Oregon coach Willie Taggart, during a recent team meeting, informed the Ducks players that the days of ignoring authority and running amok are over, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Furthermore, those who choose to wear coveted single-digit jersey numbers must now earn them.
A peek at Oregon's roster reveals that all single-digit jersey numbers are unassigned and returning players who had single-digit numbers in 2015 have been assigned double-digit numbers.
Cornerback Arrion Springs: He went from #1 to #13.
Safety Tyree Robinson: #2 to #21.
Quarterback Terry Wilson Jr: #3 to #14.
Linebacker Jonah Moi: #3 to #42.
Wide receiver Alex Ofodile: #4 to #83.
Running back Taj Griffin: #5 to #24.
Wide receiver Charles Nelson: #6 to #18.
Wide receiver Darren Carrington II: #7 to #22.
Defensive back Mattrell McGraw: #9 to #27.
No. 8 and No. 9 belonged to 2016 seniors, safety Reggie Daniels and quarterback Dakota Prukop, respectively.
Make no mistake, many players covet single digit jersey numbers. So much so that some coaches, including Taggart, use them as incentives to create stronger competition. The New York Times did an article in October on this practice being used by several programs, including Virginia.
According to the article, a week before the 2016 season began, Virginia coaches put together a draft order determined by players' work ethic and performance then had the players drafted their jersey numbers.
Earning jersey numbers is just the jumping off point of changes being made to elicit better conduct and performance.
Taggart, according to sources, has made it clear to players that any shenanigans that went unchecked under former coach Mark Helfrich will no longer be tolerated.
According to numerous players during the season, many teammates suffered from a bad case of a lack of discipline on and off the field. Sources say that many players simply didn't respect the rules handed down from the top and acted out accordingly with little in the way of consequences.
Oregon went 4-8 for a variety of reason, including a lack of leadership and discipline.
While criminal behavior was dealt with through suspensions, and in the case of Austin Maloata, removal from the team, some smaller offenses were allowed to persist. Examples include, and are not limited to: Being late for meetings and practice, skipping team functions, cutting classes, parking where they aren't supposed to, and going out to specific clubs after being explicitly told not to do so.
While such actions are hardly unusual for most college students, athletes or otherswise, and certainly happen at most successful of programs, the bottom line is that Oregon clearly had discipline issues with a group of players that Helfrich was unable to corral.
Taggart, during his introductory press conference, made it clear that he runs a tight ship. He has since relayed that message to the team.
Competing for jersey numbers is just the beginning of Taggart's attempt to put Oregon's players on notice.