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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Harbaugh influence seen in BE coaches

By Andrea Adelson

The Super Bowl storyline has been set: it's Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh -- the first time brothers have squared off against each other in the biggest game on the NFL calendar.

You could practically see USF coach Willie Taggart bouncing off the walls Sunday when Jim Harbaugh got the San Francisco 49ers into the big game, followed by John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens. One check of Taggart's official Twitter feed reveals:

Who has it better than Jackie and Jack Harbaugh? Noooobody! Congrats!

— Willie Taggart (@CoachTaggart) January 21, 2013

Taggart is not the only first-year Big East coach with Harbaugh connections. In fact, both Taggart and new Syracuse coach Scott Shafer gave Jim Harbaugh shout-outs during their respective introductory news conferences. Both Taggart and Shafer served on the same Stanford staff under Jim Harbaugh in 2007 -- Shafer as defensive coordinator and Taggart as running backs coach.

Willie Taggart
USF coach Willie Taggart coached with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and played for Jack Harbaugh at Western Kentucky.
Taggart's ties to the Harbaughs go even further -- he played under family patriarch Jack Harbaugh at Western Kentucky. Jim Harbaugh recruited Taggart to play there. Then after his playing career ended, Taggart coached at Western Kentucky with Jack and Jim Harbaugh.

You see why the Harbaugh family means so much to him. The day Taggart was hired at USF back in December, I asked him to describe that influence.
"Well, it changed me big-time, just the way of doing things. When I got out to Stanford, Jim ran the program like they do in the NFL. My time with him and how he ran that program was probably the biggest impact on me and my career and what I do now. Those kids hadn’t won a game, they were 1-11 and they had back-to-back-to-back losing seasons. They forgot how fun and forgot how good they were at football and Jim brought that back just by changing the mentality, changing the culture. We were going to be highly competitive and it started with him. Every single day he was competing, too. He was throwing the football, he was running around. Our kids bought into that."

As for Shafer, he described his philosophy on defense in his opening remarks after replacing Doug Marrone, saying:
"I envision an Orange crush defense that makes the opponent's families cringe when their child is about to play us. I don't think (my wife) would want me to go there, but I thought about one of my favorite people in the business and I guarantee you Jim Harbaugh would want me to go there."

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said this to the Syracuse-Post Standard that day: "Jim and I had a great conversation about Scott. He told me Scott was the cornerstone of getting Stanford moving in the right direction."

Shafer and Taggart clearly played a role. And they are clearly grateful for the opportunity.