EUGENE, Oregon — Just four days from opening day vs Southern Utah, Oregon head coach Willie Taggart wants his team to focus on sharpening their skills. The offseason sweat has been expended and now it’s almost time for some results.
“It’s time to go to work,” said Taggart.
Simply stated, but his words carry a great deal of weight. Tuesday, the coach addressed the media prior to practice as he has been doing all fall. The focus of the day was preparing his players for any circumstance they may face over the weekend.
One trait every Taggart team possesses is high energy. If you want to play for Coach T, you better bring the juice.
“I want us to be sharp,” said the head coach before his first game at Oregon. “Today and tomorrow is huge for us in our preparation for Saturday. We want our guys to be focused and practice with a lot of energy. We want our guys to be sharp and consistent.”
The Ducks have been dealing with a lack of depth, especially at wide receiver this fall. Safety Brenden Schooler transitioned to wide receiver, hoping to provide some help. Yet, Charles Nelson will be the focal point of the passing game, so his special teams' opportunities may be limited.
“He’s going to play on a couple,” Taggart said. “He’s going to play offense for us. We have some pretty good athletes that can help us out, so we don’t have to put Charles on every special team. We got guys that can get the job done for us.”
The head coach has his ideas for who to use on kick and punt returns, but he certainly won’t reveal that before Saturday.
“I like using ballplayers on special teams,” Taggart said with a grin. “Don’t matter if you’re a vet or a young guy. If you embrace the role and do a good job of running down there and making plays, you’re our kind of guy.”
As far as specifics, Oregon released their weekly schedule for in-season practices. Following a game on Saturday’s, the Ducks will practice on the following Sunday when the contest is still fresh in their minds.
UO will have Monday’s off before two huge days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday’s. Thursday will be toned down, while Friday’s are for “letting loose” in the walk-throughs.
For Taggart, he manages to spend some time with every one of his players before a game. Yet, his specific focus has always been with the quarterback position.
“I spend a lot of time with the quarterbacks, but I see everybody,” Taggart said.
His quarterback Justin Herbert can certainly make Taggart’s transition a smooth one if he plays well. Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt when your starting tight end is catching everything thrown at him, club and all.
Jacob Breeland is positioned to start at tight end for his sophomore campaign. All camp, the pass-catcher has been sporting a cast on his hand. Yet, he has not let that slow him down in camp.
“Breeland understands what we are doing offensively,” replied Taggart. “He always puts himself in place to make plays. ‘Doesn’t matter if I have a club on or not, I’m going to make plays for you.’ It’s been good to see, but it also helps when your quarterback is throwing darts.”
The Ducks will continue to fine tune before Saturday. Taggart always makes himself available to his players for questions, concerns or if they just want to talk. There aren’t many coaches that have accomplished as much as Taggart without coaching a game. Regardless, he knows the real work is set to commence in four days.
Just four days from kickoff, Oregon football is set to begin a new era. The excitement around the football team is palpable. The players are ready to rebuild the reputation of this great program, but they understand it begins with one step.