Willie Taggart is heading somewhere warm during Oregon’s spring break.
Taggart will travel next week to Clemson to observe the reigning college football national champions as they practice before returning to Eugene to open UO’s own spring practices April 5, the UO coach said Wednesday in a phone interview.
En route to the school’s first national title since 1981, Clemson ranked 12th nationally last season with 503.7 yards per game and its 39.2 points per game ranked 14th. The Tigers gained the most first downs in the country, ranked 34th in yards per play and 66th in red zone efficiency. Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has since declared for the NFL draft, finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, one year after his team was runner-up in the national title game and he came in third in the Heisman.
“They have something good cooking over there,” Taggart said. “They’ve been good for a while now and I’m pretty sure there’s something we can learn that can help our football team become a little better.”
It is a common practice for college football coaches to visit their peers during the offseason as a way of gathering information on the trends and innovations, and past Oregon staffs were no different. In the industry, such trips are considered professional development. Because Oregon’s staffers still getting settled into their own roles in Eugene, UO hasn’t hosted any coaching visitors yet, Taggart said.
Taggart has studied Clemson before. In 2014, following his second season coaching at South Florida, he overhauled his power-run offense into a uptempo spread and began searching for templates to emulate.
“We studied Auburn, we studied Clemson, we studied Baylor, seeing how people do things, and put our own spin on how we want to do our offense,” Taggart said in December on the Bald Faced Truth radio show hosted by Oregonian/OregonLive columnist John Canzano. “Putting it all together and coming up with the Gulf Coast Offense has really made us exciting and turned our football program around.”
His trip won’t be the first taken by UO staffers. This week, defensive coaches visited LSU and its defensive coordinator, Dave Aranda.
Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, Taggart said, “is a good friend with coach Aranda and they meet every year and talk ball and share and discuss different things defensively.”
Leavitt returned to Eugene late this week, according to his Twitter account. He tweeted Wednesday that he “had a great time visiting LSU. Really appreciate the hospitality of coach (Ed) Orgeron, Dave Aranda and staff.”
Getting ready to head out of town tomorrow to visit other places and watch some spring ball. Getting very excited to start spring practice!
— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) March 19, 2017
Had a great time visiting LSU. Really appreciate the hospitality by Coach Orgeron, Dave Aranda and staff. Excited to get Back home! Go Ducks pic.twitter.com/R42UA5gUi7
— Jim Leavitt (@CoachJimLeavitt) March 22, 2017
— Andrew Greif