Some Oregon football fans have been taking pleasure in Willie Taggart’s struggles at Florida State.

But they were all excited about the direction Taggart planned to take the Ducks’ recruiting efforts in after he was hired as coach following the program’s 4-8 finish in 2016.

Shortly after his introductory news conference, Taggart flew to Honolulu to meet with Tua Tagovailoa, who had dreamed of following in Marcus Mariota's footsteps but was not recruited by the previous Oregon staff.

It turned out to be too little, too late.

Tagovailoa honored his commitment to Alabama, where he has played in two national championship games and will be projected as a top-10 NFL draft prospect, along with Justin Herbert, in 2020.

Taggart still made a statement that Oregon was going to recruit elite prospects far and wide.

Despite hitting the recruiting trail late in the process, initially without any assistants, Taggart was able to sign a 2017 class ranked 19th-ranked by 247Sports.

Mark Helfrich’s 2016 class had slipped to 27th nationally and fifth in the Pac-12.

“Getting the swagger back in Oregon, getting it back to where it belongs,” Taggart said during his signing day news conference on Feb. 1, 2017, when asked about his sales pitch to recruits. “I think everyone realized not too long ago Oregon was playing in the national championship game. They know what the possibilities are here.

“But it’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to take a commitment by everyone in the program to get back there, it always takes good football players. We have to make sure we’re doing that.”

Oregon’s 2018 class was ranked No. 1 nationally before Taggart’s abrupt departure to Florida State. Mario Cristobal and the remaining staff salvaged the 13th-ranked class.

After his first full season as coach, Cristobal introduced the most star-studded class in program history last Wednesday. The Ducks’ 2019 haul is ranked No. 7 overall and No. 1 among Pac-12 schools for the first time in the modern era.

“I’ve known Mario for a while now. People talk about him recruiting. He’s a good football coach, he’s a good person and he’s great with building relationships,” Taggart said two years ago of the impact of luring Cristobal to Eugene. “He’s good with people. I think when you have those qualities you can do a good job recruiting. I think he’s passionate about it.

“The important thing is he wants to be here. When you really want to be somewhere you do a better job with whatever it is you want to do.”

The two highest-ranked in-state prospects in 2017, Independence defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu (USC) and West Linn cornerback Elijah Molden (Washington), left to play for Pac-12 rivals.

Taggart signed 11 players from California, seven from Florida, two from Florida and two from Oregon before his one-and-done season with the Ducks.

Nine players from the class — nose guard Jordon Scott, defensive end Austin Faoliu, cornerbacks Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham, safety Nick Pickett, running back CJ Verdell, wide receivers Johnny Johnson and Jaylen Redd, and punter Adam Stack — have emerged as regular starters.

Sampson Niu started four games at inside linebacker last season for the injured Kaulana Apelu, and Isaac Slade-Matautia was also part of the rotation.

Taggart, who hired defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt away from Colorado and Cristobal away from Alabama, credited his staff for helping to land some of the key prospects on short notice.

“At first it was tough because I was by myself. That’s really tough,” Taggart said of putting the 2017 class together over an eight-week period. “But once we got some coaches in here and got on the road, it became a little easier and actually became fun because we have a great group of coaches that love to recruit, love to go out and meet young people and build relationships.

“We have a lot of coaches that love to compete.”

Taggart targeted a handful of players verbally committed to Rich Rodriguez at Arizona to add some depth to the group. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister and Sheldon High offensive lineman Cody Shear were among the late flips.

“Recruiting don’t start until the day before signing day. That’s when it really starts,” Taggart said of the tactic. “We’re going to be highly competitive around here at everything we do. Our coaches understand that as well, even when it comes to recruiting. We need the best.”

The early signing period has alleviated some of the February drama. The bulk of Oregon’s historic 2019 class was completed in December.

Several of Taggart’s Florida recruits, including wide receivers Daewood Davis and Demetri Burch, and running back Darrian Felix, haven’t been on the field much entering their third seasons in the program.

Darrian McNeal (Seffner, Fla.) left the program and Bruce Judson (Cocoa, Fla.) never qualified academically at Oregon.

But Scott, who has trimmed down to 329 pounds after leaving Largo, Fla., at 345 pounds, is the anchor of Leavitt’s 3-4 defense and will be one of the best returning defensive linemen in the Pac-12 in 2019.

Faoliu has played in 23 career games with nine starts, and classmate Popo Aumavae is developing into a rotation player on the defensive line.

Graham and Lenoir had three interceptions each last season, and Pickett finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles.

Verdell’s breakout redshirt freshman campaign included 1,018 yards rushing, 315 yards receiving and 12 total touchdowns. His game-winning score in overtime to beat eventual Pac-12 champion Washington was the highlight of Oregon’s 9-4 finish.

Cyrus Habibi-Likio was the goal-line running back for most of his redshirt freshman season, finishing with seven touchdowns.

Redd (433 yards, five touchdowns) and Johnson (215 yards, four touchdowns) are two of the more experienced wide receivers looking to fill the void left by Dillon Mitchell’s early departure for the NFL.