Howard University yesterday named Joe Taylor, 32, who joined its football coaching staff last season as defensive coordinator, to replace Floyd Keith, who resigned last week as head football coach.

It was learned that Keith has accepted a position as an assistant coach at Indiana University, although neither Keith nor Indiana Athletic Director Ralph Floyd would confirm that officially.

Taylor, who had been recommended by Keith for the job, came to Howard after serving as offensive coordinator at Virginia Union from 1980 through 1982.

Before that he was an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois, 1978-80.

"We feel that Taylor is a good man for the job," said Howard Athletic Director Leo Miles, in announcing the appointment. "He knows our system, and he's the best man to keep our continuity."

Said Taylor, "I am excited and confident about this challenge . . . the timetable is right. I have been successful as offensive and defensive coordinator, and head coaching is the next step. I feel very fortunate that it happened at Howard."

A Washington native, Taylor attended Cardozo High School and graduated from Western Illinois, where he was an offensive lineman, in 1972.

He began his football coaching career at H.D. Woodson High School in Washington, 1972-77.

Keith, who compiled a 23-17-2 record in four years at Howard, resigned abruptly last week and had interviewed for an assistant coaching job with the Washington Federals of the United States Football League as well as at Indiana. His years at Howard were sometimes turbulent and his relations with players, alumni and some members of the university administration frequently were strained.

But the grades of Howard's football players showed a marked improvement during his tenure although his tough disciplinary policies were received coolly by many of them.

Sources close to Keith said he was frustrated by what he regarded as Howard's lack of commitment to big-time football, but he insisted his decision to resign was made purely in the interests of himself and his family. "I have no ax to grind with anyone," he said.

Taylor, who signed a two-year contract, is generally regarded around the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as a good defensive coach who is respected by his players.

Rickie Harris, a former Redskins defensive back who served on Keith's staff in 1979, was a candidate to succeed Keith.