The Ducks are flying high off the field, but the real test will come between the lines

KOIN NEWS FILE PHOTO - Willie Taggart answers questions at last week's Pac-12 media day.Willie Taggart is killing it.

The first-year Oregon head football coach who came to Eugene as a relative unknown from the University of South Florida, has raised a number of eyebrows over the last seven months with his undeniable success on the recruiting trail.

After arriving at the University of Oregon in December, Taggart salvaged a lackluster and sinking recruiting class to get it into the top 20 nationwide. He has put the upcoming class among the nation's top five, and has quickly established a no-nonsense culture by way of dismissing both players and coaches who've veered outside of the clearly established lines set forth by a man with an equally clear vision.

While embracing the bells and whistles the Oregon Ducks have become known for, Taggart has also turned his back on some of those same bells and whistles that he seems to see as a distraction partially responsible for the recent erosion of one the last decade's most successful programs.

He's opened up the depth chart, is making players earn their numbers rather than cherry-pick them based on seniority, and plans to limit the uniform combinations (a bit) Oregon has both famously and infamously used to pave their road to success. He values the advantages the Ducks undeniably have, while simultaneously trying to get the existing and incoming players to value them, rather than view them through a lens of entitlement.

But in spite of the recruiting success, shifting culture, and excitement surrounding this team, Taggart's success will ultimately boil down to something he has yet to do in Eugene: win games, and win a lot of them.

This isn't a program building from the ashes. They've seen the summit of Everest (twice) only to have been turned around prior to planting their flag at the top, by blue bloods of the game like Ohio State and the SEC's Auburn Tigers.

So they're not aiming at a winning season, a bowl game, or respect from conference foes. They want results and they want them immediately.

That's not to say I or anyone else should expect Oregon to be a legitimate contender for a conference or national championship in year one of Taggart's reign, but that throughout the coming season, the Ducks and Willie Taggart should appear on the fast track back to the national conversation they found themselves a part of for the better part of the last 10 years.

Things may appear to be pointed in that direction, but at least for this guy, I'll have to see it between the lines, to fully believe it outside of them.

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