Ducks prepare to open spring practice

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Oregon is trying something a little different for a few practices this spring: new coach Willie Taggart is welcoming the public.

Oregon will practice in front of fans at Kilkenny Field on campus on Friday morning and Saturday afternoon, then again at Portland's Jesuit High School on April 15. The Ducks warn however that inclement weather could force the open practices to be rescheduled.

Taggart said Tuesday that he was excited to get started, joking it was like Christmas time.

''I think we have some awesome kids here - I shouldn't call them kids, but young men - that really want to win. And they really want to do it the right way,'' he said.

Taggart is taking over an Oregon team that finished last season 4-8 overall and at the bottom of the Pac-12 North standings at 2-7 - snapping a run of nine straight winning seasons in conference play.

Three days after a loss to rival Oregon State in the final game of the season, Oregon dismissed coach Mark Helfrich. Taggart, head coach at South Florida for the past four years, was hired in December.

Taggart guided South Florida to a 10-2 mark last season and a spot in the Birmingham Bowl. He is the first coach Oregon has hired from outside the school since 1976. The Ducks' previous three coaches - Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Helfrich - were assistants who were promoted.

Kelly closed spring practices to the fans and media in 2012.

This season fans could get a look at newly arrived freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who enrolled in school early and will compete for the job with incumbent Justin Herbert, as well as Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr.

Herbert threw for 1,936 yards and 19 touchdowns in eight games as a freshman last season.

Taggart praised Herbert, who he said had a 4.1 grade point average for the winter term.

''At the end of the day I want to see who can lead this football team, who can get this team to rally around him, and play for the quarterback,'' he said. ''Each winning team out there, that's what the quarterback does. It's not just the offensive guys to rally behind him, but the defensive guys as well, the whole football team. I'm looking for the guy that can do that.''

Oregon opens practice on Wednesday and the annual Spring Game is set for April 29 at Autzen Stadium.


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