Oregon's Willie Taggart deflects questions about his future, Florida State

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Oregon’s Willie Taggart deflects questions about his future, Florida State
Updated
December 1, 2017 at 11:09 PM
; Posted
The Oregonian/OregonLive
EUGENE — Willie Taggart himself said it best: Buckle up.
Less than a year after Taggart dropped that promise to fans during his introductory press conference as Oregon’s football coach, the Ducks are bracing for what could be a second coaching search in as many years after Friday’s resignation by Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher has led to a ripple effect across all of college football.
Fisher has left for Texas A&M — and a reported 10-year contract worth a guaranteed $75 million. In turn, according to a report from FootballScoop , Florida State is expected to soon offer Taggart a chance to return to his home state and become coach of the Seminoles.
The Seminoles have vetted candidates for days, USA Today reported earlier this week. Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and South Florida’s Charlie Strong, among others, have been listed as other potential candidates.
Oregon has offered Taggart a contract extension worth a little more than $20 million over the next five years. The deal was presented prior to a 69-10 win in last weekend’s Civil War that pushed UO’s record to 7-5 in Taggart’s first season. He is 47-50 in his career, and has created a reputation for breathing life into flagging football programs through strong recruiting.
Asked Friday prior to UO’s first postseason practice if he planned to sign UO’s offer he responded, “I do. My agent and they all are looking through the contract and when things are like they’re supposed to, we’ll go from there.”
Taggart otherwise deflected questions about his future Friday while decrying the spread of “rumors” online. He reiterated that his focus was on closing out Oregon’s season with a bowl victory, which would double UO’s win total from last season, and seal what could be the highest-ranked recruiting class in program history ahead of the Dec. 20-22 early signing period.
Asked twice whether he would be Oregon’s coach in 2018, Taggart answered, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I’m the football coach,” he said. “You guys ask me that like you’re trying to get me out of here.”
Taggart said neither he nor his agent, Jimmy Sexton, had been contacted by Florida State before adding, “can we move on now?”
For as much as he wanted the focus on anything but the Seminoles, Taggart said he understood why he has been connected to their opening, much the same as he was linked to an opening at Florida earlier this season. It was only a year ago that Oregon plucked Taggart from South Florida and gave him his first head-coaching job at a Power Five conference.
“I coached there and had a good season there and I just came here and had a good season here,” he said. “Our players have done a good job. Whenever you do a good job people talk about you.
“I’d rather people talk about me like that than the other way. Again, we’re focused on this bowl game and practice. There’s nothing to report. I’m sorry I can’t give you guys what you want but I’m going to coach my football team.”
A longtime college football power under Bobby Bowden that won another national title under Fisher in 2013, Florida State was set to pay Fisher $5.7 million in 2017. In addition to resources, its proximity to recruiting hotbeds in the southeast make it “one of the top-five jobs in the country,” one Pac-12 coach told The Oregonian/OregonLive. Taggart has become one of the best in recruiting the state ever since he broke into coaching in 1999 as receivers coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky.
“There’s all this talk about Willie Taggart, Charlie Strong,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Friday of potential FSU candidates, prior to Fisher’s resignation, according to the Tampa Bay Times . “Those guys are great candidates and have enough experience in that state recruiting that they could do a very good job.”
In a story posted to FSU’s official athletics website  Friday, a reporter at the university credited Fisher for modernizing the program while adding FSU would move quickly to find his successor. The Seminoles football program “is bigger than any one man. Bigger than any coach, player or administrator.
“… (Bobby) Bowden gave way to Fisher. Now Fisher will give way to someone else. No one knows exactly who that someone else is, or how he’ll do once handed the keys to one of college football’s Ferraris.”
“Some” recruits have asked about his future in Eugene, Taggart said. Upon returning from the road this week he addressed the topic briefly in a team meeting.
Said defensive end Jalen Jelks: “He’s like, I’m with you guys and with the Ducks right now.”
— Andrew Greif

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