Oregon fans witnessed one their worst seasons in program history in 2016. Willie Taggart will start a new winning streak in 2017.
Oregon football has built its championship-caliber squads on blazing fast offenses. A few major factors in creating those types of units comes from experience, continuity and great coaching.
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Luckily for new head coach Willie Taggart, the Ducks have loads of experience and continuity. All the while, Taggart brings in his own brand of explosive offense. Taggart joins the Ducks after turning around back-to-back programs. He turned around his alma mater of Western Kentucky first. He took them from a winless year in 2009 to bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons (2011-2012). The team hasn’t had season below eight wins since his departure.
Taggart would then go to South Florida who had also fallen on hard times. The Bulls went from a perennial bowl squad to back-to-back losing seasons. It would take Taggart just two seasons to build them into one of the best teams in the American Athletic Conference.
His key to success at both places started with great scrambling quarterbacks and dynamic NFL-ready running backs on the offensive end. Taggart’s offensive expertise will surely bring the Ducks back to prominence.
Nov 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback return headlines 2017
If there’s a subject that was discussed at length over the last two seasons in Eugene, it’s the quarterback position. After two varying levels of success with graduate transfers, the Ducks have their signal caller of the present and future in Justin Herbert.
The Vernon Adams’ experience in 2015 had success, but he struggled to stay healthy. Oregon had to hit the reset button the following summer with Dakota Prukop. The Montana State transfer wasn’t bad, but he certainly didn’t live up to expectations. The Ducks knew the season was lost and decided to usher in a new era.
Herbert returns after a quality first season. He took his bumps and bruises, but he managed to stay composed. He threw for 1,936 yards, 19 touchdowns against four interceptions adding 161 yards and two scores on the ground.
He needs to improve his consistency, as he struggled against top-tier defenses and thrived against poor ones. The biggest positive was his second to last game of the season against Utah. He completed 30-of-43 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns and added a touchdown on the ground. The Utes allowed just 23.9 points per game and won 10 games last year, but Herbert diced them up.
Tag-teamed with Taggart, these two could strike fear in Pac-12 defensive coordinators again. Taggart polished his two starters at Western Kentucky and USF. They were both dual threat passers just like Herbert and his offense works well with players like Herbert. Luckily for the new coach, Helfrich already went through a lot of the rough patches of grooming a freshman signal caller giving Taggart a better prospect in 2017.
Oct 8, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) carries the football during the second quarter in a game against the University of Washington at Autzen Stadium. The Huskies won 70-21. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Freeman and company
As much as Royce Freeman is the best returning piece for the Ducks, he isn’t the team’s starting quarterback. Which is why he’s comes along as lesser importance to the Ducks’ resurgence in the upcoming season. Regardless, the Ducks’ all-time, second-leading rusher will be a valuable player especially since he’ll be fully healthy again. Hampered by a knee injury, he limped to 945 yards and nine touchdowns.
A healthy Freeman along with Tony Brooks-James will provide a wonderful thunder and lightning effect. Furthermore, Taggart will have a receiving corp led by national a championship-experienced wide out. Senior Charles Nelson is a three-year contributor on offense and defense. Along with three-year starter Darren Carrington and junior Jalen Brown the Ducks will be productive.
On the offensive line, the Ducks are loaded returning four sophomores and two seniors. Senior left tackle and 2015 starter Tyrell Crosby returns after missing the 2016 season.
Left guard Shane Lemieux, left tackle Brady Aiello, center Jake Hanson and right tackle Calvin Throckmorton all saw action in 2016 and will be back again. Senior right tackle Jake Pisarcik was a two-year contributor who’ll solidify the line as well.
Oct 8, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart runs out of the tunnel before the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Taggart’s style is close to home
For Oregon, speed, uptempo, multiple backs and playmakers on the outside characterized the previous regime. Taggart won’t be much different. If you were one of the lucky viewers of his USF games, you know how similar his offense is to the Ducks.
Taggart’s scheme is built around getting playmakers into space and spreading out defenses. Oregon did much of the same throughout the Chip Kelly-Mark Helfrich era.
Taggart used the zone read just as the Ducks did. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers became a major part of the running game and helped provide another dynamic to the offense. He said the offense will stay similar to the past Oregon teams according to the Oregonian.
The hard-nosed approach on the offense will go hand-in-hand with a veteran offensive line, backfield and receiving corp. If they can continue to run uptempo and get Herbert up to speed the Ducks could flip the 4-8 record to 8-4 or better in his first year. Experience is one of the biggest factors to success and the Ducks have a lot of it.
Taggart’s offense will take advantage of the returners and back-breaking speed the Ducks possess.