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Five Things to Know About New Coach Willie Taggart

Florida State head coach Willie Taggart in the 1st half of an NCAA college football game against Florida in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.
Florida State head coach Willie Taggart in the 1st half of an NCAA college football game against Florida in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.

The Ravens named Willie Taggart their new running backs coach on Wednesday, one of several changes to the offensive coaching staff. Here are five things to know about the 46-year-old Taggart:

Taggart enjoyed a highly successful tenure as Stanford's running backs coach.

Early in his coaching career, Taggart was Stanford's running backs coach for three seasons (2007-09), overseeing a physical rushing attack that was one of the best in the country. Toby Gerhart developed into a star running back under Taggart, finishing as runner-up to former Ravens running back Mark Ingram II for the 2009 Heisman Trophy. Gerhart led the nation in rushing that season (1,871 yards) as part of a powerful offense led by quarterback Andrew Luck. Following that season, Taggart left Stanford to take his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Western Kentucky.

He has a deep bond with the Harbaugh family.

Taggart's relationship with Head Coach John Harbaugh's family runs deep. It began when Taggart was a star quarterback for Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla., being heavily recruited. Harbaugh's father, Jack Harbaugh, was the head coach at Western Kentucky and needed a quarterback.

The Harbaughs went into action. Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan, was still playing in the NFL and decided to help his father by driving to Florida to recruit Taggart.

"What if I came as a full-time coach at no pay and signed a contract, and then I can't be with you during the season, but I can recruit?" Jim said, according to his father via USA Today. "I'm going to Florida tomorrow, and I can get on the recruits."

Jim visited Taggart and convinced him to commit to Western Kentucky. That started the friendship between Jim Harbaugh and Taggart, who was the best man at Jim's wedding. Jack Harbaugh named Taggart the starting quarterback as a freshman and became a father figure. Taggart named his youngest son, Jackson, after Jack Harbaugh.

After his college career, Jack named Taggart to his staff, which began his coaching career. When Taggart was the running backs coach at Stanford, Jim was the head coach. Now joining the Ravens, Taggart has been an assistant coach for three Harbaughs.

"With the Harbaughs, you've got Jack, Jackie (Jack's wife), John, Jim and their sister Joani," Taggart said during a phone interview last year. "With them it's got to be a J. My wife says they treat me like one of the sons, so she'll tease me and call me Jason.

"They've all helped me. I wouldn't make any professional decision without consulting them."

Taggart is a groundbreaker for Black head coaches.

Taggart has been the first Black head coach at five different college programs – Western Kentucky (2010-12), South Florida (2013-16), Oregon (2017), Florida State (2018-19), and Florida Atlantic (2020-2022).

When Taggart coached at Western Kentucky, he snapped a 26-game losing streak in his first season and led the Hilltoppers to a 7-5 record in his second season before being hired away to South Florida.

He helped save Western Kentucky's program.

Western Kentucky's football program was in trouble when Taggart arrived as a freshman, and the administration had just cut 15 scholarships due to budget concerns.

"The program looked like it would probably be best if they dropped it, because it was going to die a slow death rather than a fast death," Jack Harbaugh said.

However, Taggart's outstanding play at quarterback was the catalyst that turned Western Kentucky into a winner. His No. 1 jersey was retired at Western Kentucky after Taggart set the school record for rushing yards (3,997) and rushing touchdowns (47) while throwing 30 touchdown passes. He has familiarity with using dual-threat quarterbacks to attack defenses as both a player and coach.

His coaching career started early.

Taggart got the coaching bug early, joining Jack's staff as a 22-year-old wide receivers coach in 1999. He was named offensive coordinator at age 24, and was only 33 when he became Western Kentucky's head coach.

During his long career as a head coach, Taggart has built a strong reputation for communicating effectively with players.

"Willie has been a highly successful and respected college assistant and head coach," John Harbaugh stated after hiring Taggart. "He has a proven track record for developing players as a position coach, as an offensive coordinator and as a head coach. A leader and a highly effective motivator, Willie's reputation for building strong relationships with his players and fellow coaches will serve our offense well moving forward."

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