After finishing 4-8 last season, Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens did his job. He fired Duck football coach Mark Helfrich and found an up-and-coming coach to replace him with. Mullens didn’t seem to care that Helfrich had led the Ducks to the College Football Playoff in National Championship game two seasons before. Mullens saw that the Ducks had finished last in the Pac-12 North after winning just two conference games and decided a change was necessary. This is how an athletic director is supposed to act.
After conducting his search, Mullens hired Willie Taggart from the University of South Florida. Taggart has successfully turned around two previous programs. USF is obviously one. The other is Western Kentucky.
Taggart got his coaching start under his college coach at Western Kentucky, Jack Harbaugh, father of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. When the younger Harbaugh became head coach at Stanford, he hired Taggart to coach running backs where he coached Toby Gerhart. He eventually returned to Western Kentucky to take the head coaching job.
At Western Kentucky, he was 2-10 his first season and 7-5 in his second and third season before leaving for the Bulls. He left WKU to take the job at USF. In his first season with the Bulls, Taggart was 2-10, but he doubled his win total the next year. Then, he doubled it again in his third season. In his fourth and final season, he increased his win total again by two games to ten wins.
So, Taggart has proven he can turn a team around and the same has proven true so far in Eugene where, after just seven games, he has already matched the Ducks’ win total for last season.
At Oregon, he brought in former Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to coach the Duck defense. In just two years at Colorado, Leavitt turned around the defense and made them one of the stingiest defenses in the country.
Taggart has brought in two guys with good pedigrees as co-offensive coordinators. Mario Cristobal joined the Ducks after spending four seasons coaching the offensive line at Alabama while Marcus Arroyo spent the past two seasons at Oklahoma State.
As far as special teams go, Raymond Willie is the Special Teams Coordinator for the Ducks. He has followed Taggart from coaching at Western Kentucky to South Florida and, now, to Oregon.
Senior kicker Adian Schneider will handle kickoffs, PATs and Field Goals. Schneider’s career long is 47 yards in each of the last two seasons. His longest this year has been 42 yards so far. Also, he has made all 37 PAT attempts so far this year. Almost half of his kickoffs have gone for touchbacks so far this year.
The punting will be handled by freshman Adam Stack. Through seven games, his long is 50 yards with 3 of his 7 punts going for touchbacks.
Junior Tony Brooks-James will return most kickoffs while punt returns will be handled by senior Charles Nelson. Brooks-James is averaging 26.2 yards per return so far this season. Nelson, on the other hand, is averaging just 4.3 yards per return.
And that wraps up our Oregon previews.