Publish date:

What's Next for Oregon? Leading Candidates for the Ducks' Open Job

Both Oregon coordinators should get a look to replace Willie Taggart, as should a pair of SEC cast-offs.

With Willie Taggart moving on to the FSU, a very good job in the Pac-12 reopens. Whoever gets the job is going to inherit a pretty talented squad led by a potential first-round QB in Justin Herbert. Among those SI expects to get strong consideration for the vacancy: former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, Washington State’s Mike Leach, Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and former Florida coach Jim McElwain, as well as Oregon offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, the former USF coach. Sumlin, Leach, Tedford and McElwain all have strong ties within the Oregon power base.

We’re hearing that Oregon has some interest in Cal’s Justin Wilcox, who has deep ties to the Ducks program, but some close to him doubt he’d leave Cal after just one season.​

Leavitt and Cristobal would offer continuity from a Taggart regime that had gained a lot of momentum, especially on the recruiting trail. Leavitt has proven to be one of the country’s top defensive coaches. He did an amazing job at Colorado and had a similar impact at Oregon. The 60-year-old was 95–57 as a head coach at USF. Cristobal took over a wreck of a program at Florida International that was probably the biggest mess in FBS football. The Miami product led that team to a bowl win in his fourth season, but he was forced out in 2012 after a down season and battles with the athletic director there.​

The two Ducks assistants are both known as high-energy guys who have played pivotal roles in turning this team into a much more physical outfit than the one that preceded Taggart’s arrival.​ Word is Cristobal can really help his chances with how the team responds to him and how recruits take to his plan in the wake of Taggart’s exit. His reputation as a recruiter—he has been a National Recruiter of the Year before—is helping his cause with Oregon brass.​

SI Recommends

Both McElwain and Sumlin were let go this season after fast starts to their tenures in the SEC. Sumlin, 53, is a protégé of former Washington State coach Mike Price and is 86–43 all-time as a head coach. McElwain, a 55-year-old Montana native, is 44–28.

Leach’s old boss at Washington State, Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos, used to work at Oregon and is still very respected there by key people high up. Leach took over a program that had won just nine games in the previous four years before his arrival, but he has led the Cougars to 26 wins the past three years.

Tedford, 56, was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator before he left to be the head coach at Cal from 2002 to ’12. In his first season on the job at Fresno State, he turned a one-win team from the prior year into a nine-win team that reached the Mountain West title game.

Harsin is also expected to get consideration from Oregon AD Rob Mullens. Harsin is 39–11 in four seasons in Boise and owns victories over Washington, Washington State, Arizona and Oregon State.