Florida State lost Jimbo Fisher, but it was quickly able to hire Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. What’s next for the Ducks, and will this work for the Noles?
Oh, I get why this works for Willie Taggart.
He grew up in Florida, knows the area, has always loved the program, knows how it rolls, has ties to the recruiting world, and he did wonderful things at USF.
But he didn’t win anything at USF.
The former Western Kentucky quarterback made something out of almost nothing at his alma mater. He took over the head coaching job and went from 2-10 in his first year to 7-5 in each of his last two seasons.
But he didn’t win anything at WKU, including the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which he missed because he left for USF.
South Florida was in need of a rebuild, and it took a 2-10 first season to make it happen. He struggled going 4-8 in 2014, but then things started to take off, going 8-5 in 2015 – but he lost the Miami Beach Bowl to of all teams, Western Kentucky.
And then came the breakthrough. The 2016 USF Bulls went 10-2, was the best team in the American Athletic Conference in several ways, dominated with a thrilling offense, and …
It didn’t win anything. It clanked in the one game it had to win against Temple, and it didn’t play for the American Athletic Conference championship. USF won the Birmingham Bowl over South Carolina, but Willie Taggart didn’t. He left before the game to take over the Oregon gig.
He started out great with the Ducks, rolling up the offense in wins over Nebraska and Wyoming, but a loss to ASU set the season back. With three of the four wins over teams that didn’t go bowling, Taggart built up a nice record, lost star QB Justin Herbert to injury, and the team went into the tank.
Did the offense adjust? Nope, and it didn’t help that the good part of the schedule kicked in, losing four of the next five games with the offense scoring a total of 34 points in the four defeats.
Herbert came back, and … boom. Offense working again. Now Oregon is off to the Las Vegas Bowl, where it will probably beat Boise State – but not with Willie Taggart.
Obviously, Taggart is a terrific head coach, a master recruiter and a builder of programs, but Florida State – why?
You’re Florida State. You’re a superpower. You’re a national championship caliber program every year. Don’t you want to go get a guy who has won … something? Anything?
It’s the same argument when it came to Texas and Tom Herman – the biggest of the big programs should go out and spend on the biggest of the big prospects who have proven that can get it done at the highest levels. You want to be Alabama or Ohio State, look that they did. They got Nick and Urban, respectively – they had national titles on the resume.
Of course, finances appear to be a part of the equation – there isn’t a blank check that can come from FSU – but it was paying Jimbo $5.5 million as a base. That’s a big upgrade for a David Shaw (around $4 million), or a Justin Fuente ($3.2 million), or a whole slew of other accomplished names.
But hopefully, for FSU, this works. Hopefully he rises up and takes his game and the program to another level.
Now we get to see how Taggart can rock with some stability in his coaching world. Assuming he’ll stay for more than ten minutes, he really can recruit. He really can crank up an offense. He really does know how to build up a team. But he doesn’t need to build up FSU – he needs to win a national championship.
Or a conference championship. Or a division title. Or a bowl game.
So now, who’s next for Oregon?
Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford is going to be on the short list after what he did in one year? Is Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long ready to make the massive jump? Will Phil Knight really break the bank and put up $10 million a year to get anyone he wants?
This suddenly becomes the next big coaching opening – and it’s okay.