Willie Taggart and Jim Leavitt are reuniting in Tallahassee, Fla.
Taggart, the former Oregon head coach, who is already feeling the heat after losing eight of his first 14 games at Florida State, has hired Leavitt as an analyst, according to the Athletic.
Leavitt, who is also a former South Florida head coach, spent the past two seasons as the Ducks’ defensive coordinator — 2017 under Taggart and 2018 under Mario Cristobal — before mutually agreeing with Cristobal on a divorce in February.
Oregon owes Leavitt up to $2.5 million, but per terms of the separation agreement the amount is “subject to reduction based on future employment.”
In 2016, the Ducks ranked 126th out of 128 FBS teams in points allowed (41.4 per game) and yards allowed (518.4 per game) under Brady Hoke. Mark Helfrich and his staff were fired after a 4-8 finish, and athletic director Rob Mullens hired Taggart away from South Florida.
Under Leavitt, Oregon's defense allowed 29.0 points (81st) and 369.2 yards (46th) per game during Taggart's one-and-done 7-5 season leading the program. The Ducks were 48th in points allowed (25.4 per game) and 55th in yards allowed (385.9 per game) during a 9-4 finish in 2018, Cristobal's first season, which culminated with a 7-6 win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl.
Taggart is expected to have Leavitt, 62, help defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett attempt to turn things around for the Seminoles, who are 125th in yards allowed (520.0 per game) and 121st in points allowed (40.0 per game) this season.
“I’ll miss the guys (players) with my whole heart,” Leavitt told The Register-Guard while packing his bags for the move from Eugene back to Boulder, Colo., where he was previously the defensive coordinator at Colorado. “I’ll be rooting for them. I think they have a chance to win it all.”
No. 15 Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes were severely damaged by the 27-21 loss to Auburn in the opener. But the defense has played well under new coordinator Andy Avalos, whose unit is allowing 16.5 points (35th) and 287.5 yards (34th) per game early in the season.
The Ducks had 13 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced turnovers during last Saturday’s 77-6 win over Nevada.
“The guys are enthused about what we're doing and are eager to continue to get better,” Avalos said after Wednesday’s practice. “Even in the locker room after the (Nevada) game, they were saying there's things that we could still get better at.
“We're not there yet.”
The Ducks (1-1) host Montana on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (7:45 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to email@example.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.