Is Willie Taggart's recruiting pipeline to Florida sustainable?

Willie Taggart, who was hired away from USF, leaned heavily on his Florida connections in shaping Oregon's 2017 recruiting class. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

EUGENE, Ore. -- The 2,900 miles that separate Oregon from Florida were linked this winter by seven commits and a single hashtag: #Floregon.

For Oregon coach Willie Taggart and his seven signees from Florida in the 2017 class, that hashtag represents their past and present. And for Ducks fans, it might very well represent the future of recruiting under Taggart.

“We have relationships there so we’ll always go there. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Taggart, who was hired Dec. 7 after coaching USF the past four seasons. "I think it’d be very wise for us to continue to recruit where we have relationships and we know folks, and then continue to build relationships in other areas as well."

Recruiting Florida makes sense for football programs. It’s a talent-rich state that this year alone accounted for four five-star players (the most of any state).

However, historically, the distance between the states has proved to be a hurdle. In the last decade, Oregon only managed to sign five players -- total -- from the Sunshine State (and two of those five ended up leaving early in order to finish their degrees and playing careers closer to home).

But recruiting Florida hard made perfect sense for Taggart and his staff -- many of whom came with him from USF -- which had a condensed recruiting period for the 2017 class. The new Ducks staff wasn’t going to have much time to develop new relationships on the West Coast, so going after players who already Taggart & Co. was the smart decision in filling out this class.

Add in Oregon co-offensive coordinator/O-line coach Mario Cristobal (Miami alum and former FIU head coach) and Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt (former USF coach) and this staff seems like it was put together with the intention to harvest the state of Florida.

And while securing Oregon commitments from 2,900 miles away didn’t seem to be a problem for Taggart and his staff in 2017, moving forward they’ll face the challenge of getting commitments from closer to campus.

Unlike Taggart’s most recent stop at USF, where more than 90 percent of his roster was comprised of in-state recruits, the Ducks don’t have a natural recruiting base in Oregon. In the last five years, there have only been six players from the state of Oregon ranked in the ESPN 300. The Ducks haven’t secured a commitment from an ESPN 300 recruit from Oregon since 2013.

This recruiting cycle, three Oregonians landed in the ESPN 300 and each signed a letter of intent with a different Pac-12 school -- Marlon Tuipulotu (USC), Elijah Molden (Washington) and Connor Neville (Washington State). Of the three, Neville was the only one who didn't have an Oregon offer. Taggart did sign the state’s fourth-best and 10th-best players, though.

Getting two in-state recruits in this first class was crucial for Taggart, but moving forward it’ll be even more important for Taggart’s staff to be highly competitive for the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the state year in and year out so that the Oregon commits have some #Oregon and not just #Floregon flavor.

"We’re going to try to do our best to take care of Oregon first and try not to lose kids in-state to anyone outside of here," Taggart said. "We want to take care of Oregon. We’re going to do a really good job in California, we’re going to recruit the Northwest. We’re going to use our ties and our relationships in Florida."

And though the #Floregon connection will prove to be a departure from the past, that was one of the draws of Taggart -- that he was different from the previous coaches and didn’t come out of Oregon’s coaching tree.

Now, the Ducks will see if that Florida connection and talent pipeline -- something they haven’t had before -- can get them closer to securing something else they've never had before: a national title.