Willie Taggart a Proven Program Builder

Critics of new Florida State Head Coach Willie Taggart are quick to point out his 47-50 career record. However, a little research quickly shows just how misleading that stat is.

Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports recently named Taggart one of the top program builders in the nation.

“Taggart has been known as a program builder his entire career,” Kerchival writes, “with stops at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon — all of which were in bad condition when he found them and are now better off. Now he has a chance to become an elite, national title-winning coach at Florida State.”

Western Kentucky was riding a 20 game losing streak when Taggart was hired there for his first head coaching job in 2010. Taggart took his lumps in year 1 with the Hilltoppers posting a 2-10 record. He would quickly turn things around at WKU winning 14 of his final 20 games with the Hilltoppers before being hired by the University of South Florida to clean up the mess left by Skip Holtz.

The Bulls were in rough shape having lost 16 of their 20 games before Taggart arrived, just a few years after Jim Leavitt had them ranked #2 in the nation at one point. In his first two seasons Taggart struggled as he attempted to bring his power I offense to Tampa. The Bulls would go 6-18 in Taggart’s first two years leaving USF fans wondering if they had hired the wrong person.

Entering his third season, Taggart evaluated himself and his philosophy ultimately deciding to revamp his entire approach to football. In 2015, Taggart debuted his Gulf Coast Offense adapting his scheme to the players he had to work with and began to find success. Taggart and the Bulls would win 7 of their final 9 games that season setting USF up for what would be the best season in school history at the time.

Outside of an early season loss to Florida State and a hiccup at Temple midway through the season, the Bulls would go on to win every game, most in blowout fashion. Taggart would finish his time in Tampa winning 14 of his final 17 games with the Bulls before accepting the head coaching job at Oregon.

While the Ducks have had several outstanding seasons in the past decade, the year before Taggart’s arrival was not one of them. Oregon would post their first losing season (4-8) in over a decade in 2016. Taggart’s arrival in 2017 was a welcomed fresh breath of air in Eugene.

The Ducks came out guns blazing winning 4 of their first 5 games before starting quarterback Justin Herbert went down with an injury. Oregon struggled to find consistency at the position the next few games in the heart of conference play. With Herbert starting, Taggart posted a 6-1 record outscoring opponents by a total of 365-168 in his first and only year at Oregon.

In 2017, Jimbo Fisher lost total control of the program giving Florida State fans a season they will always remember for all the wrong reasons. Taggart, who has proven he is capable of turning things around anywhere has big plans in Tallahassee and has restored order in the FSU locker room. 2018 will certainly present its challenges as the ‘Noles play arguably the toughest schedule in the country but the future is bright with Willie Taggart in Tallahassee.


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