Sports

Will USF soon be looking for a new football coach?

Willie Taggart, who organized a youth camp in Palmetto over the summer, is among the favorites for the Oregon job after leading South Florida to the Birmingham Bowl.
Willie Taggart, who organized a youth camp in Palmetto over the summer, is among the favorites for the Oregon job after leading South Florida to the Birmingham Bowl. ttompkins@bradenton.com

Willie Taggart’s time in the Tampa Bay area could be coming to an end, if one sportsbook’s prognostication is correct. BookMaker.eu is now slating Taggart as the favorite to land the newly vacant Oregon job following former Temple head coach Matt Rhule’s decision to take the Baylor job Monday.

Taggart, who starred at Manatee High School and is in his fourth season as South Florida’s head coach, is a +250 favorite, meaning a $100 bet would win $250. Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin is second at +350.

Taggart, a Palmetto native, was one of the first coaches the Ducks zeroed in on after they fired Mark Helfrich, and the USF head coach reportedly interviewed with Oregon on Thursday. CBS Sports, however, reported Monday that Rhule had become the Ducks’ top choice and turned down an offer in favor of a job with the Bears. Taggart’s offensive background and West Coast ties have made him a logical fit in Eugene, Ore.

Taggart began his coaching career as a wide receivers coach at Western Kentucky, where he was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award as a quarterback in 1997 and 1998. He was recruited to the Hilltoppers by Jim Harbaugh and then worked as Harbaugh’s running backs coach from 2007-09 at Stanford. His first head coaching job came at WKU, where he spent three seasons before coming to USF for the 2013 season.

Before any of that, though, Taggart was one of the best high school players in the history of Manatee County. Taggart was a first-team all-state selection as a senior and led Manatee to a Class 5A title as a junior.

Taggart’s high school coach, Joe Kinnan, has served as a senior offensive consultant for the Bulls the past two seasons and Raymond Woodie, another Palmetto native, is in his first year as USF’s defensive coordinator. Woodie was back in the county Tuesday for an in-home visit with Southeast High School defensive end Darrien Grant, who has been verbally committed to the Bulls since the summer.

Taggart has posted a 24-25 record in his four seasons in Tampa and can climb to .500 with a win against South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 29. At No. 25, USF is currently ranked for the first time since since 2011. Taggart would become the second black head coach in the Pac-12 Conference if he were to take the job in Oregon.

David Wilson: 941-745-7057, @DBWilson2

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