National Signing Day
In a college landscape where programs across the country attempt to one-up their BCS neighbors through “constructive comparative analysis,” a.k.a. mudslinging, the Duck’s recipe for success on the recruiting trail is centered on forward thinking and innovation. Having listened to the conventional living-room talking points ad nauseum, recruits are being drawn to the program famous for doing things their own way.
Chip Kelly – play-calling guru, master of sarcasm, purveyor of witty comments, doesn’t need to “negatively recruit,” said recent 5-star Duck commit Arik Armstead, “They never talked bad about any other program.” Kelly has never been one for elongated spiels dressed in hollow promises, so how does he persuade? Moreover, what’s he selling? Eugene is not a city bent on building the tallest skyscrapers, nor does it hang on the every tweet of a given celebrity. It rains year around, might scratch 90 degrees a half dozen times, and doesn’t have a beach…and yet, there’s something special happening at Autzen under the grey, overcast sky.
Exceptional talent is flocking to Oregon, thanks to an aspect of Kelly that those outside the Duck faithful have never understood. “He (is) honest,” said Armstead. As an Oregon fan, honest means blunt one-word answers to snarky questions, a close-knit team/no-nonsense approach to discipline, three PAC-12 titles/BCS appearances, and a Rose Bowl win this past January. What more does a recruit hope for? Evolving uniform combinations and the chance to go for it on every fourth down, perhaps? Check.
“This is what we have to offer you (a recruit), if you feel it’s a great fit, we’d love to have you.” – Chip Kelly Signing Day Press Conference 2/1/12.
Due to the mass-influx of blue-chip recruits choosing Oregon over PAC-12 rival USC and SEC programs, Kelly has not only found athletically gifted athletes to complement a juggernaut, but the right ones as well. It’s no secret that Kelly invents avenues of integration, as Duck recruits have switched roles/positions after coming to Eugene. Former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas was headed to LSU as a wide receiver before Kelly opened the opportunity to play quarterback. Perhaps paying the most dividends in Oregon’s “position shuffle” ideology is De’Anthony Thomas’ move to the TAZR slot in favor of opting with his original USC commitment as a defensive back. Simply put, Kelly and his coaching staff build their team in a manner that recognizes the success of augmentation rather than traditional “depth chart slating” based on an athlete’s prep career. At this juncture, a Ducks recruit is no longer who they were, but who they can become while at Oregon.
“The future for us is right now…The big thing for us is identifying who the right guys are in terms of how we do things…What we’re looking for is different than what other schools are looking for…I know we’ve never had a top 5 recruiting class by whatever the experts say, but we’ve had two back to back top 5 teams. It’s really where you’re ranked at the end of year not where you’re ranked today.” – CK Signing Day Press Conference 2/1/12.
When the final letters of intent reach the Casanova Center, Kelly and the Ducks will not have recruited every player on their radar; however, those who do decide to dawn Lighting Yellow and Thunder Green are guaranteed an opportunity to play in the country’s loudest stadium, to experience the finest facilities for student-athletes, and to know what it means to WIN THE DAY. Just be sure to pack an umbrella.
Special Note: Not to be overlooked is the support staff behind The Visor. Secondary coach John Neal has been named to the 247sports.com 2012 Top 50 Recruiters list for his due diligence and effort in signing a highly rated crop of defensive backs.
(Click highlighted names for player pages/video highlights)
QB– With the departure of Darron Thomas, redshirt sophomore Bryan Bennett and true sophomore Marcus Mariota will be challenged by newcomers Jake Rodrigues (4-Star/Rocklin, CA) and Jeff Lockie (3-Star/Danville,CA). Both freshman have the ability to run but will pass first when given the opportunity.
“(I) really like Jake’s athleticism… (Jeff has) great anticipation, throws the ball on time.” – CK.
RB– Oregon lost arguably its greatest tailback ever in LaMichael James to the NFL following the Rose Bowl. Senior Kenjon Barner will move into the featured back position with sophomores DeAnthony Thomas and Tra Carson picking up carries. Incoming freshman Byron Marshall (4-Star/San Jose, CA) may see early playing time with his 4.38 speed and playmaking ability out of the backfield.
“(Byron is) one of the fastest kids in the country, (he’s) really dynamic.” – CK.
WR– This past season, Oregon made due with a shadow of a wide receiver corps. Exiting senior Lavasier Tuinei’s size in the red zone could be replaced by 6’4 mammoth receiver Dwayne Stanford (4-Star/Cincinnati, OH). While not as publicized as De’Anthony Thomas’ last minute switch from USC to Oregon, Bralon Addison (4-Star/Missouri City, TX) decommitted from Texas A&M and joins the Ducks, adding blistering speed and open field ability to a group of youngsters in sophomores Devon Blackmon, BJ Kelly, and Tacoi Sumler. Chance Allen (3-Star/Missouri City, TX) decommitted from Oklahoma State and like Stanford, boasts a large frame (6’3) in one-on-one situations.
“(Dwayne) gives us that size that we were really looking for… (Bralon is an) unbelievable athlete, as a staff we need to figure out how to get the ball in his hands…(Chance is) a real difficult matchup for defenders.” – CK.
TE– David Paulson’s hands and blocking have come and gone with the senior’s last hurrah. Sophomore Colt Lyerla will be joined by recruits Pharaoh Brown (4-Star/Cleveland, OH) and Evan Baylis (4-Star/Aurora, CO). Bearing identical weight (230 lbs.), both Oregon commits have immense size with Brown’s 6’4 frame topping out only an inch above Baylis.
OL– Kyle Long (4-Star/Saddleback Junior College) has the potential to start with the loss of seniors Mark Asper and Darrion Weems. Long is a fearsome blocker who’s inherited his 6’7, 290lb body from father, Howie (Oakland & LA Raiders) and brother Chris (St. Louis Rams).
“(He’s a) tremendous prospect.” – CK.
Defense & Special Teams:
DL– The most widely publicized Oregon signee, Arik Armstead (5-Star/Elk Grove, CA) is being heralded as the next Haloti Ngata. Armstead made easy work of his prep career and will be joined by DeForest Buckner (4-Star/Honolulu, HI), Alex Balducci (4-Star/Portland, OR), Stetzon Bair (3-Star/Iowa Western Junior College), Cody Carriger (3-Star/Butte, MT), and TJ Daniel (3-Star/Oakland, CA) in what promises to be one of the deepest Oregon defensive lines ever with returning seniors Dion Jordan and Issac Remington.
“(Arik is) so athletic and he can move… (Buckner is) athletic, exactly what we’re looking for in the defensive line… (Alex is) big, tough physical kid… (Brandon) has a huge upside… (Cody is an) outstanding athlete who can run an 11.0 flat at 6’6, 230… (TJ is) very raw athlete, explosive and will get bigger.” – CK.
LB– Oregon will look to a slew of youngsters to replace seniors Dewitt Stuckey and Josh Kaddu. Brett Bafaro (4-Star/Portland, OR) joins a talented group and could establish himself early as a defensive force with instincts.
“(Cody has) good size, (and is) explosive.” – CK.
DB– The youngest unit at Oregon will get even younger with senior safety John Boyett fostering safety Reggie Daniels (4-Star/Chandler, AZ) and twin defensive backs Eric and Stephen Amoako (3-Stars/Arlington, TX). All three recruits have shutdown ability and can match receivers step for step.
“(The Amoako twins are) two great kids, really competitive… (Reggie is) real physical.” – CK.
ATH– Oshay Dunmore (4-Star/Newport, OR) played a host of positions during his prep career and could see the field in a variety of roles before settling.
“He’s one of the best athletes in the country.” – CK.
K– Dylan Ausherman (2-Star/College of the Sequoias) will apprentice to senior Jackson Rice and continue a long-line of venerable Oregon punters.
“He’s ready to kick at the college level right now.” – CK.
For more extensive bios/information and Chip Kelly’s National Signing Day press conference in its entirety, please click here.
Look for a Post-National Signing Day wrap-up next week! WTD!!!