You’ve heard it plenty of times since Willie Taggart’s hire as the next head football coach at Florida State University: he’s part of the Harbaugh “coaching tree.” But just what — and whom — does that entail?
First, some history: a coaching tree is all about those who’ve worked under a particular coach and then gone on to bigger and better things for themselves elsewhere. Taggart’s history with the Harbaughs goes back quite some time. He began by playing his college ball at Western Kentucky under Jack Harbaugh.
After being recruited to WKU by Jack’s son Jim, an assistant at the time and the present coach of the Michigan Wolverines, Taggart enjoyed a very successful quarterback career for the Hilltoppers, which he immediately parlayed into the onset of his coaching career. After playing his final collegiate season in 1998, Taggart became Western Kentucky’s receivers coach in 1999 and its quarterbacks coach the very next year.
Still under Jack Harbaugh, Taggart remained the QB coach in 2001 while also taking on co-offenisve coordinator duties. He helped the ’Toppers win a I-AA national title in that capacity in 2002.
Taggart remained at his alma mater through 2006, when Jim Harbaugh got the head coaching job at Stanford and brought Taggart aboard as his running backs coach. Jack’s career was winding down, so this is where we’ll really pick up on the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree, as it pertains to Taggart.
So who makes up the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree, of which Taggart is a prominent branch? These are the guys who’ve served under Jim and gone on to collegiate head coaching positions elsewhere:
- D.J. Durkin: Maryland (2016–present)
- Derek Mason: Vanderbilt (2014–present)
- Brian Polian: Nevada (2013–2016), currently Notre Dame’s special teams coordinator
- Mike Sanford Jr.: Western Kentucky (2017-present)
- Scott Shafer: Syracuse (2013–2015), currently Middle Tennessee’s defensive coordinator
- David Shaw: Stanford (2011–present)
- Willie Taggart: WKU, USF, Oregon, FSU (2010-present)
As you can see, not a single one of the above-listed programs comes close to matching the national brand of FSU. So while history can often tell us a great deal about what to expect in the future, it’s also fair to point out that Willie Taggart’s tenure, at Florida State, will be rather uncharted ground with regard to just how effectively the branches of the Harbaugh coaching tree can grow.