Raymond Woodie and Willie Taggart’s time apart didn’t last long. Woodie, who has been at Taggart’s side as long as Taggart has been a head coach in the college ranks, will join Taggart at Oregon as the Ducks’ special teams coordinator, the university announced Thursday.
He takes the last spot Taggart had to fill on his staff in Eugene, Ore.
“Just being able to reassemble with coach and help him reach his goals, I know his mission has been the first Afro-American to win a national championship and, obviously, not just that, but to give the student-athletes everything they need to be successful, I’m just glad to be a part of that,” Woodie told the Herald. “He’s built several programs; now he’s at a program where he has an opportunity to win a national championship.”
Woodie was the defensive coordinator at South Florida this past season, but before his promotion he coached linebackers and special teams at USF during the 2015 season. The Bulls had the nation’s sixth best kick return unit during the Palmetto native’s lone season as special teams coordinator, averaging a program-record 26.7 yards per return. Two USF specialists, kick returner Rodney Adams and punter Mattias Ciabatti, earned All-American Athletic Conference honors.
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“Obviously, Coach had confidence in me,” Woodie said. “That’s an important aspect of the game. You’ve got offense, defense and special teams. You guys that watch football and know football know that’s so important, and he wanted a person in that position to be on point with every aspect. There’s a lot of parts with special teams. I’m glad gave me the opportunity.”
Woodie’s college career began in 2010 when Taggart accepted the head coaching job at Western Kentucky. Woodie spent two seasons coaching defensive ends then moved to linebackers coach in 2012 for his final season in Bowling Green, Ky., before he followed Taggart to Tampa. With the Bulls, Woodie spent two seasons coaching linebackers before adding assistant head coach and special teams duties in 2015, and finally taking over as defensive coordinator last season.
Long before he became a fixture at Taggart’s side, though, Woodie was a Manatee County legend. His first head coaching job came as a 23-year-old at Bayshore High School, where he became the youngest head coach in Florida. He stayed at Bayshore through 2006, leading the Bruins to the postseason seven times. Bayshore hasn’t returned to the playoffs since Woodie left.
He returned to his alma mater after coaching the Bruins, serving as Palmetto High School’s head coach from 2007-2009 before joining Taggart, a fellow Palmetto native who was a star quarterback at Manatee High School, with the Hilltoppers in 2010.
Woodie was one of three members on USF’s coaching staff last season with county ties, including Taggart. Former Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan was a senior offensive consultant for the Bulls the past two seasons and told the Herald last week that he would not retain his role in Tampa.
“It was cool to be in the Tampa Bay area, but I just think that a situation like Oregon, coaching there — it’s hard to turn that down,” Woodie said. “It’s a great opportunity for coach Taggart and like I said I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help Coach get to his goals.”
During his playing days, Woodie was a standout, as well. His career with the Tigers led him to Bethune-Cookman, which played in Division I-AA at the time, and then a single season with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. After his lone season as a professional, he returned to Bradenton as Bayshore’s defensive coordinator for a the 1996 season before taking over as head coach.
While USF’s defense struggled in 2016, Woodie’s recruiting ability was critical to the Bulls’ rise into a national fixture. He’s been named the best recruiter in his conference by all three major recruiting services — Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247sports.com — and signed nine four-star players during his tenure with USF, including running back Marlon Mack from Booker High School in Sarasota.
Woodie’s role as a point man in the Bulls’ recruiting of the Tampa Bay area extended into Manatee County. He played an instrumental role in getting Southeast High School defensive end Darrien Grant to orally commit to USF, and has been involved with the recruitment of Hurricanes wide receiver Tarique Milton, Braden River High School defensive back Tyrone Collins, Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School quarterback Fred Billy and Canes linebacker Brett Gerber.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind. It’s Power Five football,” Woodie said when asked about continuing to make Florida a priority. “Wherever he asks me to recruit, it’s hard to tell me know when I go in the living room, so I’m going to work tirelessly. I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make things happen, and like I said it’s a different deal now. Coach Taggart recruited like he was Power Five when he was a coach at a non-Power Five.”