Willie Taggart

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

Oregon to reduce number of uniform combinations in 2017

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Oregon football coach Willie Taggart moments ago at Pac-12 Media Days said that the Ducks would not wear a different uniform combination for every game this season like it had during most seasons in recent years. 

"We're not going to have 12," he said. "We're going to cut back."

Taggart wouldn't elaborate on exactly how many combinations Oregon would wear, only saying that they are set for 2017 and 2018. 

"We're going to be sharp," Taggart said. "But you won't see as many different combinations. We want to play football. Those uniforms are really nice when you have a really good football team."

Oregon went 4-8 last year. 

Oregon is famous for its seemingly infinate number of uniform combination. Watch a Marcus Mariota highlight video and it looks like he played for 25 different teams. That will change under Taggart. At least for now. 

"We've got to do some good things and play well to make those uniforms look like we want them to," he said. 

Oregon sophomore linebacker Troy Dye said he likes the new philosophy.

"You've got to earn back the stripes to wear a different uniform every week," he said. "Just try to get that trust back from Nike and show them that we're still a top tier school and win big games."

Nike, huh? When pressed, Dye said Taggart didn't tell the team why the were not having as many combinations this season. He just assumed it was because of Nike due to a poor season.

"I just figured," Dye said. 

Dye said he didn't give much thought to the uniform combinations last season but in hindsight he can see how they might have looked a bit silly given how poorly the team played. Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert agreed.

"Looking back at it we probably didn't earn them," Herbert said. 

Doubling back to Taggart, when informed of Dye's comments he said that Nike was not behind the change. Taggart said there will still be plenty of combinations just not a new one each game. That in itself will be a big change for Oregon. 

 

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

Media doesn't expect Oregon football to make dramatic turnaround

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Media members who cover the Pac-12 apparently aren't buying that the Oregon Ducks will make a dramatic turnaround in 2017 under first-year coach Willie Taggart. 

The media has picked Oregon to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North behind Washington, Stanford and Washington State. OSU is picked to finish fifth. Results were announced today just hours before Pac-12 Media Days begin in Hollywood, Calif. 

The prediction flies in the face of the Las Vegas betting odds that have the over/under for Oregon's win totals at eight. Although it's mathematically possible for the Ducks, 4-8 last season, to go 8-4 and still finish fourth in the Pac-12 North the chances of that occurring are slim. 

Cal finished fourth in the Pac-12 North last year with a 5-7 record, 3-6 in the conference. Arizona State placed fourth in the South, also with a 5-7 record (2-7 overall). 

What's curious is that one pollster picked Oregon to win the North and the Pac-12 title game.

The media picked USC to win the South and the Pac-12 championship. 

Here are the polling results:

NORTH DIVISION  

1. Washington (49 1st votes)

2. Stanford (1)

3. Washington State (1)

4. Oregon (1)

5. Oregon State

6. California

SOUTH DIVISION  

1. USC (49)

2. Utah (1)

3. UCLA (1)

4. Colorado (1)

5. Arizona State

6. Arizona

PAC-12 TITLE GAME CHAMPION: USC (28 votes), Washington (22), Oregon (1), Utah (1).

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

Willie Taggart addresses discipline philosophies that led to Carrington's dismissal

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart, speaking in general terms during an interview with CSNNW for an upcoming television special, laid out his philosophies for discipline that ultimately led him to dismiss senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr from the team following his arrest for DUII in the early morning hours of July 1. 

"It's tough," Taggart said about having a player fail to meet his standards. "But you set rules. You set rules and you let them know you're going to hold them accountable."

Carrington, who on Friday pleaded not guilty to the charges while appearing in a Eugene courtroom, is seeking a place to land as a graduate transfer. His departure hurt an already thin UO receiving corps. But when Taggart took over the program last December he made it clear to the players that he expected them to conduct themselves properly on and off the field. Carrington, with his history of transgressions, had a short leash to work with given his history under the Mark Helfrich regime. 

Taggart, as recently as June 30, praised Carrington's improvement in the areas of being leader, academics (he graduated in the spring) and on-field performance some 13 hours before Carrington's arrest.  In addition to the DUII, Carrington was also cited for careless driving.

The news of Carrington's arrest greatly disappointed Taggart, who thought he had gotten through to the star receiver, who could use a big senior season to improve his NFL Draft stock, which has taken a beating over the years. 

Taggart, who was mentored by his former coach at Western Kentucky, Jack Harbaugh, and his son, Michigan coach and former NFL quarterback and current  Jim Harbaugh, said he prides himself on helping his young players become men.

"I tell parents we're going to send them back better men then they were when they got here," Taggart said.

When he fails to get through to one, Taggart feels the disappointment.

"I tell them all, 'I'm going to have your back. No matter what, I'm going to have your back! But you've got to have my back,'" Taggart said. "'And the way you have my back is by being the best football player you can be, the best student you can be and having the best character you can have.' That's all I ask."

Taggart said the response from Oregon's players to his philosophies has been positive, as they were during previous coaching stops at South Florida and Western Kentucky. In those two cases, Taggart turned around losing cultures that included some discipline problems here and there. 

"In the past two jobs I've taken over, there's always someone that's going to come out and test the waters," he said. "A lot of times I don't think they necessarily try to, they are just caught up in doing things the way they've been doing them for so long that it's just hard to just change at some point. You just hope that they do."

Taggart said players must meet at least two of his three requirements in order to be on the team: Be a good student. Display high character. Be a good player. 

"You can't have just one and think you're going to be on this football team," Taggart said. "If you have two then we'll work with you on the one you're struggling with and we'll try to get you up to par. I feel like if each one of these young men have those things in order they are going to be very successful in college."

Carrington became the first Ducks player to fail within the Taggart philosophy and lose his place on the team. Unfortunately, it's likely that he won't be the last.  

"You set rules and you hold them accountable," Taggart said. "You don't play any favoritism. You don't sweep anything under the rug. You hold them accountable to what you say you're going to do. And that's what I do. Me, I'm going to be there for you but if you break the rules there's consequences and you're going to serve those consequences if that happens. I think all of the players know that we're going to be fair. You want them all to know that you're serious about the discipline part of it and doing things the right way."

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 10 - Taggart will need several incoming freshman to contribute

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver.  

We've already listed several freshman in this list. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister will likely be the backup now that Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. have transferred. Cornerback Thomas Graham could start, he was that good during spring. Nose tackle Jordon Scott will be needed in the middle, especially now that junior Rex Manu is out for the season following an injury suffered in a car accident. Slot receiver Darrian McNeal must provide depth at a thin position made thinner by the dismissal of senior Darren Carrington Jr. from the team. Safety Billy Gibson could be in the mix at a very uncertain position. 

All of the freshmen above were around for spring drills as early enrollees. But what of the incoming freshmen who have just arrived on campus? Well, several of them might be needed to perform this season, as well.  

Here is as look at a handful:

Austin Faoliu, defensive line: Oregon is excited about the three-star recruit with five-star potential. At 6-foot4, 295-pounds, he fits the mold of being a big defensive lineman with attitude that could provide instant impact. This is the first defensive line recruit corralled by famed defensive line coach and recruiter, Joe Salave'a. Four-star recruit Rutger Reitmaier's decision to transfer following spring ball makes Faoliu's development more imperative. 

Deommodore Lenoir, defensive back: The No. 1-rated athlete in the nation - as named by Rivals.com - should find his way onto the field in some capacity. He could see time at cornerback or safety, positions that have bodies but little in the way of consistency. 

Sampson Niu, linebacker: The four-star recruit could find his way into the linebacker rotation right away. Ultra athletic and tenacious, if Niu can pick up the Ducks' schemes he might have the same impact Troy Dye had last season as a freshman. But at 217 pounds, Niu must bulk up in a hurry. 

Bruce Judson, wide receiver: The four-star recruit is a shifty playmaker that could push for time in the slot and might also be in the running to make it on the team's depth chart at quarterback. 

Cyrus Habibi-Likio, linebacker/safety/running back: A tremendous athlete, Habibi-Likio could play all over the field. Chances are he won't be in the running back mix this season - Oregon is loaded there - but he could find some action on defense. 

 

The Finished List

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 9 - DBs Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

The safety position is going to be one of the most hotly contested this fall. As of now, it appears that redshirt senior Tyree Robinson and redshirt junior Khalil Oliver have the inside track to start. Robinson's days as a cornerback could be over with the emergence of freshman Thomas Graham, who could start opposite senior Arrion Springs while pushing junior Ugo Amadi to the No. 3 corner spot. 

Safety isn't nearly as settled, however. Sophomore Brendan Schooler saw starts last year but missed all of spring with an injury and isn't being viewed as an obvious candidate to start moving forward. 

That's where redshirt freshman Brady Breeze and freshman Billy Gibson come in. The Ducks need both to show something this fall to not only push the veterans but to provide depth and, maybe more importantly, create stability at the position entering 2018. 

Breeze, a four-star recruit in 2016, has demonstrated great ability but is also very young and likely needs much more time before he becomes starting-caliber.  Gibson, a three-star recruit signed last February,  falls into the same category but, according to coaches, showed some strong signs during spring drills that he has enough athleticism to make an immediate impact if he picks up the defense. 

Senior Juwaan Williams and junior Fotu T. Leiato II should also be in the mix. But for the present, and the future, it would benefit Oregon greatly if Breeze and Gibson could make a push up Oregon's depth chart. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Alex Ofodile, Malik Lovette and Darrian McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

 

 

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Willie Taggart sends message with removal of WR Darren Carrington Jr. from team

Oregon coach Willie Taggart has removed the team's best wide receiver, Darren Carrington Jr. from the program following a DUII arrest in the early morning hours of July 1, and in the process sent a message to the rest of the Ducks that certain levels of misconduct won't be tolerated. 

Taggart, through the athletic department, issues the following statement: 

"I have visited with Darren Carrington and informed him that he is no longer a member of our program. We will always consider Darren a Duck and support him in any way we can. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

The decision could not have been all that easy for Taggart. Carrington is the team's best playmaker on offense in the passing game, and maybe all around. But he has had far too many off-the-field transgressions to be ignored, including being suspended for the 2015 national title game due to testing positive for marijuana use, and for being accused of assaulting someone last fall. 

Plus, Carrington, according to sources on the previous coaching staff, has committed a series of relatively minor to semi-serious transgressions that have indicated he hasn't taken discipline seriously while at Oregon. 

Taggart wiped the slate clean with Carrington back in January and as recently as about 12 hours before the player's approximate 3 a.m. arrest on July 1, praised his star for the progress he had made on and off the field. Then, the following morning, Carrington betrayed Taggart's trust and belief in him.

When Taggart took the job last December he informed the entire team that it would not get him fired as it had Mark Helfrich by lacking discipline, cutting corners and losing games. "Try me," he warned the Ducks. 

By all accounts, the team as a whole got the message. Players who were not giving 100 percent under Helfrich were flying straight under Taggart or getting out of Eugene. 

Carrington is the latest and he has been dismissed the hard way. The good news for him is that as a recent graduate - a testament to him committing to academics - Carrington could transfer to play anywhere in the country. He could easily rehabilitate his image with one great season and end up in the NFL, where his talents belong. 

For Oregon, this puts a lot of pressure on sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell to become a legitimate threat in the lineup that now only includes one proven pass receiver, senior slot Charles Nelson.

Oregon will also need sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, and wide receivers, redshirt sophomores Alex Ofodile and Malik Loveette, and freshman Darrian McNeal, to rise to the occasion and provide adequate to elite targets for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. 

It's a lot to ask for. It could safely be said that losing Carrington will cost Oregon a game or two next season, especially given that the defense - 128th in the nation last year - will likely still have major holes this season. 

But, in the long run, this is a move that could pay dividends by leading to a roster that now has an example of an elite talent being let go because he didn't follow team rules. 

That reality could result to a better overall program as Taggart's regime moves forward. 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 7 - NT Gary Baker

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 7 - NT Gary Baker

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

Updated: Information added regarding Rex Manu being done for the season.

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No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

The middle of UO's defense needs to be completely remade if Oregon is to improve at all on that side of the ball and while freshman Jordon Scott has a chance to contribute the Ducks must receive increased production from Gary Baker. 

The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Baker was set to compete with junior Rex Manu and others for the starting job. Now Baker appears to be the frontrunner to start after Manu was ruled out for the season with an injury he suffered during a car accident in April.

Baker was thrust into action earlier than expected last year after the middle of the 4-3 defense fell to pieces for a variety of reasons. Baker started four games and had a career-high five tackles at USC. He finished the season with 14 tackles in seven games.

The development of Baker would make life a lot easier for the Ducks' defense. Scott won't be ready to carry a heavy workload as a freshman. Clemson transfer Scott Pagano would be best served playing at defensive end opposite senior Henry Mondeaux. But, if needed, Pagano could play inside and likely will on obvious passing downs, as he did for the Tigers. 

Getting production from Baker inside could allow the rest of the defensive line dominos to fall into place. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

Taggart would send lasting message by cutting Carrington loose

TAMPA, Fla. - Oregon coach Willie Taggart can send a lasting message to his team and future players by removing senior wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr. from the Ducks, or at the very least issuing an extended suspension that makes him an afterthought. 

Carrington's DUII arrest early Saturday morning was a slap in the face to Taggart and the program. The very talented wide receiver during his career has displayed mostly self-destructive behavior that has hurt the team and his future. Taggart must not allow Carrington to take him down with him. 

Everyone who covers, follows or has been involved with Oregon football knows that Carrington has been a discipline issue. But Taggart, who took over for former coach Mark Helfrich last December, held out hope that the Carrington could turn things around under a new regime and with his NFL future clearly hanging in the balance. 

Through six months, all appeared well.  Taggart expressed extreme pride in Carrington's progress as recently as Friday afternoon. 

CSN is in the Tampa area this weekend to report on Taggart and his family for a television special that will air later this summer. While riding along with Taggart on Friday from Tampa to his home town of Palmetto, Fla., the new Oregon coach talked briefly about how well Carrington had been doing on and off the field since under the new regime.

"He's been great," Taggart said. "Academically. As a leader. He's been doing all the right things."

About 13 hour later, Carrington betrayed Taggart's belief in him when he was arrested at 3:15 a.m., Saturday morning and cited for DUII. According to reports, Eugene Police have accused Carrington of driving into a pole at a McDonald's drive-through before being arrested.

Taggart suspended Carrington indefinitely and said he would gather more information about the incident before making a decision about Carrington's future. 

This will be a tough decision for Taggart. Carrington is Oregon's best receiver on a team thin at the position. Losing him could cost the Ducks a win, or two next season. He is that good. He's also probably more trouble than he is worth.

In 2014, Carrington was suspended before the national championship game after testing positive for marijuana use. The six-game suspension extended into the following season and another game was tacked on after he violated a team rule during the fall. Last year, Carrington was accused of shoving and injuring a man in Eugene. 

At this point, Taggart must decide if keeping Carrington around is worth the headache. He clearly has learned nothing from recent Oregon examples of blown opportunities displayed by former star players, Cliff Harris and Colt Lyerla.

Carrington, a sure-fire NFL prospect, repeatedly makes bad decisions that are costing him millions of dollars. At this point, there is no reason to believe that he won't mess up again over the next six months. 

Keeping Carrington, if proven to be guilty, could hurt Taggart's credibility with the team as a disciplinarian, especially if the receiver were to mess up again down the road. Carrington has received numerous chances to fly straight and his transgressions have been quite serious. He repeatedly places his desires and impulses ahead of the team and his own career. 

By removing Carrington from the team, Taggart would be telling the entire Ducks community that he won't tolerate players who put themselves ahead of the team, no matter how talented and gifted they might be. 

Keeping Carrington around could have the opposite effect. How could Taggart tell young players to fly straight or else if Carrington were to have been allowed to smoke weed, allegedly commit assault, get arrested for DUII and a commit a host of other minor offenses by breaking team rules, etc., yet still remain on the team?

Taggart giving Carrington a chance under a new staff was admirable, even though many who knew the receiver believed him to be incapable of not being a problem. 

Now Carrington has directly betrayed Taggart. 

When former co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was arrested for DUII back in January, it took the university all of a day or so to begin the process of terminating him. Former wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty, with Reaves that night, was encouraged to leave the program, as well. He landed at UCLA. 

A coach should be held to a higher standard than a player. But this is not Carrington's first brush with trouble. So it would be inconsistent to let him stick around after getting rid of Reaves so quickly.

However, Taggart must also weigh the fallout for Carrington if he were to be removed from the team. There is a chance Taggart goes the same rout that former UO coach Chip Kelly took with LeGarrette Blount after he punched a Boise State player following a season-opening loss on the road. 

Kelly initially kicked Blount off of the team before having a change of heart and ultimately suspending the star running back for what amounted to 10 games. Blount remained on scholarship and on the team but still paid a severe price for his actions. 

By remaining on the team, Oregon allowed Blount to salvage his future, and although he wasn't drafted into the NFL the following spring, he has carved out a nice career that includes a Super Bowl championship. 

Does that happen if Kelly had completely ended Blount's college career following the Boise State incident? Tough to say. But Blount certainly benefited from Kelly's compassion. 

Carrington could do the same if Taggart shows some mercy. Carrington clearly needs help and would benefit from remaining within the structure of the program. At the very least he must be hit with at least a very lengthy suspension, one that makes Carrington an after-thought as practice fodder on the scout team for most of the season while he gets help. 

Or, maybe it's best for the Oregon program to simply let Carrington go. He could transfer to an FCS program and rehabilitate his image there if an FBS program won't take him. Carrington, who has alredy graduated, could go anywhere as a graduate transfer. 

This won't be an easy decision for Taggart to make. But it's clear that the decision he makes could have a lasting impact on the program, for better or worse. 

Jim Leavitt Part 2: With big money comes great expectations

Jim Leavitt Part 2: With big money comes great expectations

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt based on an extensive interview conducted for Talkin' Ducks, which first aired on Wednesday and will re-air several times in the coming week. 

Part 1: Enamored with state's beauty, Ducks' program

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EUGENE - After two seasons of horrible Oregon defense the Ducks finally decided to ante up and hire a big-time, proven defensive coordinator. 

Jim Leavitt received a king's ransom of $1.125 million per year to rebuild the defense. That's more than the combined salaries of his two predecessors, Brady Hoke ($700,000) and Don Pellum ($400,000).

Such a high price tag will result in even higher expectations. Maybe unattainable expectations. Leavitt said he isn't phased by the pressure that comes with the hefty paycheck. Oregon, he said, has had great defenses in the past before falling on hard times. Now it's his opportunity to help lift the defense out of the basement and back to where it belongs. 

"All that tells me is there's an opportunity for greatness," he said. "I know if we build a great defense here and we get the ball back to our offense, weʼre going to win a bunch of games. If we donʼt, we wonʼt. And I like that. That fires me up."

Over the past few seasons, the defenses for Oregon and Colorado passed each other along the Pac-12 scoring defenses list as the Ducks plummeted while Colorado went on a dramatic rise. 

Nick Aliotti had mostly great success at the defensive coordinator for more than two decades at Oregon. Pellum took over in 2014 and produced a strong defense that allowed 23.6 points per game to help UO reach the national title game. That same season, Colorado allowed 39 points per game, 11th in the conference.

Oregon's defense fell to 115th in the nation the following year while allowing 37.5 points per game, last in the Pac-12. That same year, Colorado hired Leavitt and jumped to sixth in the conference at 27.5 points allowed per game.

Pellum was demoted back to linebackers coach in 2016 leading to the hiring of Hoke, who had never before been a defensive coordinator at the college level, and paid him well to rebuild the defense. However, the Ducks fell to 128th in the nation in total defense and allowed a whopping 41.4 points per game (11th in the Pac-12).

Over in Boulder, Col., Leavitt had the Buffaloes' defense humming while allowing just 21.7 points per game, third fewest in the conference.

To be fair, Hoke was not entirely to blame for last season's defensive debacle that greatly contributed to the team's 4-8 record and the firing of coach Mark Helfrich. Oregon had an extremely young defense that Hoke didn't recruit. Still, he became the lightning rod for detractors. Now, those same folks are hailing Leavitt as the savior primarily because he had one wildly successful season at Colorado. 

Colorado's 2016 defense was loaded with experienced senior starters, many of which were in their third year as contributors. Leavitt hopes to take the same trek with Oregon's defense. 

"You know, just like at Colorado, there was deficiencies, different places in the defense, and itʼs a little bit different than here," he said. "We might be stronger at some things whereas Colorado may have been stronger in others. But you know, Colorado wasnʼt very good. They were 120th in the country and thatʼs not real strong and even after the first year we got to 70th in the country. Everybody thought we were doing all these great things but 70th isnʼt very good, and I wasnʼt real happy with that."

Oregon fans would probably be over the moon if the Ducks' defense reached the 70s range in Leavitt's first season. But Leavitt said he won't approach this year worrying about statistics. 

"I donʼt really want to put that ceiling on it," he said. "Why canʼt we do great things? I think it comes down to leadership in our defense, you know obviously you want to stay healthy, you know itʼs important. Weʼve got to put them into a position where they can be successful."

For that to happen, the Ducks must improve their overall communication. Player to player. Coach to player. Coach to coach. All areas were deficient last season. 

"Whatever happened last year happened last year," Leavitt said. "I donʼt know if they communicated well or not, I donʼt really care. Bottom line is you have to communicate. In our system it is very, very important and we made a big point about that. We got to have guys who are great communicators, who understand concepts and deliver the right language to get people lined up in the right positions. And Iʼm going to have a hard time playing guys who arenʼt good at doing that, who arenʼt good communicators. Sometimes Iʼll have guys back there playing that might not be as athletic as other guys, but they can line everybody up and they have great passion for what theyʼre doing."

As for staff communication, Leavitt doesn't foresee a problem. New coach Willie Taggart sought to hire a staff devoid of egos. 

"And all of them are pros," Leavitt said. "Everybody on this staff is confident in what they do or they wouldnʼt be here. They understand their position very well, but they also understand we've got to do it together."

All is glorious right now with UO football. Recruiting is going well. The staff is displaying great enthusiasm and energy. The players appear to be responding. But the Ducks are 0-0 under Taggart. The real test for Leavitt and the staff will come when things go south, which they inevitably will to some capacity. 

"Well, donʼt lose. If we donʼt we don't have to worry about it right?" Leavitt said. "Of course you know Iʼve been in a lot of situations from the NFL and every level in college and everybodyʼs going to love you when you win, and if you donʼt win, youʼll hang in there for a bit but not long. You canʼt get distracted about those kind of things. The way to win is you play good football. The way you play good football is you teach fundamentals, you teach people how to play. All those things we talked about discipline, line up right, tackle, play after play after play and do that for a series of plays throughout the game, if you do that enough, youʼll win the game. If you donʼt, you wonʼt."

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Next up: Part 3 - Players respond well to Leavitt, but is there enough talent?
 

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 4 - QB Braxton Burmeister

Ten Ducks that must rise in 2017: No. 4 - QB Braxton Burmeister

Oregon's quest to improve greatly over last season's 4-8 record will depend on the rapid development of several young and/or previously little-used players. Here is a look at ten most likely to rise to the occasion in 2017.

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister.

Burmeister hadn't been scheduled to make this list before redshirt sophomore quarterback Travis Jonsen elected to transfer last week. In the blink of an eye, Brumeister went from a likely redshirt to No. 2 on the depth chart behind sophomore starter Justin Herbert. 

The backup quarterback typically receives zero attention during the season from fans and the media unless the starting quarterback goes down (or is benched). So, there is a strong chance that Burmeister will be largely out of sight and out of mind all season long. 

On the other hand, strange things happen within the sport of football making it a strong possibility that at some point Burmeister's services could be needed. 

Oregon had to rely on a backup quarterback because of injury in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2015. Marcus Mariota made every start from 2012 through 2014 but did experience a knee injury in 2013. 

Jonsen, according to coach Willie Taggart, had earned his confidence as a starting-caliber quarterback who at the very least could push Herbert for the starting job. With Jonsen competing with Herbert, the feeling at Oregon was that the top of the depth chart was loaded. Now, there will be some uncertainty about the backup spot entering fall camp.

Burmeister, a four-star recruit, looked like an inexperienced true freshman during the spring game, but he did display a strong arm to go along with excellent quickness and speed as a runner. How he develops over the summer and during fall camp will shape the level of confidence the coaching staff has in him as someone who could run the offense if needed. 

The Ducks certainly have many areas in need of new faces to deliver, and Burmeister could go the entire season without taking a meaningful snap. But because of the importance of the quarterback position, and that there is probably a 50/50 chance Herbert goes down for at least a series, a quarter, maybe a game, or two, Burmeister just became one of the most important young players on the team. 

The working list

No. 1: Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. 

No. 2: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

No. 3: Nose tackle Jordon Scott

No. 4: Freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister

No. 5: Sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland

No. 6: Sophomore linebacker La'Mar Winston.

No. 7: Redshirt sophomore nose tackle Gary Baker. 

No. 8: Wide receivers Ofodile, Lovette and McNeal.

No. 9: Safeties Brady Breeze and Billy Gibson

No. 10: Several freshman must deliver