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Dreams drew Taggart to Oregon

EUGENE — Moving from his native Florida to Oregon in the dead of winter hasn’t dampened Willie Taggart’s enthusiasm.

Not even on a dreary Wednesday in Eugene.

Taggart, the former South Florida coach, explained to a national radio audience why he plans to soar higher with the Ducks.

“It was tough, but I have dreams and goals I want to get accomplished,” Taggart said on The Jim Rome Show. “Sometimes when you have those dreams, you’ve got to go where life takes you. For me personally, when I started coaching I wanted to have the opportunity to win a national championship. That’s kind of where my career has taken me and where my path has taken me. …

“You ultimately want to go to the top and accomplish great things. I had the opportunity of a lifetime here at the University of Oregon to come here and try to fulfill those dreams.”

Taggart has a lot of work to do to recalibrate Oregon football in the aftermath of a 4-8 season (2-7 Pac-12).

After hitting the recruiting trail alone last week, Taggart is in the process of putting together a coaching staff and evaluating the roster he inherited from fired coach Mark Helfrich.

Two seasons removed from an appearance in the national title game, the Ducks were not competitive in losses to Washington State (51-33), Washington (70-21), USC (45-20) and Stanford (52-27).

Oregon had a chance to finish the campaign with some momentum but followed up a breakthrough road win at Utah with a loss to Oregon State in the Civil War.

Now the program will win the day on Taggart’s terms.

“We’ve got to change our attitudes and make sure we get everyone on the same wavelength and headed in the right direction,” Taggart said. “Every single day we’re here we need to be working towards a championship. …

“We’ve got to change the culture and make sure our guys are trying to win every single day.”

Fans may have to be patient waiting for Taggart to get Oregon back in the hunt for Pac-12 championships and College Football Playoff consideration.

Western Kentucky was 2-10 in Taggart’s first season before appearing in the program’s first bowl game in his third season. South Florida was 14-23 through his first three seasons before this year’s 10-2 finish.

“That comes with time,” Taggart said. “That comes with recruiting and getting some really good football players in here and holding everyone accountable to doing what’s right and being very good at their jobs and their roles.”

Sitting in the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, where the 2014 Heisman Trophy and Pac-12 championship hardware reside, Taggart is confident the sun will shine on the Ducks again.

“When I walked in the door, I asked if I needed to take my shoes off,” Taggart said of Oregon’s opulent facilities. “I was like, ‘Wow, this place is unbelievable.’ ... But after going through it and seeing everything, it’s kind of what I always say, there’s no excuses for not being highly successful here. … We just all have to get to work and work our tails off.”