Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.
Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.
“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”
It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.
Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.
Oregon co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested early Sunday morning and charged with DUII, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. In response to the arrest, Oregon has placed Reaves on administrative leave and is already moving to terminate his contract.
According to a report from The Oregonian, Reaves was pulled over at 2:12 a.m. in Eugene. Suspected of being impaired while operating the vehicle, and following an on-scene investigation, Reaves was charged and booked into a county jail at 5:18 a.m. He was released from jail later Sunday morning. There was an adult passenger in the car.
“University of Oregon assistant football coach David Reaves was arrested last night and charged with Driving Under the Influence by members of the Eugene Police Department,” a statement from Oregon director of athletics Rob Mullens said. “Reaves has been placed on administrative leave and the process to terminate his employment with cause has commenced. The University has high standards for the conduct of employees and is addressing this matter with the utmost of seriousness.”
Reaves was hired specifically to coach tight ends and take on the role of passing game coordinator while he and Mario Cristobal shared the role of offensive coordinator.
Reaves was hired by Oregon just five days ago to join the coaching staff assembled by new head coach Willie Taggart. For Taggart, this is just the latest in a bizarre sequence of events since being hired away by USF to take on the head coaching responsibility at Oregon. Taggart’s strength coach Irele Oderinde has already been suspended by the university after multiple Oregon football players were hospitalized following offseason workouts. All players that were receiving treatment have since been released from the hospital.
As the coaching carousel continued to spin, it was left in question just what might the coaching future have for Charlie Strong. It would appear a return to the Sunshine State is what is next for Strong, as reports are in Strong will be the new head coach of USF. Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reported the coaching news on Sunday, via Twitter. The school has since formally announced the coaching hire themselves as well.
“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Charlie, his wife, Vicki, and their children Tory, Hailee and Hope, back to the state of Florida and to our Bulls family,” USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan said in a released statement. “Charlie is a tremendous leader and mentor for our student-athletes and a widely-respected coach with a resume full of achievements at the highest levels of college football. He combines a drive to win with great integrity and deep, long-standing connections in the state of Florida. The future of USF football is very bright under his direction.”
Strong was signed to a five-year contract. This is especially notable because that means Strong will potentially be the head coach of USF when the Bulls visit the Texas Longhorns to open the 2020 season.
Strong was let go by the Texas Longhorns this season, which made room for Houston head coach Tom Herman top step in to run the program. Strong was immediately thought to be a worthy coaching candidate for a handful of jobs, ranging from head coach to possibly taking a step back to be a defensive coordinator. Strong will replace Willie Taggart as the head coach of the Bulls, after Taggart left the program to take on the Oregon head coaching job. It was thought Strong could be asked to join Taggart in Eugene to run the Oregon defense. The two apparently had communications with each other about both the position in Oregon and the vacancy at USF.
Taggert leaves Strong with a good program to take over in Tampa. Strong will have a talented quarterback to run with in Quinton Flowers and the team is coming off a 10-win season. The Bulls should be contenders in the AAC once again next season after falling a tiebreaker shy of playing for the conference crown against a Navy team it blew away in the regular season.
Western Kentucky (12-2) may have started off slowly against South Florida (8-5) in he Miami Beach Bowl, but the Hilltoppers exploded in the second half. Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty passed three touchdowns in the third quarter as WKU outscored the Bulls 28-7 out of the halftime break en route to a 45-35 victory.
Wester Kentucky used big plays to lead the charge in the second half. Doughty completed a 69-yard pass to Nicholas Norris in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead on South Florida. The two hooked up again a couple of minutes later for a 55-yard scoring strike. Doughty tossed a third touchdown late in the third quarter, this time to Jared Dangerfield from 28 yards ou to build a 38-21 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
South Florida was not quite down for the count though. In a span of four minutes, South Florida scored two touchdowns with Quinton Flowers passed and ran for a score to trim the Western Kentucky lead to 38-35, but with just over five minutes to play the Hilltoppers padded their lead to 45-35 with a 42-yard touchdown run by Anthony Wales.
Western Kentucky racked up over 600 yards of offense, with Dougthy throwing for 461 yards. South Florida’s offense had a productive day as well, putting together 543 yards of offense.
Western Kentucky is now 2-1 all-time in bowl games, including last year’s thriller against Central Michigan in the Bahamas Bowl. The Conference USA champions also defeated their former head coach, Willie Taggart. Western Kentucky will open the season on the road against Alabama on September 10. The Hilltoppers will also host Vanderbilt next September.
South Florida will have a chance to get off to a good start in 2016 with a home game against Towson. A home game against Northern Illinois and a road game at Syracuse will be good opportunities for some solid wins as well as South Florida could emerge as a trend team in the American athletic Conference. The Bulls also host Florida State next September. Watch out for these Bulls.
Most of the focus within the American Athletic Conference this fall deservingly fell on the rise of programs like Houston, Memphis, Navy and Temple, so it may have been easy at times for the common fan to overlook what Willie Taggart was doing at South Florida. Taggart had his Bulls one win (or Temple loss) away from playing in the AAC Championship Game, and he doubled the win total for the Bulls in 2015 compared to his 2014 season. In fact, Taggart has now successfully doubled his win total from the previous season two consecutive years now. As a reward for a job well done this season and for showing strides of progress since taking on the job in Tampa, South Florida has extended Taggart’s contract by five years, keeping him as head coach through 2020.
According to Tampa Bay Times, Taggart’s new contract is valued at $9 million over the course of the five-year deal. It also is reported to include “a significantly increased buyout and assistant salary pool.” So, any power conference school that may have any interest in hiring Taggart to be in charge of their program will have to pony up some cash for South Florida. The salary to be used for assistant coaches at South Florida will jump form $1.9 million to $2.4 million in 2016 and will reach $2.9 million by 2020.
“We had a vision of what we could create at USF and I would like to thank the players, coaches and staff who believed in that vision and who came together to make it a reality,” Taggart said in a released statement. “President Genshaft and Mark Harlan have been tremendously supportive as we work together to build something very special here at USF. We appreciate the Bulls fans, students and alumni who have taken Bulls Nation to places it has never been before. We are just getting started.”
Taggart and his Bulls battle Taggart’s previous employer, Western Kentucky, in this afternoon’s Miami Beach Bowl.
This has been a good year for coaches in the AAC, which is good news for the conference for now. Although Memphis ended up losing Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, Houston (Tom Herman), Temple (Matt Rhule), Navy (Ken Niumatalolo) and South Florida have all managed to keep their head coaches during this most recent spin on the coaching carousel. Aside from Niumatalolo, all of the coaches on the rise also received some nice financial incentives for sticking around as well. Herman and Rhule each had contracts improved at their respective schools. Niumatalolo interviewed with BYU about their recent vacancy, which has since been filled, and opted to stick with Navy.