New Oregon coach Willie Taggart and several assistant coaches are making the recruiting rounds throughout the Portland area today in what they are calling a 'storm tour' designed to meet with high school football coaches and any players the Ducks are in the process of recruiting.
"We don't know any of the coaches in the state so this is a chance to get out and meet them," Taggart said. "One thing I hate to hear is that there's not a lot of prospects in the state of Oregon. For me, the best players that can come help us, we want to get out and see them."
Taggart became Oregon's head coach on Dec. 7, more than a week after the Ducks fired Mark Helfrich following a 4-8 season. Taggart has assembled a strong coaching staff full of top-notch recruiters. But the group is lacking in the way of area recruiting ties. Schools on the coaches' radar today include Lake Oswego, Jesuit, Madison, Westview, Central Catholic, Clackamas, Oregon City, Sherwood, Tigard and Lakeridge. Taggart and his staff went on a similar tour on Jan. 12 around the Eugene area and the southern part of the state, including Medford.
The state of Oregon is not know for producing a strong group of major college recruits on an annual basis, although the 2018 class is projected to be one of the deepest to come out of the state in some time.
The Ducks primarily recruited the West Coast under Helfrich, Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti. Under Bellotti, and later more so with Kelly, UO began expanding east. Taggart said he will continue to heavily recruit the West Coast but the hope is that his staff can improve Oregon's success in the Southeast part of the country. Taggart came to Oregon from South Florida. New co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal came to Oregon from Alabama. Other assistants also have recruiting connections across the country. The Ducks have already secured commitments from three players out of Florida.
That all said, Taggart said he wants to make sure his staff owns the state of Oregon.
"We want to let the coaches know that we're going to be around and we're going to recruit the state, first and foremost," Taggart said.
The Eugene tour included a police escort of four motorcycle patrolmen. Taggart said he wanted to make a statement and some noise.
"We wanted to be noticed," he said.
The plan that day included also going to Portland but a snowstorm closed local schools. So the Portland-are tour was postponed until today.
Oregon has traditionally done well with in-state recruiting. However, so far just one out of the top 10 recruits in the 2017 class have committed to UO. The Ducks have extended offers to six. Two of the top four recruits, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu (Independence) and defensive back Elijah Molden (West Linn) have committed to rival Washington.
West Linn offensive tackle Alex Forsyth committed to Oregon under Helfrich on has stated that he still plans to attend Oregon under Taggart.
While at South Florida, Taggart said he could recruit within a 60-mile radius to build his roster. That area was considered his in-state recruiting. Outside of that area he considered out-of-state, even though the span remained within the state of Florida.
Oregon is the exact opposite. Oregon could never contend for a Pac-12 championship while relying solely on players in the Northwest, let alone the state of Oregon. But he said he at least wants to make sure that the Ducks don't overlook anyone.
"We're not going to leave any stones unturned," Taggart said.
That starts with building relationships with coaches.
"Instead of asking them to come to us," Taggart said. "We're going to them to try to get to know them, and to let them know that they are always welcome to visit UO."
The staff will hit as many high schools today as possible before returning to Eugene for a recruiting weekend that involves visits from several recruits. Taggart said Oregon had 25 official visits remaining to be used when he arrived. Many will be used this weekend. Some were used last weekend. The final weekend before National Signing Day on Feb. 1 will also involve several key visits.
Taggart said his staff will individually recruit certain areas, unlike the former staff which moved to recruiting by position several years ago. Taggart said that position coaches will get involved later in the process but that he wants his staff to develop a consistent presence in certain areas, including the state of Oregon.
"We want to make sure we don't overlook the best in-state players," Taggart said. "We want to keep them in the state as Ducks."