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Prep coaches say Taggart will succeed

Robert Weiner joined Willie Taggart’s initial coaching staff at South Florida for one day.

Then he changed his mind and decided to continue sending recruits to Taggart and other colleges around the nation.

Now in his 13th season as head coach of the powerful Plant High School program in Tampa, Fla., Weiner praised Taggart as ready to make the jump from South Florida to Oregon.

“Some people have that personality of being ready to step up to the challenge, it doesn’t intimidate them, and Willie is one of those guys,” Weiner said on Tuesday as he prepared to lead Plant into the state championship game against St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday.

“There is no doubt with his knowledge and his ability that he’s more than ready for the challenge. He won’t back off, he’ll attack it on the fly. He’s a go-getter, and that’s something that will put him in good standing from the beginning.”

Taggart was officially announced as Oregon’s replacement for Mark Helfrich on Wednesday, moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Pac-12.

“I am super excited for him,” said Weiner, who has two former players on South Florida’s roster. “You look at the history of the Oregon program and how great it can be moving forward with a charismatic guy like Willie in there. Not only will he be able to do a great job of creating relationships with people in the community, but he’s also a tremendous X’s and O’s guy who is able to adjust to the talent he’s got and mold it.”

Weiner said that became evident as his friendship with Taggart grew while he moved from coaching at Stanford to Western Kentucky and South Florida.

“He has some tremendous concepts, and what’s respectable about him is that he recognized with Florida athletes, what he did at Stanford might not be the best for players here, so he made adjustments,” Weiner said.

“One of the most important things for a coach is to adjust and make his talent work for what he has. When he gets to Oregon, particularly the first couple years, he’ll adjust to people who are there.”

Taggart was running backs coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh from 2007-09, when he recruited Plant High quarterback Aaron Murray, who eventually signed to play at Georgia.

“He was at Stanford, so it’s not like he hasn’t recruited out there before,” Weiner said. “Oregon wants the best athletes on the West Coast, but it has a national base as well. One thing about coach Taggart, he has the personality to draw in great players as well as the backing of really structured football.”

Todd Johnson, the coach at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Fla., has two players on South Florida’s roster.

“He will be able to get guys from everywhere,” Johnson said. “He is personable and down to earth at the same time. He relates well to kids. He will not have any problem recruiting.”

Johnson grew up watching Taggart play at rival Manatee High School in Bradenton, where Taggart was an all-state quarterback.

“It’s been fun to watch his journey and watch him grow and take these steps,” Johnson said. “I think this is a good step for him. It’s a place he can be successful.”

Taggart hired Weiner as his wide receivers coach in 2013, but one day later, Weiner returned to Plant, where he’s won four state titles.

“Originally what attracted me was not college football, I’m not sure I had any interest in coaching college, but Willie himself,” Weiner said. “I enjoyed the way he approached things and recruited our guys.”