Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

EUGENE - Oregon's players never know when coach Willie Taggart might pounce. 

It could happen anywhere. At practice. During a workout. At dinner. In the weight room. 

Chances are, it might never come at all. Taking that chance, however, wouldn't be wise. 

"I always want to make sure I have one ready," Oregon receiver Taylor Alie said. "You don't want to be the guy he calls on and then you're scrambling."

One what? A joke? A football play? A dope rhyme? 

No. Taggart at any moment could ask any player on the team to inform him of a current event from around the world. 

"You've got to be ready to be called on," senior defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux said. "You never know."

Mixed in with the typical heavy emphasis on Xs and Os, weights, conditioning and academics, Taggart said he wants to motivate his players - often overly engrossed in their athletic careers, video games and dating - to have a greater grasp of the world around them.

"A lot of these guys are so wrapped up in football and school that they don't have a clue what's going on in the world," Taggart said. "This is a way to force them to be aware. Take a few minutes each day to learn something new that's going on."

The only punishment for not being prepared is Taggart's disappointment and some mild humiliation. Nobody wants any of that. So, players stay prepared. 

 

Senior cornerback Arrion Springs has yet to be called upon.

"Thanks God," he said.

But he says he is always ready, just in case. So is junior cornerback Ugo Amadi. 

"I always have one in my back pocket," he said, figuratively referring to remaining armed with a tidbit.

To stay prepared for a Taggart grilling, many players have developed news consumption habits. Amadi said he receives CNN news alerts on his laptop. 

"It will pop up and I'm like, 'oh, whelp, I've got something,'" Amadi said. 

Mondeaux said many players will check news apps just before entering the team dining room.

"Have to make sure you have something," he said. 

Sports-related news counts, as long as it's something of substance, not merely scores or transactions. But more kudos are received for actual world news. 

"We're paying attention to the news a lot more," Springs said. "There's not much to talk about except the dude in office." 

Sometimes players pool their resources, go over notes, share news discovered and have a plan in case they are called upon as a group.  

What's obvious is that more UO players have become more aware of the world they live in. 

"That's really important because you don't want to be ignorant to what's going on," Amadi said. 

And they don't want Taggart to embarrass them if they don't. 

"The fear of getting called has driven (players to research), which I think is a smart tactic," Alie said. 

If Taggart calls upon a player that happens to be unprepared, sometimes teammates will help them out by whispering to them an event to report.

"Teammate help each other out, which is fun to see," Alie said. "Guys have done well. There's a lot of interesting things I've learned that I didn't know was going on. So, it's cool."

And that, Taggart said, is the point. He wants his players to be better informed individuals. 

"It's our world," Alie said. "We've got to know what's going on."