Les Miles

Oregon should make a run at Cal coach Justin Wilcox to replace Taggart

Oregon should make a run at Cal coach Justin Wilcox to replace Taggart

Florida State introduced Willie Taggart as its new head coach today in Tallahassee, Fla.

Taggart has returned to his home state to coach his favorite team growing up as a child in Palmetto, Fla. 

I know. It hurts. But all is not lost for the Oregon Ducks. 

A good team will return next season along with a recruiting class that ultimately will remain strong despite a handful of decommits. And, most importantly, a superstar quarterback is already in place. 

A 10-win season next year is a possibility regardless of who coaches the team. Remember that the team we saw on the field this year was not built by Taggart. Every starter on offense, including freshman receiver Johnny Johnson III, and every starter on defense other than defensive tackle Jordon Scott and cornerback Thomas Graham, but including freshman safety Nick Pickett, were recruited by Mark Helfrich and the previous staff.  That team, when quarterback Justin Herbert was healthy, looked like a potential 10-win team. Most of the starters will return in 2018. So, there's no reason to believe that another good coach couldn't lead this team to glory. 

My early vote for the man to be that coach is California's Justin Wilcox. 

First off, the former Oregon defensive back grew up in Oregon. His father, pro football hall of fame linebacker Dave Wilcox, brother Josh Wilcox and uncle John Wilcox, also played for the Ducks. He has stronger ties to Oregon than Taggart has to Florida State, where Taggart didn't play. 

Is Oregon Wilcox's dream job? I have no idea. But I imagine he likes money and I believe that he could be had quite easily by the Ducks. The contract he signed at Cal is worth just under $10 million over five years. That's chump change to Oregon, which offered Taggart at least $4 million per year before he took a six-year, $30 million deal from FSU.

Oregon could offer Wilcox $3 million to $3.5 million per year and he'd probably jump at the chance to coach the Ducks. Plus, if he were to have success at UO, Wilcox likely wouldn't look for the first escape route toward a bigger program as Taggart just did.

Wilcox is an inexperienced head coach, to be sure. But the former defensive coordinator at USC, Washington, Tennessee and Wisconsin appears to be on the rise. 

The Golden Bears went just 5-7. That's hardly sexy. But why wait for him to win big elsewhere? Have the vision to get him now, before he blows up.  

Cal lost three games by a field goal or less this season. The offense was the problem, but not from a coaching standpoint. The team lacked explosive talent on offense and had a young quarterback while averaging just 27.8 points per game, 10th in the Pac-12 Conference. Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin, who could accompany Wilcox to Oregon unless Cal were to name him head coach, would do wonders with Oregon's offensive talent. Remember that it was Baldwin who developed Vernon Adams Jr. before he transferred to Oregon in 2015.

Defensively, Wilcox did for Cal what Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt did for the Ducks. Cal this season allowed 28.4 points per game compared to 28.2 for Oregon. Both allowed just over 40 points per game in 2016. 

Wilcox would make sure Oregon's defense continued to improve while the Ducks' offense is already ready to roll.  Give Wilcox 40 points per game to work with and he could easily win 10 games next season. 

Other viable options also exist that would keep Oregon on track toward greater success. Here are four other coaches that could very well already be on Oregon's radar listed in order of preference with the knowledge that Wilcox is No. 1:

2. Mario Cristobal: Oregon's co-offensive coordinator, who will serve as the team's interim coach during the Dec. 16 Las Vegas Bowl, would be a logical candidate in order to maintain continuity following Taggart's departure. Reports say that Leavitt will accompany Taggart to FSU, which leaves Cristobal as the best option already in house. Cristobal has head coaching experience, is considered to be a great recruiter and could help to keep the Ducks' promising 2018 recruiting class largely intact. Maybe Cristobal could convince co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo to remain on as the offensive coordinator if he isn't planning on joining Taggart to FSU. 

3. Kevin Sumlin: Sumlin was fired recently by Texas A&M where he went 51-26 over six seasons in the rugged SEC. He is an offensive guru that would likely get the most out of Herbert. Former Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 while playing for Sumlin. He has the kind of big name that Oregon was after in 2016 before hiring Taggart. The problem with Sumlin is that if he had success at Oregon he could be the type of coach that immediately starts looking elsewhere for a better situation. 

4. Les Miles: There is not an unemployed coach out there with a better resume. The former LSU coach almost always had great defenses with the Tigers in the SEC. Yes, his offenses struggled late during his tenure at LSU. But they were once good enough to get him a national title during the 2007 season and could be very good with Herbert running the show on the field. Miles went 114-34 over 12 seasons at LSU. That's a dynamic record given the competition he faced. Miles never won fewer than eight games and won 10 or more seven times. 

5. Bryan Harsin: The Boise State coach was on Oregon's radar last year and should be considered a viable candidate this time around. He is 41-12 over four seasons at Boise State and just won his second Mountain West Conference championship.