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Taggart happy to hit recruiting trail

EUGENE — It's safe to say that Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich didn't enjoy some aspects of recruiting in the age of social media.

Hitting the recruiting trail and tweeting all about it is a part of the job new Oregon coach Willie Taggart relishes.

"I love recruiting, I've always loved recruiting. It's great," Taggart said. "I feel like I have the best job in America. Every year you get to meet families and friends and probably the most important thing, you get to change somebody's life every year."

Ducks fans curious about Taggart's recruiting efforts can track some of his visits and breakthroughs by following the 40-year-old coach on Twitter (@CoachTaggart).

"Ring, Ring, Ring. Great phone call for the Ducks from So. Cal," Taggart tweeted late Thursday. "I love Duck hunting. Go Ducks! #QuackQuack."

Oregon received its second verbal commitment for the 2017 class since Taggart was hired when Thomas Graham, a four-star defensive back from Rancho Cucamonga, California, announced his intentions to sign with the Ducks in February.

"It's going to be a great coaching staff and I love Willie Taggart," Graham, who chose Oregon over offers from UCLA, USC and Notre Dame, told 247Sports. "I know it's an even playing field up there and I have a chance to compete right away. They also have a great academic staff to help me get my degree. And best of all I know I'm going to go up there and play with some dogs."

Taggart's staff will include defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, a Broyles Award finalist as one of the nation's top assistants, who he lured away from Colorado this week.

At South Florida, Taggart's recent recruiting classes ranked first or second among American Athletic Conference programs. he said being the coach at Oregon will get him in the door with more high-profile prospects.

"There were a lot of kids that wanted to be there," Taggart said. "Just the difference between Power 5 (Conferences) and non-Power 5, it's hard for those kids if you're recruited by a Florida or somewhere they grew up wanting to play. They really liked our staff and wanted to be around them, it's just hard to peel that away from them.

"Now those same kids, you get the job here, now they're reaching out to you, ‘Hey coach.' "

Taggart's Florida ties paid off last week when Darrian McNeal verbally committed to Oregon. The speedy wide receiver from Suffer, Florida, has started to assist in the recruiting efforts.

"We in it to win it," McNeal tweeted. "If you coming to just wear a clean uniform, #don't. We want attitude with skill. Football players."

After being introduced during a press conference last Thursday at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, Taggart went recruiting by himself leading into the holiday dead period.

Graham is the 14th known recruit in Oregon's 2017 class. Taggart said he wants to retain the 12 players who were committed to the program before he was hired.

"You try to get out and see as many guys as you can. That was fun," Taggart said. "It was actually interesting just the reception that you get when you go into somebody's school. It has been hard because you have so many recruits that reach out to you, and you can't get back to all of them. ...

"It also gets you excited because of all the kids reaching out to you saying, ‘Oregon is my dream school.' I hear that and I'm like, ‘Yes, this is going to be pretty fun.' "