Elijah George

Willie Taggart reflects on passing of his father

Willie Taggart reflects on passing of his father

Oregon coach Willie Taggart, speaking to the media today for the first time since his his father, John Taggart, passed away on Thursday, said that his dad will be watching the Ducks from above. 

"I know he's up there watching on a 100-yard screen T.V., HD, watching over us," Taggart said with a smile. "He's going to be proud and cheering the Ducks on."

Taggart learned of his father becoming ill more than two weeks ago and said at Pac-12 Media Days in Hollywood, Calif., that he was awaiting medical tests results. Those tests revealed that John Taggart had cancer. Over the  weekend of Aug. 5, Willie Taggart went home to Palmetto, Fla., to see his father before returning to Eugene for practice on Aug. 8.  John Taggart passed away two days later.  

"I got home before my dad passed, which was awesome," Willie Taggart said. "We got a chance to spend some time together." 

Taggart said he would rely on his team to help him through these tough times. 

"It's tough, you know, but it makes it easier when you're around the guys, around the players, having fun with those guys," Taggart said. "I spend time, myself, every morning, talk to pops and be ready to roll."

Senior defensive lineman Elijah George said the team would be there for its coach. 

"We're going to be here to support him," George said. "We all understand how tough it is. We have some teammates lose parents, too. We will be here when he needs us and support him all the way."

John Taggart had a message for his son the final time they spoke. 

"He's always said he was proud of me," Taggatt said. "And I plan on continuing to make him proud." 

How Oregon's recruits fit in: DL - Immediate help might be needed, or not

How Oregon's recruits fit in: DL - Immediate help might be needed, or not

Oregon coach Willie Taggart last week signed his first recruiting class, which Rivals.com ranked No. 18 in the nation. Now CSN is taking a look at how each new recruit could fit into the Ducks' plans next season.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backs, Wide receivers/tight ends, Offensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs.

Today: Defensive line.

New Ducks: Austin Faoliu (6-3, 285, Mater Dei H.S., Santa Ana, Calif.), Rutger Reitmaier (6-3, 279, Lipscomb Academy, Nashville, Tenn.) and Jordan Scott (6-1, 350, Pinellas Park Senior H.S., Largo, Fla.). 

Projected starters: Defensive ends Henry Mondeaux, Sr., (6-5, 280) and Drayton Carlberg, RSo., (6-5, 290), and nose guard Rex Manu, Jr., (6-3, 300).

Key backups: Defensive ends - Jalen Jelks, RJr., (6-6, 260), Elijah George, RSr., (6-5, 290), Gus Cumberlander, RSo., (6-6, 260), Hunter Kampmoyer, RFr., (6-4, 245), and Bryson Young, So.,  (6-5, 245).  Nose guard - Gary Baker, RSo., (6-4, 305), 

The situation: Oregon's defensive line was used and abused in 2016 so shifting from the 4-3 to the 3-4 could be addition by subtraction for the Ducks. 

That said, there is some young talent onboard, such as Carlberg, Manu, Jelks and Baker, who should improve after being thrown into the fire last season. 

So where do the freshmen fit in?

One might assume that help is needed right away given that UO allowed 246.6 rushing yards per game last season. Not so fast. Out of the three recruits only Reitmaier comes with much hype. Rivals.com rated the four-star recruit as the No. 21 defensive tackle prospect in the country. Scott will need of some serious conditioning and training to shed some of his 350 pounds in order to make an impact at the Pac-12 level. Fauliu is not rated national but certainly has some size and talent. 

One never truly knows who will surprise in fall camp (see Troy Dye and Justin Herbert in 2016), and new coach Willie Taggart has made it clear that all freshmen will have a chance to earn instant playing time.  

“They are going to have every opportunity to go out and compete and try to take somebody’s job,” Taggart said. “I told our players that’s what we’re going to do, recruit guys to take their jobs and it’s on them to keep their jobs.”

The verdict: Oregon already has good defensive line recruits on the roster. They simply struggled playing as freshmen and sophomores. So why believe that new freshmen are going to revolutionize the defensive line? Development is always the key, so expect to see the now experienced Oregon defensive linemen improve while the freshmen, except for maybe Reitmaier, redshirt next season. 

Next up: Linebackers. 

Oregon 2017 Outlook - DL: The area most in need of improvement

Oregon 2017 Outlook - DL: The area most in need of improvement

Oregon's worst season (4-8) since 1991 (3-8) led to a coaching change. Yet, the Ducks' cupboard is hardly bare for new coach Willie Taggart. We will take a position-by-position look at what the new coaching staff will have to work with while trying to turn things around in 2017.

Other entries: QuarterbacksRunning backsTight ends, Wide receivers, Offensive line, Linebackers, Defensive backs

Today: Defensive line.

Key losses: Defensive end T.J. Daniel.   

Projected starters: Defensive ends Henry Mondeaux, Sr., (6-5, 280) and Drayton Carlberg, RSo., (6-5, 290), and nose guard Rex Manu, Jr., (6-3, 300).

Key backups: Defensive ends - Jalen Jelks, RJr., (6-6, 260), Elijah George, RSr., (6-5, 290), Gus Cumberlander, RSo., (6-6, 260), Hunter Kampmoyer, RFr., (6-4, 245), and Bryson Young, So.,  (6-5, 245).  Nose guard - Gary Baker, RSo., (6-4, 305), 

What we know: Oregon played 15 defensive lineman last year out of necessity because of injuries and poor play. The results were ugly. The defensive line contributed greatly to the Ducks allowing 246.6 rushing yards per game.

Mondeaux, expected to be a rising star, did little all season, finishing with just one sack and four tackles for loss in UO's 4-3 defense. He might be better suited for the 3-4 defense, to be brought back under new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, where he can eat up space and make plays when they present themselves rather than be asked to force the issue in a one-gap scheme.

Manu proved to be solid during his first year as a starter but he and the rest of the interior linemen failed to make much of an impact as pass rushers or against the run. The experience he gained, however, should pay off in 2017.

What we don't know: Plenty. After Mondeaux the Ducks have a lot of mysteries at defensive end. Carlberg won a starting job early in the season before being lost for the year. Cumberlander saw some time. So did George. Jelks looked like a strong pass rusher in the 4-3, but will need to add bulk in order to function as a two-gap end in the 3-4.

At nose guard, Baker has promise and is the front-runner to backup Manu. But the loss of Wayne Tei-Kirby, who transferred to BYU, hurts what was already a thin group.

The team's move to a 3-4 defense will likely mean that redshirt sophomore Justin Hollins moves from defensive end, where he was woefully undersized at 235 pounds, to outside linebacker where he could become a heck of a pass rusher in the mold of former Ducks, Christian French, Tony Washington and Dion Jordan. Hollins had 9 1/2 tackles for loss, including 3 1/2 sacks in 2016.

The scheme shift could also force senior Jonah Moi (245 pounds) to return to linebacker where he could compete for a starting job as an inside linebacker.

Final word:  Had the defensive line just played average football last season the Ducks would likely have won games at Nebraska, at home against Colorado, at California and at Oregon State. That said, too much was asked of such a young and inexperienced group that also faced more than its share of injuries. A year of getting their teeth kicked in should pay dividends.

Position grade: D. This group could easily reach 'C' status, or better, with growth. New defensive line coach Joe Salave'a will have his work cut out for him, that's for sure.

Next up: Linebackers.