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Beltbbs WKU Football INsider

Posts: 206
Joined: Jun 2008
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I Root For: WKU
Location: Bowling Green, Ky.
Post: #11
RE: Football coaching rumors
WKU Names Willie Taggart New Head Football Coach
Release: 11/23/2009
by Western Kentucky
Willie Taggart has been named head football coach at Western Kentucky University, President Dr. Gary Ransdell and Director of Athletics Dr. Wood Selig announced today. Taggart, currently in his third season as running backs coach at Stanford, previously spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at WKU from 1999-2006 and served as co-offensive coordinator for WKU's 2002 I-AA National Championship team. A standout player at quarterback who set 11 school records for the Hilltoppers from 1995-98, Taggart is one of only four players in WKU's 91-year football history to have his jersey retired. He becomes WKU's 17th head football coach, but only the seventh since 1948.

"I always follow Western Kentucky University, ever since I was in school here," said Taggart. "When I saw this opportunity, I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime. My wife and I sat around and talked about it and this is a dream come true. Western Kentucky University is in my DNA. One thing about me, you don't have to retrain me in the community. I know where to go. I've always bled red since day one, and I know everything about WKU and I know what it takes to win here. I know what type of athlete we want, and I know what type of direction we want to go."

"We had a great group of candidates for this position, but at the end of the day when we really boiled it all down, there was no one who was a better fit," said Selig. "Willie had been a coach here for eight years before going to Stanford, and then you look at the resurgence at their program at the highest level in I-A football and we felt that Willie could bring that blueprint for success to WKU and help us accomplish similar accomplishments. Winning conference championships, going to bowl games and graduating student-athletes."

Taggart has been instrumental in the development of the Stanford offense and running game. The Cardinal, ranked as high as 14th in the nation by the Associated Press this season, currently have a 7-4 overall record with wins over nationally ranked Southern Cal and Oregon. Stanford leads the Pac 10 in total offense (436.5 ypg.) while ranking second in the conference and 13th in the nation in rushing offense (219.3 ypg.). With 2,412 rushing yards on the season, Stanford needs 70 team rushing yards against Notre Dame this Saturday to break the school's single-season rushing yardage mark that has stood since 1949 (2,481). The Cardinal are led by senior running back Toby Gerhart, who under Taggart's tutelage ranks third in the nation in rushing (139.2 ypg.). One of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, Gerhart carries a cumulative 3.25 grade point average as a management, science and technology major. He has already rushed for a Stanford single-season record 1,531 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games this season, breaking his own single-season rushing record of 1,136 yards set last season. The Cardinal's bowl appearance this season will mark the school's first since 2001.

Taggart was at the helm of the Cardinal running game that finished second in the Pac-10 Conference in rushing offense in 2008, averaging 199.6 yards a game on the ground. Stanford's season rushing total of 2,395 yards was the third-highest mark in school history. In addition, Taggart's work with Gerhart helped the junior rush for a then single-season school record of 1,136 yards, as Gerhart became just the fifth running back in school history to go over the 1,000-yard mark. Gerhart had one career start prior to the 2008 season. A tireless recruiter, Taggart was responsible for recruiting Florida, Georgia and Kentucky for the Cardinal along with Riverside County, California.

"I'm very excited for Willie, and also for Western Kentucky University," said Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. "The Harbaugh family has deep affection for the Hilltoppers. I'm just happy they got a great man, a great coach and a family man in Willie Taggart. I feel like the proud older brother. "It's the same feeling I had when my older brother got the Baltimore Ravens head coaching job. It is not easily put into words, but I have great love and respect for Willie. At the same time, it's sad to see him leave here. [WKU] got the right man for the job. He's an outstanding football coach and teacher, and he is very enthusiastic and definitely loyal. Those are all great characteristics in a leader to lead WKU Football."

Prior to his arrival at Stanford, Taggart spent the previous eight seasons on the WKU coaching staff (1999-2006) and helped guide the Hilltoppers to eight consecutive winning campaigns during the stretch. He worked with current Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh in his first three seasons of coaching from 1999-2001. Taggart started his coaching career as WKU's wide receivers coach in 1999 before working with the quarterbacks from 2000-06. He was also the co-offensive coordinator in 2001 and 2002, helping lead the Hilltoppers to the Division I-AA national championship in 2002, and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2003.

Under Taggart's guidance from 2003-06, quarterback Justin Haddix set school career records with 8,890 yards of total offense, a 57.1 completion percentage, 50 touchdowns and a 137.28 pass efficiency rating. Haddix also finished his career ranked second all-time on the Hill with 541 completions and 7,929 yards passing.

Taggart helped coach an offensive unit that set school records for points (432), total yards (5,479) and first downs (263) en route to the 2002 NCAA Division I-AA national championship. The Hilltoppers ranked second in the nation in pass efficiency and sixth in rushing, and averaged 38.8 points per contest in four playoff victories.

In Taggart's first year calling plays in 2000, WKU ran for 293.4 yards per contest, leading the Gateway Football Conference and ranking second in the country in the category as WKU claimed the league title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the I-AA playoffs. In his first season in 1999, WKU ranked eighth in the nation and first in the conference in rushing.

Taggart's efforts helped WKU quarterbacks earn all-conference mention in three consecutive seasons - Jason Johnson (2000), Donte Pimpleton (2001) and Jason Michael (2002).

"This is a proud day for me and my family and this university family, to take one that we watched come in as a young, talented young man and grow into an adult and a man that is now prepared to lead this program, a proud program," said Ransdell. "I know we all share that love and affection for Willie and what he means to the young men that he is going to guide in the future."

Taggart also spent his collegiate playing days at WKU (1995-98) and was only the third WKU athlete in the past half-century to hold down the quarterback slot for the Hilltoppers for four straight years. Taggart - who set 11 WKU school records - had his jersey retired on October 23, 1999. He currently is WKU's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (47), ranks second in scoring (286 points), pass efficiency rating (127.71) and rushing yards (3,997), is tied for third in most 100-yard rushing games (17), and is tied for fourth in touchdown passes (30). His rushing yards were the most in NCAA Division I history at the time for a quarterback.

In each of his last two collegiate seasons, he was a finalist for the prestigious Walter Payton Award which is an honor given annually to the top offensive player in I-AA football. Taggart finished fourth in the balloting in 1997 and seventh as a senior the following year. An All-American as a senior, he was also the 1998 I-AA Independents' Offensive Player of the Year. Taggart was recruited to WKU by Jim Harbaugh to play for his father, Jack.

Taggart graduated from WKU with a bachelor's degree in social sciences in 1998.

As a prep standout at Manatee (Fla.) High School, he was a first team all-state and all-conference selection as a senior after guiding the Hurricanes to the state 5A Championship game. He led MHS to the state title his junior season and helped the school post a 26-4 record during that two-year span while recording more than 3,000 yards passing and 975 yards on the ground.

Taggart and his wife Taneshia have two children, Willie Jr. and Jackson.

The Taggart File
Full Name: Willie Taggart
Hometown: Palmetto, Florida
High School: Manatee
College: WKU, 1998 (B.A., Social Science)
Wife: Taneshia
Children: Willie, Jr.; Jackson

Coaching Career
2007-09: Stanford (Running Backs)
1999-2006: WKU, Assistant Head Coach (2003-06), Quarterbacks (2000-06), Co-Offensive Coordinator (2001-02), Wide Receivers (1999).

Playing Experience
1994-98: WKU - Quarterback
11-23-2009 04:36 PM
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Beltbbs WKU Football INsider

Posts: 206
Joined: Jun 2008
Reputation: 14
I Root For: WKU
Location: Bowling Green, Ky.
Post: #12
RE: Football coaching rumors
Taggart wrap up from Daily News blog.

A few interesting points to ponder with the Taggart hire:

– Who will fill out Willie Taggart’s staff?

When asked today, Taggart said he would interview all current members of the WKU coaching staff when the time comes to begin selecting assistants. Taggart said he feels like he owes the coaches currently on the staff at least the opportunity to interview for the positions, but it doesn’t guarantee that any of them will be retained. My guess is that some of them will stay and some of them will go. If the hire had been someone without any WKU ties whatsoever, I’d have guessed with full confidence that none of the staff would be retained.

As it stands right now, though, that’s not the case. Taggart coached with a good number of these guys as recently as 2006 when he was in his final year as an assistant at WKU. But at the same time, Taggart said he has a lot of people in mind for those assistant coaching positions. The biggest selling point for all of these guys will be whether or not they can recruit. Taggart has proven himself as a tireless recruiter who has the ability to get into several homes in the Florida and Georgia area – which are both big hot beds. So anyone who comes on board will likely have to have similar recruiting abilities.

If I had to guess right now – and this is only a guess – two coaches currently on the staff that might stand the best shot at hanging around could be offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Walter Wells and defensive line coach Eric Mathies. From my conversations over the past year or so with high school coaches of players that WKU has recruited, these two names seem to come up more often than not. Wells has done a great job over the past few years of recruiting the state of Tennessee and competing heavily for several Nashville-area players with Middle Tennessee. Mathies, meanwhile, recruits the state of Georgia and – more importantly – Texas right now for WKU. And as of last season, I had a high school coach in the Dallas Metroplex area tell me basically that as long as Mathies is around, WKU will have a strong presence in that area of the country.

Again, those are just guesses. We’ll see how the rest pans out. But the forthcoming assistant hires are almost as important as the selection of a head coach. Because, as we all know (or as most are starting to figure out), football is much different than basketball – so much more goes into having a successful football program at the 1-A level.

– Will Taggart’s system work with the current players at WKU?

Taggart has plans to run the West Coast Offense when he arrives. WKU currently runs a hybrid of the run-heavy spread, utilizing the zone-read and tight end in the passing game.

So will it work?

At first glance, I’d have to say that yes – it will. Traditionally, the West Coast Offense relies heavily on the tight end, the power run game and short, intermediate passes to open up the field.

Three things WKU relies on right now.

Sophomore running back Bobby Rainey can run in any offense if need be, but he’ll have to get used to catching the ball out of the backfield more. Tight ends Jack Doyle and Tristan Jones have both shown they can make plays at the tight end spot. The wide receivers will have a lot of work to do, as they’ve had their struggles. But there is potential in that group to succeed in an offense like this. You don’t need an overly large player catching passes in this offense, instead, you need several quick, agile, smart receivers who know how to get open and know what to do after they make a catch.

A lot of people often look at the West Coast Offense and think – air raid. That’s not really the case though. The establishment of the run game in this offense is absolutely crucial. Take a look at some of the famed teams of the past that have ran this set and succeeded in doing so. All those teams had backs that could get tough yards, and catch the ball out of the backfield.

Bill Walsh’s 49ers obviously had Roger Craig, Mike Holmgren’s Packers had a bevvy of backs – notably Dorsey Levens, Mike Shanahan’s Broncos had Terrell Davis.

But more importantly, all those guys had pretty good quarterbacks as well (insert sarcasm button, as all of them had Hall of Fame QBs).

The development of Kawaun Jakes in this new offense will mean everything. His ability to make the proper decisions and deliver the ball with accuracy means everything.

Also, let’s keep in mind that a big part of recruiting in this day and age is being able to look a player in the eye and tell them that ‘If you come to my school, we can help you prepare yourself for a possible future in professional football.’ And while the West Coast Offense at its core really isn’t used a ton these days, hybrids and philosophies of that offense are all over the place in the NFL. And that, is a huge selling point.

Defensively, Taggart says he’ll likely use a 4-3 set. And whoever he chooses to be his defensive coordinator will likely have a lot of work to do. Not only because Taggart will spend most of his time working with the offense, but also because the WKU defense has had its troubles.

If the Hilltoppers want to run the 4-3 next season, look for them to try and make a splash with a JUCO lineman or two.

– What will Taggart be paid?

WKU athletic director Wood Selig said today that no number has been reached as far as a salary is concerned and no contract has been officially constructed and signed.

He did say, however, that Taggart won’t be paid any more than current WKU coach David Elson makes – which is $250,000 per year. I would expect Taggart to get something close to that when it’s all said and done – something in the $200,000-$250,000 range. As far as assistant coaching budgets go, I wouldn’t expect that to change much either. That doesn’t give Taggart a whole lot to work with, as the entire WKU football coaching budget is toward the lower end in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

While pay didn’t have everything to do with this hire, it might be foolish to think that being able to ink Taggart to a similar number that Elson currently makes didn’t make this hire much more attractive to WKU.

Consider this: Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, who interviewed for the job on Saturday, already makes $300,000 at Arkansas. So it would have presumably taken a bit of a bump to get him to come to WKU.

Most of my sources throughout this situation were telling me that several candidates were looking for an annual salary in the range of $500,000 to $600,000 – something WKU simply didn’t feel like it could reach. On top of that, a good number of these coaches wanted the overall budget to increase so they could hire the assistants they deemed necessary for the job.

So money, like it or not, had a lot to do with this one.

– Will Taggart’s lack of head coaching experience hurt him?

At the end of the day, one might be able to ask the question as to whether or not Taggart is in any better position right now experience wise than Elson was when he was given the job at the 1-AA level seven years ago. At first glance, the answer is probably no.

But the one thing that separates Taggart from Elson here is the fact that he’s had extensive experience both coaching and recruiting at the highest level of college football. Something neither Elson, or the majority of his staff, could boast before this season.

Taggart has made a name for himself within the recruiting world, and being from south Florida never hurts either.

Taggart says he’s not worried about his lack of experience. And neither is Selig. Selig pointed to several current coaches at WKU that were young when they were hired and hadn’t had much experience before getting the jobs.

Ken McDonald was never a head coach before coming to WKU, neither was Darrin Horn.

But, once again folks, this isn’t basketball.

Make no mistake, Taggart knows football. He knows how this works. He knows the ins and outs of recruiting at the FBS level, he’s spent time interning for NFL teams and he’s been Jim Harbaugh’s right-hand man at Stanford on the offensive side of the ball since arriving in Palo Alto in 2007.

But he’s never done it on his own.

Taggart grew up as a person at WKU and started the process of growing up as a professional here several years ago.

He succeeded in both of those ventures with flying colors.

And come Dec. 4, 2009 – we’re going to find out how well and how quickly Willie Taggart grows up as a head coach at Western Kentucky.
11-23-2009 07:58 PM
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