Fans eagerly awaiting the return of college football in the Pacific Northwest got a brief respite as the Pac-12 media days continued. On Thursday, we heard from Oregon’s head coach, Willie Taggart, as well as quarterback, Justin Herbert, and linebacker, Troy Dye. Oregon has had a number of intriguing storylines since Taggart’s hire and Thursday we were able to hear about some of them in detail.
The story surrounding Darren Carrington is the most talked-about story to come out of Oregon recently. The senior wide receiver was dismissed from the team following a DUII he received earlier in the month, the most recent in a string of off-field issues. After his dismissal Carrington transferred to Utah, who will visit Autzen Stadium on October 28th. When asked about the decision to part with Carrington, Taggart said, “it’s tough because you always want to help young people, you don’t ever want to throw them out or kick them to the curb….unfortunately the consequences with Darren were for us to move on. I wish him nothing but the best.” When asked about playing Darren and Utah, Taggart replied, “I wish Darren nothing but the best, wherever he plays. Except against us.” Taggart has taken a hard stance against off-field issues with his players, repeatedly emphasizing accountability. Although Carrington was the Ducks star wide receiver, he has had multiple issues during his time in Eugene and Taggart had to show he meant business.
As all Oregon fans know, our defense last year was our undoing; the Ducks defense was ranked 126th out of 128 qualifying teams. Oregon has since moved on from former DC, Brady Hoke, and hired Jim Leavitt who is credited for orchestrating Colorado’s defensive unit last year, finishing 19th in the nation. The defense this season will be young, switching back to a 3-4 defense will require a little time and patience. Taggart has emphasized keeping things fast, but simple in order to acclimate the players to a new defensive scheme.
Taggart’s most tangible success as the coach of Oregon thus far has been on the recruiting trail. He has been hauling in recruits left and right. As it currently stands, Oregon’s 2018 class is ranked 8th nationally—their highest ranked class ever. Taggart has also said that he will continue to use his connections in Florida, from his time at USF, to draw more players to Oregon from the talent-rich Sunshine State. He also said that he and his staff will go anywhere to get the players they want, no matter what state: “We feel Oregon is a national brand and we can go nationally to get guys.”
After last year’s disappointing campaign, optimism is beginning to appear in Eugene. No one is expecting a return to the College Football Playoff, but qualifying for a bowl game is certainly a possibility. The biggest thing to take away from Oregon’s media day is that Willie Taggart has the program heading in the right direction.