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Willie Taggart: Right Coach, Right Time

Oregon football is back on track after a year to forget

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Practice Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Since Willie Taggart arrived in Eugene, something has changed with Oregon football. After a disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2016, the Ducks are certainly rebuilding...their mindset.

I am a big fan of Coach Tag. I first heard about him as a prospect of Jim Harbaugh’s father, Jack. Back then, Taggart was a quarterback. Harbaugh’s consistent praise of his prodigy led me to following Taggart’s career closely. As you could imagine, thrilled is an understatement to describe my excitement when he signed with Oregon.

The entire atmosphere around Duck football is different this year. Taggart has introduced a new form of competition that has reinvigorated his troops.

Unlike the previous regime, players will now take accountability and responsibility for their individual play.

“I’m looking for more than just throwing touchdowns,” said Taggart. “I’m looking for a guy that can lead this football team. Someone they can rally around. Not just the offensive guys either, defense too. If we can find that guy, that’s who our starting quarterback will be.”

This spring, Coach Tag slapped an updated depth chart on the locker room wall to begin each day. Talk about motivational tactics.

Central Florida v South Florida
Coach Tag led his South Florida team to unprecedented new heights before transitioning to Eugene. The head coach is seeking to bring his brand of success to a Power 5 Conference school. Taggart is working to reshape the mindset of the program.
Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images

A player could slide from starter to fourth string with one poor performance at practice. On the contrary, a sub could become a starter after one brilliant day at the practice facility.

“They are all getting better,” Taggart stated. “I’ve been really impressed with the competition.”

Taggart’s new way of doing things is resonating with players. Everyone, media included, can appreciate a coaching staff that is upfront and honest. The head coach has been that and then some. Unlike previous regimes, Taggart will remain transparent.

My second-favorite offseason addition was defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. His constant positivity through real motivation is invaluable to a youthful team like the Ducks. Not to mention, he has experience and success at the NFL level. He is a great coach, but a better man.

“It’s our job to teach them, train them,” said Taggart.

I was most impressed by Colorado’s defense last season, especially their secondary. A huge part of that Colorado defense was Leavitt. He will have better talent to work with in Eugene. The end result could be off the charts.

“Do Something” is the motto of the 2017 team. 2018 will be known as “The Movement 18” for Duck football.

Taggart has wasted little time acclimating himself to his new surroundings. In a span of 48 hours this spring, the head coach locked up eight prospects from the 2018 class. He sealed four of those commits at the 2017 Spring Game on April 29. Here is a look at the already impressive class.


Steve Stephens, Safety (4-star)

Adrian Jackson, Linebacker (4-star)

Isaiah Bolden, Cornerback (4-star)

Dawson Jaramillo, Offensive Lineman (4-star)

Jevon Holland, Safety (4-star)

Jamal Elliott, Running Back (4-star)

Mohamed Diallo, Defensive Tackle (Transfer)

Spencer Webb, Tight End (3-star)

Travis Dye, Running Back (3-star)

At the end of the day, it could be one of the best recruiting classes in program history. Taggart could find himself with a Top 5 class overall next season. Prospects can see something special brewing in Eugene.

Take a look at Bolden for the best example. After being committed to Florida State for over a year, the Wesley Chapel (Florida) product rerouted his path to Oregon. The impressive CB decommitted from FSU in favor of the green and yellow. This is just the beginning.

Taggart is in-tune with the modern athlete. From blasting Tupac and Notorious BIG on his phone to watching a Duck basketball game with former players like De’Anthony Thomas or Kenjon Barner.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Oregon
Oregon head coach Willie Taggart enjoyed a Duck basketball game vs Utah with former UO star and current Kansas City Chief, De’Anthony Thomas. Nobody understands his players more than the former quarterback, Taggart. It’s only a matter of time before he begins his own tradition of winning at Oregon.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Not to mention, he is heavily active on Twitter and communicates consistently with past, present and future players. Oregon’s head coach understands athletes and that will be illustrated with their play on the field.

Right now, the former QB is building trust with a new community. Taggart is breaking down barriers from the previous regime. It’s only a matter of time before the Ducks are battling in another national championship.

I will have a complete breakdown and extensive analysis of every player Taggart has brought to the UO program next week. Additionally, I will be taking a closer look at the Clemson transfer DT Scott Pagano.

Stay tuned on Instagram @eugene_levys_eyebrows and Twitter @TheQuackFiend