Oregon coach Willie Taggart defends workouts that led to player hospitalizations

Dr. Saturday
Willie Taggart (grey) says his strength coach didn’t act improperly during January conditioning sessions. (AP)
Willie Taggart (grey) says his strength coach didn’t act improperly during January conditioning sessions. (AP)

The Willie Taggart era at Oregon may have gotten off to a rocky start this winter, but the new Ducks coach has charged ahead this spring, trying to turn the page after episodes that included three of his players being hospitalized after workouts.

Taggart defended strength coach Irele Oderinde to FoxSports.com Monday, saying that neither he nor Oderinde — who was suspended for one month — acted improperly:

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“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart said. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis.

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Taggart speaks in a big-picture tone throughout the story about the Ducks’ lack of toughness, saying he was surprised by how weak the program was as a whole, and pointing to possible complacency as a result of elite facilities and fancy uniforms.

“It’d be easy for people to say, ‘OK, it’s a new staff, they’re trying to break these guys down’ — especially since all I kept hearing was, ‘Coach, Oregon is [a soft] football team, Oregon’s not tough,’” Taggart said. “It’s easy to take that story and think we’re in here trying to make them tough.

“I can’t make them tough. You’re either tough or you’re not.”

In many ways, Taggart’s task is similar to that of many first-year coaches around the country who are looking to change cultures, although his certainly got off to an unfavorable start.

For more Oregon news, visit DuckSportsAuthority.com.

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Matt Fortuna is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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