December 2, 2023

CARROLLTON, Ga. – Joel Taylor, defensive coordinator at Mercer University, has been named the head football coach at the University of West Georgia, Director of Athletics Jason Carmichael announced Saturday.

Taylor becomes the 12th head football coach in program history and will lead the program into their first season of Division I football in 2024. He will be formally introduced at a welcome event on Tuesday, December 5th at 12 noon in the atrium of The Coliseum.

“Coach Joel Taylor possesses all the qualities necessary to be an incredibly successful head coach at our level. We are thrilled to have Joel and his wife, Mechelle, join us here. He is a brilliant coach, extremely driven, incredibly focused, and a remarkable leader of young people,” said Carmichael. “Coach Taylor will be someone fans of UWG Football and supporters of the University of West Georgia can rally around. His capacity to be both strategic and relentless at the same time will inspire not only his players and staff but the broader West Georgia community.”

Regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Taylor brings nearly 20 years of collegiate coaching experience.

“I am excited to join the West Georgia family,” said Taylor. “UWG is a special place with special people and I am looking forward to getting on campus and continuing the rich tradition as we usher the program into a new era of Division I football. If an FCS Championship runs through the Dakotas, I look forward to leading a pack of Wolves there."

At Mercer, Taylor built the Bears’ defense into a dominant force that, in 2022, ranked 17th nationally in yards per play allowed and gave up just 22.1 points per game. Taylor took a Mercer defense that ranked 106th in the country in scoring defense prior to his arrival and then saw his defense rank 30th in the same category in 2022.

Additionally, Taylor’s 2022 Mercer defense led FCS with 17 interceptions and gave up a conference-low 28 touchdowns over the course of the season.

Taylor’s tenure at Mercer culminated with a second-round appearance in the FCS Playoffs in 2023.

Mercer’s Defensive Transformation Under Taylor









Scoring Defense

35.4 (No. 106)

22.7 (No. 31)

Opp. Yards Per Play

6.34 (No. 105)

4.92 (No. 24)

Opp. Yards Per Rush

5.71 (No. 114)

3.88 (No. 44)


“We are excited to partner with Coach Taylor as we take this new journey together,” added Carmichael. “His personal character, professional credentials, and blue-collar mentality will resonate with the current and future supporters of the Wolves.”

Taylor has had defensive success everywhere he has coached, including his one season as defensive coordinator at Lenoir-Rhyne. There, Taylor led a Bears’ defense that ranked No. 1 nationally with 50 sacks, limited opponents to 17.4 points per game and finished 13-1 with a conference championship and a quarterfinal berth in the NCAA Playoffs.

“We are thrilled to welcome Joel as the new head coach for UWG Football,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG’s president. “As we elevate to NCAA Division I competition in 2024, his proven success and commitment to the pursuit of excellence align perfectly with our vision for the future of UWG Athletics. He has a proven track record of being a transformational leader in the lives of the student-athletes he’s coached, and we are eager to see the positive impact he has on our program, our fans, and – most importantly – our student-athletes.”

Numerous players have enjoyed individual success under Taylor’s tutelage, most recently Mercer linebacker Isaac Dowling, who was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award given to the top freshman in the country. At Lenoir-Rhyne, Taylor was instrumental in the development of safety Kyle Dugger, who was a second-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2020.

Prior to his stint at Lenoir-Rhyne, Taylor coached defensive backs and was the defensive passing game coordinator at The Citadel, where he was a part of back-to-back SOCON Championships, including a No. 9 final ranking in the FCS Poll in 2016.

Taylor also spent time at his alma mater, South Carolina State, from 2010-13 and 2005-08, sandwiched around a one-year stint as the defensive ends and outside linebackers coach at Lenoir-Rhyne. He was part of three MEAC Championships and NCAA Playoff Appearances in his time at South Carolina State (2008, 2010 and 2013) and added a Division II Playoff Appearance at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2008.

As a player, Taylor lettered at South Carolina State from 2001-04, was a senior captain and a member of the Bulldogs’ 2004 conference championship team.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Taylor grew up in Irmo, South Carolina. He completed his bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2004 and his master’s in rehabilitation counseling in 2008, both from South Carolina State. 

The Taylor File 

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

College: South Carolina State, 2004, 2008

Wife: Mechelle

Coaching Timeline

2020-Present: Mercer (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)

2019: Lenoir-Rhyne (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers)

2014-2018: The Citadel (Defensive Backs/Defensive Passing Game Coordinator)

2010-2013: South Carolina State (Defensive Backs/Assistant Special Teams)

2009: Lenoir-Rhyne (Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers)

2005-2008: South Carolina State (Defensive Backs/Offensive GA/Video Coordinator)

Playing Experience

2001-2004: South Carolina State

Conference Championships

2019: Lenoir-Rhyne (SAC), 2016: The Citadel (SOCON), 2015: The Citadel (SOCON), 2013: South Carolina State (MEAC), 2010: South Carolina State (MEAC), 2008: South Carolina State (MEAC)


“I am so happy for my friend and brother, Joel Taylor! He is an innovator and a creative coach who transcends all socioeconomic cultures and backgrounds. He knows how to reach the athlete before the Xs and Os. He will do great things given the tools and resources, and will take West Georgia to the highest of heights.”

Maurice Drayton, Head Football Coach, The Citadel

“When I think of JT, he’s one of the most hard-working, goal-oriented young men that I’ve known, coached and come across. When he sets his mind on something, he’s going to do it, and he’s going to fight for it. He cares about his players, and he cares about the craft. I’m excited for him and this opportunity. I know this is just the beginning of something big, and he’ll do well there. I am now a West Georgia fan because of him.”

Chris Rumph, Defensive Line Coach, Minnesota Vikings

“First and foremost, Joel is an outstanding person who represents what is good about the game. He cares about young people, and he’s passionate about leadership and development. He’s extremely intelligent and has a bright football mind. I think West Georgia has hired a great combination of a young man who can lead on and off the field and use the program to greatly impact the institution and community.”

Tony Elliot, Head Football Coach, University of Virginia