Marky Billson
5 min readNov 14, 2023

Everyone wants George Quarles gone. But what about the defensive coordinator, unquestionably the most loyal man ETSU football has ever known?

Marky Billson

It’s hard to fathom any scenario in which George Quarles will be retained as head football coach of the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers in 2024.

So where does that leave defensive coordinator Billy Taylor?

Billy Taylor was part of ETSU’s 29–14 victory against NC State in 1987 as a player and their 23–3 victory against Vanderbilt in 2021 as a coach.

Billy Taylor has been the defensive coordinator since before ETSU dropped football in 2003. After starring at linebacker for ETSU, including a victory against Quarles and Furman in 1986, he returned to Johnson City in 1997 to coach linebackers for Paul Hamilton after stints as an assistant with the Brett Favre-led Southern Mississippi Eagles and helping Wofford transition to Division I status.

Taylor didn’t have to come to ETSU when the program was restarted in 2015. He had been Watson Brown’s defensive coordinator at Tennessee Tech for five seasons, but he chose to help restart his alma mater’s football program.

As the defensive coordinator for the last four ETSU head football coaches, dating back to Paul Hamilton, it could be said Taylor is the Bucs’ answer to Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster.

And that’s what makes this situation so difficult. Taylor stayed loyal to ETSU when ETSU was not loyal to him. As this column stated at the time, he was the clear choice to succeed Randy Sanders as head coach.

Instead, ETSU athletics was being run by a man who had cut his teeth under former Bucs athletic director David Mullins, who did everything wrong. And so Carter continued to live up to his mentor by hiring George Quarles to succeed Sanders instead.

Weep not for Quarles when he departs. He’ll leave with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank and if his old buddy Clay Hendrix doesn’t hire him to be an “offensive analyst” or some such position at Furman, certainly some high school in Tennessee will take a chance on him.

But weep for Taylor. Because by staying loyal to ETSU may have destroyed his career.