SPRING FOOTBALL: Taggart promoted to be more a tool for Toppers’ staff

J. Michael Moore

Willie Taggart is still Western’s “answer.”

His playing days may have ended, but the former Hilltopper All-American quarterback turned assistant coach still finds his way to get on the field and motivate.

Taggart was named associate head coach last weekend, moving up from his co-offensive coordinator position to become head coach David Elson’s right hand.

According to Elson, Taggart is everything a coach could ask for and will be the sounding board that he was to former Topper coach Jack Harbaugh.

As a former player Taggart has his hand on Western’s pulse, and leads “the answer”- a 6 a.m. practice which was created to reprimand players who violate team policies.

Practices include 45-50 minutes of running and drills that are all at the coach’s pace.

“Willie has been around this program,” Elson said. “He’s got his jersey on the side of the building. No one knows better what it means to be a player here.”

“The answer” is just one part of a broad system called the Unity Council – a group of players spanning all classes and positions that act as both a voice and policy-making body for the team.

The Unity Council meets once a week, expressing concerns, request and decisions to Taggart.

Elson said he has had, and will continue to have, one-on-one meetings with the associate head coach to talk about the team, recruiting needs and a host of other topics.

Taggart is entering his fifth season on the Hill as an assistant coach. He is continuing to work exclusively with the team’s quarterbacks while also handling some administrative duties for Elson.

He also has his hands on scholarship and budget issues, as well as assisting offensive coordinator T.J. Weist.

Taggart and Elson are both in uncharted waters.

Taggart said it could be an advantage, with both coaches filling in the gaps and helping each other through.

“I’m doing little things that coach Elson did for Coach Harbaugh … a lot of the things the public doesn’t see. If Coach Elson hasn’t been there, I’ve been there.”

Elson said he looks forward to Weist and Taggart working together on the offense, evolving the system to include more passing formations and balanced attacks.

“Willie and T.J. are a very good team,” Elson said, highlighting the two coaches’ specialties.

Weist came to Western last season to coach wide receivers. He has experience in the passing game and building an offense around a star player.

He was coaching at Indiana during the reign of current Pittsburgh Steelers’ standout Antwaan Randle El.

Randle El was an All-American quarterback for the Hoosiers, but emerged as a receiving and passing threat last season for the Steelers.

Taggart knows the ground game.

He compiled 3,997 rushing yards as a player – the highest for a quarterback in Division I history.

Together, Elson thinks they can push along the Hilltoppers’ offensive progression.

But for now, Taggart is knocking the dust off his spring quarterbacks and helping lead the team to answers, on and off the field.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]