Oregon coach Willie Taggart and staff 'storm' state on recruiting tour

Oregon coach Willie Taggart and staff 'storm' state on recruiting tour

New Oregon coach Willie Taggart and several assistant coaches are making the recruiting rounds throughout the Portland area today in what they are calling a 'storm tour' designed to meet with high school football coaches and any players the Ducks are in the process of recruiting. 

"We don't know any of the coaches in the state so this is a chance to get out and meet them," Taggart said. "One thing I hate to hear is that there's not a lot of prospects in the state of Oregon. For me, the best players that can come help us, we want to get out and see them."

Taggart became Oregon's head coach on Dec. 7, more than a week after the Ducks fired Mark Helfrich following a 4-8 season. Taggart has assembled a strong coaching staff full of top-notch recruiters. But the group is lacking in the way of area recruiting ties. Schools on the coaches' radar today include Lake Oswego, Jesuit, Madison, Westview, Central Catholic, Clackamas, Oregon City, Sherwood, Tigard and Lakeridge. Taggart and his staff went on a similar tour on Jan. 12 around the Eugene area and the southern part of the state, including Medford. 

The state of Oregon is not know for producing a strong group of major college recruits on an annual basis, although the 2018 class is projected to be one of the deepest to come out of the state in some time. 

The Ducks primarily recruited the West Coast under Helfrich, Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti. Under Bellotti, and later more so with Kelly, UO  began expanding east. Taggart said he will continue to heavily recruit the West Coast but the hope is that his staff can improve Oregon's success in the Southeast part of the country. Taggart came to Oregon from South Florida. New co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mario Cristobal came to Oregon from Alabama. Other assistants also have recruiting connections across the country. The Ducks have already secured commitments from three players out of Florida.

That all said, Taggart said he wants to make sure his staff owns the state of Oregon.  

"We want to let the coaches know that we're going to be around and we're going to recruit the state, first and foremost," Taggart said. 

The Eugene tour included a police escort of four motorcycle patrolmen. Taggart said he wanted to make a statement and some noise. 

"We wanted to be noticed," he said. 

The plan that day included also going to Portland but a snowstorm closed local schools. So the Portland-are tour was postponed until today.

Oregon has traditionally done well with in-state recruiting. However, so far just one out of the top 10 recruits in the 2017 class have committed to UO. The Ducks have extended offers to six. Two of the top four recruits, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipulotu (Independence) and defensive back Elijah Molden (West Linn) have committed to rival Washington. 

West Linn offensive tackle Alex Forsyth committed to Oregon under Helfrich on has stated that he still plans to attend Oregon under Taggart.

While at South Florida, Taggart said he could recruit within a 60-mile radius to build his roster. That area was considered his in-state recruiting. Outside of that area he considered out-of-state, even though the span remained within the state of Florida. 

Oregon is the exact opposite. Oregon could never contend for a Pac-12 championship while relying solely on players in the Northwest, let alone the state of Oregon. But he said he at least wants to make sure that the Ducks don't overlook anyone. 

"We're not going to leave any stones unturned," Taggart said. 

That starts with building relationships with coaches.

"Instead of asking them to come to us," Taggart said. "We're going to them to try to get to know them, and to let them know that they are always welcome to visit UO."

The staff will hit as many high schools today as possible before returning to Eugene for a recruiting weekend that involves visits from several recruits. Taggart said Oregon had 25 official visits remaining to be used when he arrived. Many will be used this weekend. Some were used last weekend. The final weekend before National Signing Day on Feb. 1 will also involve several key visits. 

Taggart said his staff will individually recruit certain areas, unlike the former staff which moved to recruiting by position several years ago. Taggart said that position coaches will get involved later in the process but that he wants his staff to develop a consistent presence in certain areas, including the state of Oregon.

"We want to make sure we don't overlook the best in-state players," Taggart said. "We want to keep them in the state as Ducks."

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart addresses workouts, strength coach following controversy

Oregon coach Willie Taggart characterized the workouts his team conducted last Friday that led to three players being hospitalized as "warm-ups" designed to get the team ready for the more difficult tasks ahead during winter conditioning.

They were not, Taggart said, "military-style," treacherous and dangerous workouts that many painted them out to be after the story, first reported on Monday by The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, became a national topic of conversation and sparked discussion and conversation over player safety in college football.   

Redshirt freshman tight end Cam McCormick, redshirt senior offensive lineman Doug Brenner and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were sent to Springfield PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend last Friday evening after experiencing symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis hours after completing a 6 a.m. workout during winter conditioning. 

The narrative left Taggart exasperated. The last thing, he said, that he and his staff would ever do is endanger players. What occurred, according to Taggart, was an unfortunate incident that has been blown out of proportion.  

“People are convinced that we’re (dumb) and don’t care about our players,” Taggart said. “We want our fan base to know that we do.”

The controversy that found its way into newspapers and onto websites and television networks across the nation abruptly ended what for Taggart had been about as good of a first month on a job as anyone could ever hope for. 

Taggart, hired on Dec. 7 to replace Mark Helfrich, hit the recruiting trail running by landing commitments within weeks, he assembled what appears to be a dynamic coaching staff, and he successfully rebranded the program, replacing "Win the Day" with "Do Something."

Then, in as much time as it takes to do a push up, Taggart found himself being forced to defend the workout regimen in question put forth by his strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde.

Oregon on Tuesday suspended Oderinde for a month, and Taggart and UO athletic director Rob Mullens released statements in which Taggart took responsibility for the situation while Mullens emphasized that the University holds the well-being of its students in high regard.

All three players are expected to recover. Brenner has already been released. What happened was certainly unfortunate. The question is, was anyone at fault?

--- Introductory workouts

Oregon began winter conditioning last week. Workouts conducted by Oderinde were held last Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

The idea, Taggart said, was to ease the players out of winter break with workouts that didn't consist of running or weight lifting. Oregon missed a bowl game last season for the first time since 2004. That meant that returning players had an extra full month off from structured football activities that they weren't used to having. Their season ended with a loss at Oregon State on Nov. 26.

Typically Oregon's seasons end around the first of the year with a bowl game appearance. 

“We knew our guys weren’t in shape so we didn’t put them in the weight room or run them, or anything” Taggart said. “We’re going to build up to that. It all started with pushups and sit-ups.”

Oderinde used the same workouts under Taggart at South Florida and Western Kentucky. Oderinde played at WKU when Taggart was an assistant there from 1999 through 2006. Oderinde later worked as a strength coach at WKU during Taggart's tenure as the Hilltoppers head coach. By the time Oderinde made it to USF under Taggart in 2014, the strength coach had nearly 10 years of experience, according to the Bulls' website, with previous stops at West Virginia, South Carolina and Notre Dame

The workout sessions, which included planks, were designed to last 45 minutes with the team broken up into three groups with start times of 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m.  Workouts were extended if players didn't use proper technique and/or didn't follow directions, according to Taggart. Punishment involved up downs as a group even if one player botched the workout.

“The whole team is held accountable,” Taggart said. “Then they go back to pushups and sit-ups and do it right. It’s more about just teaching guys the details and how we’re going to do things the right way.”

During last year’s 4-8 season, which led to the firing of Helfrich, players slacked in some areas, namely preparation and attention to detail. Taggart has told the team that those days are over.

Reestablishing accountability, however, does not involve cruelty, according to Taggart. 

Players, Taggart said, were given breaks and allowed to get water whenever needed. Then they could resume the workouts when they were ready to do so.

“No one expected everyone to make it and do them all,” Taggart said.

For that reason, according to Taggart, coaches did not order players to continue working past their limitations. Only vocal encouragement was involved. 

“Coach O doesn’t even work that way,” Taggart said. “He’s not even that kind of guy. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t do any of that stuff.”

Many players, Taggart said, took advantage of the ability to take breaks when they reached their max. In fact, Taggart said, coaches knew that many players wouldn’t finish the workouts. Some assistant coaches and trainers were present for the workouts. 

“We had some guys struggling,” Taggart said. “We had some guys sit out and not finish.”

--- Overdoing it

The scene involving Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick, Taggart said, did not involve the players passing out on the field and having to be rushed to the hospital. 

According to Taggart, the hospitalized players participated in a 6 a.m. session on Friday (the fourth day of the workouts) then went to classes, and carried out the rest of their day before returning to the football complex for dinner.

It was then that Taggart said the three players complained about not feeling right and that their urine was dark, a symptom of Rhabdomyolysis. The condition, described on Webmd.com, is a rare and serious side effect caused by the breakdown of muscle tissue to the point where it could lead to permanent paralysis, and can cause serious kidney damage. Symptoms include muscle aches and dark-colored urine.

Extreme muscle strain can be a cause and it can become more dangerous if there is more muscle mass to breakdown. Brenner is listed at 320 pounds. Poutasi is 315. McCormick is 240.

Those suffering Rhabdomyolysis can experience muscle pain and have trouble moving their limbs. A product of muscle breakdown is creatine kinase, an enzyme found in the muscles. which can increase in the blood stream. Normal CK levels for a male over 18 is between 52 to 336 units per liter of blood. A marathon runner can reach into the low thousands. According to sources, the players hospitalized had CK levels well over 60,000.

Taggart praised head trainer Kevin Steil for recognizing the problem and responding the way that he did by examining the players and then having them taken to the hospital where they could receive intravenous fluids. Taggart visited them at the hospital.  

One potential cause of what happened is that the players were not properly hydrated before the workouts. Also, the players, pushed themselves too hard.

“A lot of that comes with wanting to impress the new coaches,” Taggart said. “But all of the trainers were out there. It wasn’t like coach ‘O’ was out there just beating them down. You’ve got certified trainers out there with them.”

Trainers are required by the NCAA to be beholden to the department and not a specific team. This prevents coaches from hiring their own trainers and then influencing them to overlook workouts or injuries that might put an athlete’s health at risk.

One veteran player, speaking anonymously, said he enjoyed and completed the workouts. He added that they were clearly designed to test the will of the players but stated that there was no pressure to complete the tasks beyond one’s limits. If a player reached their max, they could stop. 

Taggart said it was made clear to the team that players were not going to win starting jobs in January and to take care of themselves as they push through a new regimen of workouts they were not used to.

“We want you to go hard but not to a limit that you’re going to kill yourself,” Taggart said.

While some players backed off, Brenner, Poutasi and McCormick did not.

“These guys were tough guys and wanted to show the coaches,” Taggart said. “That’s probably what was part of the problem. They didn’t want to be the guy that quit. There were other guys that quit and they didn’t want to so they probably pushed themselves to a limit that they shouldn’t have.”

Moving forward, Taggart said his staff must do a better job of making sure players are properly hydrated, something he said was routinely emphasized, and explaining to players that they shouldn’t feel pressured to push themselves too far beyond their physical limits. 

A narrative floating around that the hospitalized players were too “soft” or "out of shape" bothers Taggart. 

“Those guys finished the workout,” Taggart said. "Others did not. The fact that those guys finished like that, it says lot about them. I hate that they had to go to the hospital, but it says a lot about them.”

Some fans on social media have stated that the hospitalization of players following the first week of winter workouts further proves that Ducks were slacking under Helfrich. Taggart doesn’t agree.

“That’s a bunch of baloney,” Taggart said. “People are going to have their opinions. It’s just different philosophies on workouts. I hate it because when they call our guys ‘soft,’ they are calling me soft too.”

Nobody, Taggart said, is being labeled as anything other than trying to get in shape for a long season ahead.

--- #FREECOACHO

Taggart said players seemed to enjoy the workouts and were excited to get back out there for more. That statement is supported by their reaction to the controversy through social media.

“They are ticked off because they were enjoying the workouts,” Taggart said. “Even the guys that were in the hospital.”

Several players took to Twitter to support Oderinde, whom some refer to as “Coach O," and started a #FreeCoachO hashtag. 

Junior cornerback Ugo Amadi Tweeted that the workouts weren't nearly as difficult as the media made them out to be. 

Redshirt junior safety Mattrell McGraw also defended Oderinde.

“The response that they have given, to me, says a lot,” Taggart said. “They wouldn’t say that if it were someone that didn’t have their best interest at heart and was trying to kill them. He’s one of the best guys you’ll ever meet. He’s not military. He’s just a good dude.”

Taggart has gotten good results from Oderinde in the past.

“I trust him,” said Taggart. “I love what he did with our football team at South Florida and I know what he could do with our guys here. But now a good guy, a good strength coach is being portrayed as somebody just whipping our kids’ butts and that’s wrong.”

Former USF players certainly appear to support Oderinde, according to a recent report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Players said that nobody they ever played with under Taggart and Oderinde ever ended up in the hospital after a workout.

Former Bulls offensive lineman Mak Djulbegovic said to the Tampa Bay Times that Oderinde isn't “gonna make you do something that's not reasonable."

"Sure, it'll be very difficult," Djulbegovic continued, "but if you don't take the right steps to be ready for these things, you might wind up in the hospital as these kids found out. Hopefully they learned their lesson."

The goal is to make the team bigger and stronger beyond what they have been used to at Oregon. It’s not that the Ducks didn’t seek size under former football strength coach Jimmy Radcliffe, but the emphasis at many positions had been more about speed and stamina given the pace of the offense under former coaches Chip Kelly and Helfrich. 

Many UO players, sources say, are excited about the prospects of getting bigger, which could help increase their NFL potential. 

“Guys are saying they want to get bigger, they want to get stronger,” Taggart said.

Taggart, who declined to discuss the details surrounding Oderinde's suspension, said his workout philosophy is no better or worse than what was being done under Radcliffe, it’s just different. Clearly Oregon experienced great success in the recent past.

While a couple of player parents wondered if the workouts might have been over the top since three players went to the hospital, some told CSN, anonymously, that they and their sons didn’t have a problem with them and were excited to continue working with Oderinde.

A department source said there is no doubt in his mind that the coaching staff cares about the players and their well-being. He said that they talk about it as a group.

The ridicule, Taggart said, has come up on the recruiting trail.  Taggart said parents of recruits have asked assistants about what happened and he believes opponents have used the hospitalizations as fodder for negative recruiting.

“All they hear is a ‘military-style workout,’" Taggart said, "and so now everybody is saying ‘they don’t know what they’re doing, they are hurting the kids, they don’t care about the kids’ welfare,’ and it’s not like that. And again, that’s why our players were so upset because they are putting a negative spin on it.”

In the end, Taggart believes that the players will perform better after going through his staff’s plan, just as players did at Western Kentucky and South Florida.

"We believe in what we're doing," Taggart said. "It’s one of those unfortunate situations that we all can learn from."

 

Taggart finalizes staff with addition of Raymond Woodie

Taggart finalizes staff with addition of Raymond Woodie

Oregon football officially has a full staff.  Raymond Woodie will join Willie Taggart's staff as Oregon's special teams coordinator. Oregon assistant althetic director Andy MacNamara first reported the news on Oregon's Duck Insider radio show.

Last season, Woodie severed as defensive coordinator at Univeristy of South Florida. Woodie spent our seasons under Taggart at USF, and has been one of Taggart's long-time assistants, dating back to Western Kentucky in 2010-11.

Woodie is a native of Palmetto, Fla.

Pac-12 football schedule released: Oregon dates to circle, late bye and home stand

Pac-12 football schedule released: Oregon dates to circle, late bye and home stand

The Oregon football program will begin the Willie Taggart era in Autzen Stadium against against Southern Utah on Sept. 2. The Ducks round out preseason play against Nebraska at home on Sept. 9 and at Wyoming on Sept. 16. 

Now on to Oregon's Pac-12 conference schedule...

Due to the conference rotation, Oregon won't play USC and Colorado in 2017 and 2018. Colorado and USC finished first and second, respectively, in the Pac-12 South last season. 

Oregon's Pac-12 opener is at Arizona State on Sept. 23. The Ducks first home conference game is Sept. 30 against California.

The Ducks stay in Eugene to play Washington State on Oct. 7 before hitting the road for two straight road games at Stanford and then at UCLA.

Three out of Oregon's final four regular-season games are home, starting against Utah. 

Circle the next game in red, as the Ducks travel to Washington on Nov. 4 for their last road game. 

Oregon finishes the regular season against Arizona on Nov. 18 and Oregon State on Nov. 24. 

Sat 9/2 vs. Southern Utah
Sat 9/9 vs. Nebraska
Sat 9/16 @ Wyoming
Sat 9/23 @ Arizona State
Sat 9/30 vs. Cal
Sat 10/7 vs. WSU
Sat 10/14 @ Stanford
Sat 10/21 @ UCLA
Sat 10/28 vs. Utah
Sat 11/4 @ UW
Sat 11/18 vs. Arizona
Fri 11/24 vs. OSU
 

Oregon football strength and conditioning coach suspended following hospitalizations of three players

Oregon football strength and conditioning coach suspended following hospitalizations of three players

The following is a press release sent out by the University of Oregon today...

EUGENE – University of Oregon head football coach Willie Taggart today issued an apology on behalf of the coaching staff and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics following incidents reported over the weekend related to off-season conditioning training that began last week.

“I have visited with the three young men involved in the incidents in the past few days and I have been in constant contact with their families, offering my sincere apologies,” Taggart said. “As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first. I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university. I want to thank our medical staff and doctors for caring for all of our young men, and I want to apologize to the university, our students, alumni and fans.”  

“The university holds the health, safety and well-being of all of our students in high regard,” said Rob Mullens, UO director of athletics. “We are confident that these athletes will soon return to full health, and we will continue to support them and their families in their recoveries.”

After a review of events surrounding the training last week, the following has been determined:

Last Tuesday, football student-athletes began their off-season conditioning program after being away from football-related activities for six weeks. The workouts were supervised by the training staff and led by football strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde.

On Thursday, after three days of workouts, one student-athlete complained of muscle soreness and displayed other symptoms of potential exercise-related injury. The medical staff examined the student-athlete, and took appropriate action pursuant to team’s medical protocols.

The medical staff informed coaches and staff of the diagnosis. Two additional student-athletes were then identified with similar symptoms and staff responded to them, as well.

No other student-athletes have demonstrated negative effects at this time or have been admitted to the hospital.

As a result, Oderinde has been suspended without pay for one month, with Jim Radcliffe assuming the position on an interim basis. In addition, the head football strength and conditioning coach will no longer report to the head football coach but rather to Andrew Murray, the director of performance and sports science. All workouts moving forward have been modified.

 

Taggart announces David Reaves as co-offensive coordinator and passing-game coordinator

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Taggart announces David Reaves as co-offensive coordinator and passing-game coordinator

EUGENE, Ore. – Willie Taggart has named David Reaves the Ducks' co-offensive coordinator and passing-game coordinator. He will also coach tight ends at Oregon.
 
Reaves spent the previous four seasons at USF under Taggart, starting in 2013 as wide receivers coach and working his way up to associate head coach and tight ends coach in 2016, when the Bulls posted a program-best 11-2 record with seven conference victories. Reaves was promoted to the role of offensive coordinator and primary play caller for the Bulls' appearance in the Birmingham Bowl, leading the Bulls to a 46-39 overtime win over South Carolina with 469 yards of total offense.
 
Reaves took over as quarterbacks coach in 2014, and was elevated again in 2015 to co-offensive coordinator and passing game coordinator. In that role, Reaves helped sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers set a USF record with 22 passing touchdowns to go along with a team-best 3,287 yards of total offense and 34 total touchdowns.
 
Prior to USF, Reaves spent a year as an instructor at the premier training facility at IMG Academy, working with top athletes at the professional, collegiate and prep levels. With 10 years of experience as a collegiate assistant coach, Reaves went to IMG after two years at New Mexico, working first in 2010 as quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator before adding offensive coordinator to his title in 2011.
 
Reaves got his break in college coaching in 2002 after spending a year as assistant head coach at Tampa Catholic High School, joining South Carolina as a graduate assistant in the first of seven seasons under head coaching legends Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier. After two years as a graduate assistant, Reaves was elevated to defensive backs coach in 2004 and then assistant quarterbacks coach in 2005. Reaves added recruiting coordinator to his title in 2006, and then was promoted to quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator in 2007 and 2008. Reaves helped lead the Gamecocks to more than 3,000 yards passing and 258.2 passing yards per game in 2007.
 
Reaves then spent the 2009 season as quarterbacks coach at Tennessee before going to New Mexico in 2010. While in Knoxville, Reaves led a passing game that accounted for 2,942 yards and 28 touchdowns while mentoring Jonathan Crompton, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.
 
A native of Tampa, Fla., Reaves was a standout quarterback at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., graduating in 1997. He went on to become team captain and a three-year starter at quarterback for Appalachian State, where he helped lead the Mountaineers to three straight national playoff berths.
 

Official: Taggart adds Mario Cristobal as co-offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator

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Official: Taggart adds Mario Cristobal as co-offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator

Oregon football has officially released the hiring of Alabama's Mario Cristobal. CSNNW reported last week that Cristobal was heading to Oregon.

Here is the official release. 

EUGENE, Ore. – Willie Taggart announced the addition Mario Cristobal as the Ducks' co-offensive coordinator and run-game coordinator on Tuesday. He will also coach the offensive line at Oregon.

Cristobal spent the last four seasons at Alabama as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach, helping the Crimson Tide to the National Championship after the 2015 season, as well as a runner-up finish following this past season. Cristobal's offensive line ranked in the top 25 nationally in sacks allowed in each of his first two seasons, and in 2016 helped pave the way for the nation's 11th-best rushing attack (246.7 ypg) and produced SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts.

Alabama's offensive lines produced a plethora of standout players and NFL draft picks under Cristobal, including first-team All-American and 2015 first-round draft pick Ryan Kelly and 2014 freshman All-American Cam Robinson, who went on to win the Outland Trophy in Crisobal's final year with Alabama.

Cristobal came to Oregon with a reputation as a top recruiter. He was named the National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports in the 2015 cycle, and was ranked as the nation's No. 2 recruiter in the country by 247Sports at the time of his hiring based on the final haul he brought to Alabama.
 
Prior to joining Nick Saban's staff at Alabama, Cristobal spent six seasons (2007-12) as the head coach at Florida International, solidifying his standing as one of the country's top young college football coaches and recruiters. Cristobal led the Panthers to the most successful year in program history in 2011, capturing a program-record eight wins, including a road win at eventual co-Big East Champion Louisville. Cristobal was named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 after leading FIU to its first Sun Belt Conference championship and a bowl victory over MAC champion Toledo, and he finished his FIU career having produced NFL talents such as T.Y. Hilton and Jonathan Cyprien.

Cristobal coached at Miami (Fla.), his alma mater, under Larry Coker for three years before accepting the head job at FIU, working as tight ends coach for the 2004 and 2005 seasons and coaching multiple tight ends that turned into NFL draft picks, including first-round pick and All-Pro Greg Olsen. In 2006, Cristobal took over a Miami offensive line that featured four new starters and saw a 39 percent decrease in sacks allowed from the previous season (36 to 22).

Cristobal spent three years (2001-03) at Rutgers under head coach Greg Schiano, working with the offensive tackles and tight ends for the first two seasons before shifting his focus solely to the offensive line in 2003. Cristobal was a critical factor in Rutgers' resurgence to competitiveness and helped lay the foundation in recruiting and coaching for a program that went from obscurity to college football's upper echelon in a matter of five years. Cristobal helped Rutgers to a 5-7 mark in 2003, the school's best record since 1998. One of Cristobal's most accomplished pupils was tight end L.J. Smith, the Philadelphia Eagles' second-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

Cristobal began his coaching career in 1998 as a graduate assistant at Miami, working with the Hurricanes for three seasons under Butch Davis. He joined the Hurricanes' staff six years after finishing a four-year playing career at Miami as a standout offensive lineman under Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson. Cristobal was a first-team All-Big East selection in 1992 and helped the Hurricanes to a pair of national championships (1989, 1991).

A native of Miami and a prep standout at Christopher Columbus High School, Cristobal graduated from Miami in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in business administration and later earned a master's degree from Miami in 2001. Following his college career, Cristobal signed a free-agent contract with the Denver Broncos in 1994 and then played for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe in 1995 and 1996.

Willie Taggart starts his tenure at UO with the wrong kind of publicity

Willie Taggart starts his tenure at UO with the wrong kind of publicity

If you haven't read the story today about three Oregon football players being hospitalized after a series of off-season strength and conditioning workouts, you should.  It's getting play all over the country.

Rhabdomyolysis is nothing to be trivialized. And neither is pushing players to such physical danger zones about eight months before their next football game. I thought that kind of stuff went out in the 1960s -- coaches pushing players beyond limits just to "toughen them up."

Obviously, the strength and conditioning coach here should be questioned about his methods. All players should be evaluated by physicians before starting such programs and allowances have to be made for every single player's level of conditioning or special physical problems. I have no idea what was done in this case but three players landing in a hospital is an indication that something was amiss.

And it all falls on the shoulders of Taggart, who as the head coach is responsible for everything in the program. I saw this story discussed on four different national sports shows of various ilks Tuesday and all of them put the program in a negative light.

Taggart has some work to do.

 

Taggart raids Arizona again, lands 4-star QB, Braxton Burmeister

Taggart raids Arizona again, lands 4-star QB, Braxton Burmeister

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez might want to get a restraining order put on Oregon coach Willie Taggart. 

For the second time in four weeks, Taggart has swiped a recruit from the Wildcats' commitment list.  

On Friday, four-star quarterback Braxton Burmeister, out of La Jolla, Calif., announced via Twitter that he has signed early with Oregon and plans to join the team in time to participate in spring drills. 

This swipe for Taggart comes after he had secured a commitment from three-star athlete Darrian McNeal (Seffner, Fla.,) on Dec. 11. 

Both players appeared to be firmly committed to Arizona before Taggart swooped in to convince them they would be better off in green and yellow. 

“The tradition of Oregon football is special, a great thing,” Burmeister told reporters, according to the San Diego Tribune. “Coach Taggart wants to restore things to the way they used to be. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.” 

Burmeister, who put up ridiculous numbers in high school, is certainly a nice get for Oregon. As a senior, Burmeister passed for 4,461 yards and 53 touchdowns while rushing for 1,470 yards and 27 touchdowns as he led La Jolla to the San Diego Section Division IV title. His team also won the Southern California Division 5-A championship before losing in the 5-A title game. 

Burmeister set career section records with 11,499 yards passing, 128 touchdown passes and 936 completions. He is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 13 dual-threat quarterback in the nation. He comes with a lot of similarities to South Florida QB Quinton Flowers, who led Taggart's Bulls to 18 wins over the last two seasons. 

Burmeister is listed at a solid 6-foot, 211-pounds while Flowers plays at 6-foot, 210. Both are fearless inside runners. Burmeister, as seen in his Hudl highlight videos, made a lot of plays in the running game going straight ahead. Similarly, Flowers did a lot of the same for USF where in 2016 he rushed for 1,530 yards and 15 touchdowns, and passed for 2,807 yards and 24 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. 

Furthermore, both have very quick feet, are elusive in tight spaces and throw with great accuracy. 

There's no mystery as to why Rodriguez wanted Burmeister for his spread offense. 

So where does he fit in at Oregon?

Well, he will join a crowded quarterbacks depth chart. The Ducks return starter Justin Herbert, who will be a sophomore in 2017. He will be competing to keep his starting job under Taggart against redshirt freshman Terry Wilson Jr. and redshirt sophomore Travis Jonsen

Adding Burmeister gives UO four scholarship quarterbacks, two freshmen and two sophomores. 

Something has to give. It's somewhat surprising that Jonsen, fourth string in 2016 when senior Dakota Prukop was in the mix, has not transferred somewhere that needs a quarterback. 

Herbert, a three-star recruit in 2016, is the front-runner to start in 2017 after he put up phenomenal statistics for a true freshman, passing for 1,986 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Wilson, a three-star recruit in 2016, has a chance to make a competition out of the race because of his superior running ability, which fits well with what Taggart ran at South Florida.

However, Taggart has had successful offenses without a true dual-threat quarterback. Herbert can run the ball, but not on the level of Wilson and Burmeister. 

Jonsen, a four-star recruit in 2015, could certainly still make some noise. He went to Oregon rated as the No. 3-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2015. 

Speaking of ratings, they often can be misleading. Keep in mind that Burmeister becomes the fifth four-star quarterback to commit to Oregon since 2008. 

It all began well with Darron Thomas, who signed in 2008. He had a great career, passing for 66 touchdowns and leading the Ducks to two conference titles, a Rose Bowl victory and a berth into the national title game. 

Bryan Bennett, signed in 2010, backed up Thomas before losing the starting job in 2012 to Marcus Mariota, a three-star recruit in 2011. Bennett went on to start at Southeastern Louisiana before ending up in training camp with the Indianapolis Colts. 

Then things became dicey. Jake Rodrigues, the No. 5-rated pro-style quarterback in the nation, signed in 2012 and never panned out.  Moran Mahalak, the No. 11-rated pro-style quarterback in 2014, never challenged for playing time before transferring to Towson last year.  That brings us to Jonsen, who in 2015 was rated as the 10th best prospect in California and No. 49 in the nation, yet he sits behind two former three-star recruits in Herbert and Wilson. 

Burmeister is rated as the 29th best player in California and 217th overall. 

None of this, of course, means that Burmeister is doomed. But it does show that finding a star quarterback is often a crapshoot.

What we know for sure is that Oregon, baring unforeseen departures, will have four talented, young quarterbacks on the roster in 2017. And, that's always a good problem to have. 

Notes: The signing of Brumeister bumped Oregon's 2017 class ranking a few spots to No. 41 on Rivals.com.  The class is ranked No. 28 in 247Sports.com's composite rankings

Willie Taggart lays down the law, puts single-digit numbers up for competition

Willie Taggart lays down the law, puts single-digit numbers up for competition

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. 

The list:

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.