Willie Taggart’s first hire at Oregon is reportedly a big one. Fox Sports and ESPN reported Wednesday the Ducks will pull Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt away from Boulder to perform the same post in Eugene.
Leavitt, 60, may not have the wattage of a Brent Venables or a Dave Aranda, but his bona fides on the defensive side of the ball are as strong as they come. Look at it this way: Colorado ranked 120th nationally in yards per play allowed and 119th in scoring defense in the year prior to Leavitt’s arrival. Two years later? Colorado ranks eighth and 18th in those same metrics.
He was named a Broyles Award and a FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year finalist this fall.
It was that defensive expertise that helped Colorado win the Pac-12 South championship in one of the biggest worst-to-first turnarounds in college football history. And Feldman reports Leavitt will be rewarded handsomely for that expertise.
HUGE hire for #Oregon & Willie Taggart. The deal Jim Leavitt gets will make him the highest-paid coordinator in Pac-12 history, per source.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 14, 2016
This was a hire that Taggart has to get right to turn Oregon around. Despite all the Ducks’ troubles finding a quarterback replacement for Marcus Mariota, the defense’s fall is what hastened Mark Helfrich’s exit. Oregon ranked 98th nationally in yards per play allowed in 2015 and 115th in this year’s 4-8 campaign.
Even Oregon president Michael Schill commented on the Ducks’ defense during Taggart’s introductory press conference.
Oregon President Michael Schill throwing the shade at Hoke pic.twitter.com/v0MhFRs8rx
— Kevin Wade (@KwadeSays) December 8, 2016
Taggart and Leavitt share a couple common biographical points. Both are former South Florida head coaches; Taggart, of course, was hired away from there while Leavitt built the Bulls’ program, leading them from FCS to the Big East over a 13-year stretch from 1997-09. He compiled a 95-57 mark with bowl trips in his final five seasons before he was forced out over allegations of player mistreatment.
Taggart and Leavitt are also Jim Harbaugh guys. Taggart coached under Harbaugh at Stanford, while Leavitt did the same with the San Francisco 49ers.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.