad to cut the grass, do the dishes and do your homework. Then you talk about fundamentals, you kind of get tired of his voice a little bit. I tended to want to have a different guy to have a little bit of his knowledge of my throwing motion. He knows what he’s doing but at that time as his son I want to hear someone else tell me what to do.

How much, if at all, are you involved with coaching the quarterbacks now?

Not at all. I’m fully in the receiver room and loving every second of it.

You obviously know the offense probably better than anyone besides your dad. How are you able to use that resource to help others catch up to speed?

One thing about receivers is the patience in your route and getting to the correct depth. I’m explaining to them the progression of the quarterback and what he’s thinking. Understand if you’re the first read you have to get open now. You have to have a sense of urgency to get open. Hey you’re the third progression or the fourth progression take your time. Get to 14, push it to 16 and come back to the quarterback. Just kind of telling them the timing is for the play, the execution, where the quarterback’s eyes are going. Just really enjoying being around a bunch of playmakers. The ball’s in the air it’s ours. It’s been a lot of fun just being in that room and kind of giving my quarterback knowledge. I’ve been in this offense for nine years. You could say I have a masters in this offense. I’ve seen it from all different angles. It’s just cool to help them understand what we’re trying to execute from this certain down and distance.

Khalil Tate had a camera on his helmet and he’s had it in practice regularly. Is that something that your dad has done and what is the benefit of it?

The virtual 3D ability, for him to kind of see different angles. It’s all about leverage. It’s film that we are going to put in our system and we splice it up to the wide angle, back angle, and VR clip of it. It’s a really good teaching tool to give a kid what the alignment or the leverage of that defender, why we are taking that side. It’s kind of hard the old school way of showing it from the other angles. The leverage is what you’re trying to teach the quarterback because that’s all that quarterbacks look for. What’s the best leverage for the quarterback to see and why you pick that side. So just showing it and ingraining it in his head is what we’re looking for.

What are the recruiting areas you have?

I have it rough, I have it real rough. I have Orange County and San Diego. I might carry two bags out on the first day and not come back for about three weeks. I’m excited though. I’ve had three years recruiting Orange County when I was up in Los Angeles coaching there. Very familiar with that area and very close with those coaches. San Diego will be a new area but it’s close by down the street through traffic areas that I have to avoid. I’m excited to be back in California recruiting.

The other coaches have said they have their position is part of their recruiting. You share wide receivers with Coach Aych. How do you guys determine who gets this guy and who gets that guy?

We all have the same common goal which is to win and build the best roster and the best class. He has Texas ties, I have California ties and we just kind of go head-to-head. It’s kind of cool to talk to that prospect like, ‘this is Coach Aych. This is Coach Mazzone. We’re going to tag team, work together.” And you do. The kid gets really comfortable of having my angle and his angle. He’s in Texas but I’m going to talk to him and you’ll go see him. We have that communication back and forth. But with Coach Aych, very excited to work with him from day one. Excited to see what the future is going to be.

Any particular high schools that you have ties to in Orange County?

Can I say that? I don’t think I can say that. I don’t know of a particular school. Just the Orange County area. Schools that I’ve signed guys out of that I’ve had at UCLA when I was there. It’s a hotbed for football talent. I’m very excited to get the Arizona brand back into Orange County and get them coming down to the desert.

You’ve mentioned depth before. Where are the numbers now in terms of what you like and how many you’d like to have?

From an outside receiver standpoint, you’d like to have five that could travel, go to games and perform just in case a guy goes down. Also you’ve got to tie in who’s valuable in the slot position and who can be cross-trained like Shun Brown, guys like that. That comes into factor. If you can get four or five guys who can be consistent, that’s the key. That’s very important for our outside guys.

What’s the advantage of breaking it up, inside and outside guys?

The focus, attention to detail. It’s difficult as a receivers coach and you have 15-16 guys on a roster and you’re trying to go through each guy, ‘hey this is how you’re going to run this route versus this guy.’ Each guy is different. You coach each guy like a boxing coach would to each fighter. Each fighter is different, you got to work with his style, his size, his speed, his strength. It gives me the ability to have time to meet with the outside guys and him the time to meet with the inside guys. It’s just a different mentality in some way.

Are you able to update us on Keyshawn Johnson Jr.’s status?

I cannot.

I know you signed some size earlier in the year. How much can those guys make a move once they get here?

Those three guys bring a lot of length. They are going to be the guys that we are looking for. The kid out of Dallas that we’re really excited about, and the kid from San Diego town that we have. They are going to be very beneficial coming in here and ready to rock and roll. You never know until they show up. You teach them the offense, teach them what we want, and how we are going to do it. But very excited to see those guys in action, wearing our colors, and working hard for us.