As snow falls and Eugene begins to slow down, the same cannot be said for head coach Willie Taggart. After luring Jim Leavitt away from Colorado to be the next defensive coordinator, it seems the former South Florida coach is not done. A heavy overhaul is underway for the Ducks under-performing defense on both the coaching and recruiting fronts.
Taggart has hired Keith Hayward to be the next defensive backs coach, an area where Oregon has struggled. Hayward was the secondary coach at both Oregon State and Washington from 2008-2013. His familiarity with the Pac-12 is also shown by his year as the passing defense coordinator at USC in 2014. He’ll be heading to Eugene after spending the season with Louisville. Taggart has also brought in Charles Clark, who coached cornerbacks at Colorado. In addition David Reaves and John Neal will be added to the defensive assistant coaching ranks.
Defense is not the only area that is being attended to. Taggart is reportedly targeting Alabama O-line coach, Mario Cristobal. Cristobal’s time with Alabama speaks for itself, and he is getting several offers this winter. A decision won’t likely be made until after the National Championship Game. What might intrigue Cristobal is the youth of Oregon’s offensive line, consisting of four soon to be redshirt sophomores.
Taggart’s appointment is getting attention from recruits along with coaches. Oregon has already secured two four-star cornerbacks in Thomas Graham and Jalon Reid. They’ve also snagged Rutger Reidmaier and Popo Aumavae, a couple of defensive tackles ranked 23rd and 26th at their position respectively. Inside linebacker, Samson Niu, has also committed to Oregon. He is the 18th ranked at his position in the 2017 class.
Lastly, great news for Duck fans as Darren Carrington announced he will be returning for his senior season. Carrington, is arguably one of the most talented receivers in Oregon history. He’s made some sensational grabs, including the game-winning catch against Utah in 2016. However, he’s also had a fair share of drops including one in the National Championship game in 2015. If Carrington is able to put it all together, he would be a force to be reckoned with.