Putting USC recruiting prowess in perspective

Plenty of wringing of hands by Oregon football fans this week and last and the one before that, ad nauseam, about what is shaping up to be a top five recruiting class for USC in 2013, and the loss of several top targets to the Trojans.

Yes, signing day is still six months away, and high-schoolers change their minds, and anything can happen. But at this point, the Trojans are pretty much assured of a top-flight class, perhaps the best in the country. Over the past month, 4-star safety Max Redfield, 5-star DT Eddie Vanderdoes, 4-star Nico Falah, and 5-star LB Michael Hutchings all have spurned Duck offers in favor of USC.

Recruiting wars: Joe McKnight was the top running back in the nation coming out of high school in 2007. But his career at USC never met expectations.

Oregon, meanwhile? The latest Scout.com ranking has the Ducks at a mediocre No. 26 nationally overall, albeit with only eight verbals so far. A better barometer is to look at average stars per recruit, which puts Oregon at No. 6 nationally (with an average of 3.63 stars per player). USC is No. 1, with an average of 4.31 stars for its 16 commits.

For the Ducks, this is serious stuff. USC is unquestionably Oregon’s biggest challenger in the Pac-12. Since 2000, one or the other has either won or shared the conference title every season.

Winning happens when a team gets an edge over a foe anywhere they can.

Some thought the Trojans’ recruiting would take a hit as a result of sanctions handed down two years ago in the Reggie Bush case. The verdict is still out, but so far USC appears to be weathering the penalties just fine.

Coach Lane Kiffin elected to accept the two-year bowl ban immediately in 2010 but put off scholarship reductions (a loss of 10 a year for three years) until now. Going forward, the numbers will be lower — the Trojans will have 18 scholarships to hand out to the 2013 class — but the star power remains extremely high.

Duck fans, though, shouldn’t be too down. Oregon is poised to reel in another top No. 15 class. And as far as playing second fiddle to USC in recruiting, well, that’s been the case virtually every year and it hasn’t prevented the Ducks from capturing two of the last three, and three of the last five, meetings between the two schools.

Luring top talent is important, but so are coaching and player development. The same goes for the offensive and defensive systems programs utilize to gain an edge.

Settled on the field: Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas led the Ducks to a 53-32 win over USC in Los Angeles in 2010.

Indeed, below is a look at how recruiting in the recent past has gone between Oregon and USC, according to the Scout.com database (it begins with the 2001-02 season).

In parentheses, I added each season’s score between the rivals.

2011-12 — Oregon: No. 15; USC: No. 20. (38-35 USC)

2010-11 — USC: No. 4; Oregon: No. 11. (53-32 Oregon)

2009-10 — USC: No. 5; Oregon: No. 13. (47-20 Oregon)

2008-09 — USC: No. 9; Oregon: No. 26. (44-10 USC)

2007-08 — USC: No. 9; Oregon: No. 23. (24-17 Oregon)

2006-07 — USC: No. 2; Oregon: No. 9. (35-10 USC)

2005-06 — USC: No. 1; Oregon: No. 52. (45-13 USC)

2004-05 — USC: No. 6; Oregon: No. 30. (DNP)

2003-04 — USC: No. 1; Oregon: No. 15. (DNP)

2002-03 — USC: No. 1; Oregon: No. 44. (44-33 USC)

2001-02 — USC: No. 12; Oregon: No. 31. (24-22 Oregon)

Recruiting advantage?
USC, by a long shot.

On-the-field advantage?
Pretty even (in fact, if you go back further, to 1998, Oregon holds a 7-5 edge).


And that’s why they play the game between two goal posts and not in a living room or over a cell phone.

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15 Responses

  1. momjoijm says:

    superior coaching neutralizes inferior recruiting,, ok. thats clear. But, lets be clear also in saying that Oregon a top 5 team the last several years now, can do better in recruiting: has room for improvement. So, let us imagine for a second that Tosh Lupoi was an oregon recruiter: how do you think the Ducks player recruits might be to get Hutchings, Falah, vanderdoes, etc, players that the Ducks wanted. Guys that that fit the mold the coaches desire to get, ten how much better on feild ?? Championships would come easier.

  2. Ntantar says:

     USC’s 2012 class was ranked 8th and 2011 was 4th.am I reading it wrong or did you say there class was ranked 20th last year?

  3. Steve Maher says:

    Ntatar: According to the Scout.com team rankings, USC was ranked No. 20 this past recruiting cycle and No. 4 in 2011. These rankings vary depending on the recruiting service. I chose the Scout.com database because it’s been around awhile and goes back about a dozen years.

    Momjoijm: I agree that Oregon needs to do a better job recruiting. Still, if you take average stars per recruit — which I consider a better gauge — the Ducks would sit No. 6 nationally right now. Oregon will always be at a disadvantage because of its population base. In some ways, USC, Texas, Florida and Alabama have it easy. The Ducks are increasingly countering that, however, with their “national brand.”

    I’ve long pondered how good Oregon would be — unbeatable is my guess — if it reeled in a few top-5 classes in a row, coupled with Chip Kelly’s coaching and the roar of Autzen Stadium.

  4. oregon111 says:

    the real head scratcher is recruiting on defense…

    just look at how the Oregon coaches DEVELOP the types of players like Brandon Bair, Paysinger, Jordan, Kelikeepi, Boyett, Chung, Ward, Thurmond, 

    and this year look out for Brian Jackson and the rest of the secondary should be really good, the linebackers great, and not so hot out of high school players like Remmington and Hart will be bigger/stronger/leaner/faster – more powerful

    I think that Oregon just needs a couple of years of dominating teams on defense – and that should change the perception of the high school kids

    the defensive coaching staff is solid & Allioti now seems to have a “REAL” scheme (please: no more DEs covering the swing routes deep!)

    I also thing the Cliff Harris debackle hurts recruiting:  here you had a super-highly rated defensive player that acheived all-American status quickly on  the field – yet the kid stayed in Kelly’s doghouse and eventually got dismissed

    high school recruits pay attention to that kind of stuff  

    • momjoijm says:

      agree mostly , but not entirely,, agree that oregon is coaching up guys incredibly well. They get thier players to maximize their talent, and to learn to play fundamentally sound team football. That cannot be over stated too much, it really is the secret sauce to the culture of the team under CK and his great coaching staff. They get complete buy in, and those who do not, or who screw up, pay a heavy price for non-conformity. They can make it back, such as Kiko has now done(great example), but it requires genuine change form within and a desire to mature. Cliff was a hard case for CK and co, they knew they had to maintain the line for the benefit of the team and the value that the higher level discipline, self-discipline , and accountability plays such a big role in the success that Oregon has with not the very highest pure talent across the board. So, Cliff wasn’t cut out for it in the discipline maturity sense- not that he was a bad guy atll, he was just not mature enough to understand why it was so important to conform. Blount was not a CK recruit, but he too had some of the same trouble in that sense. The college level program has a dual mandate, aside from developing the athlete and the team athletically, it also has the responsibility to develop the person in the context of a higher educational sense of self-discipline. Unfortunately this idea is quite antiquated or paid only lip service by many too many big time programs throughout the country- look no futher than SEC land, but even noble Stanford has devolved to the level that DUI’s for star players. get you meaningless and laughable punishment- Shane Skov – 1 game against cupcake school. So, the high values beyond athletic development being tossed out the window to keep up with the lowest common denominator competition is clearly endemic. That said, oregon now has the talent on both sides in all areas to win a national title. The defense is now approaching parity level of skill to the offense. Now, WHEN oregon crosses the thrshold, assuming CK is good enough to make the play calls and not shoot self in foot athe finish line, then the Ducks will also take the next step in recruiting ascension, and overcome more the geography , climate, and history disadvantages vis avis such. That will be the way for this regime. And when achieved, god willing, it will be the best way to reach it. Becuase the other compromises various critical elemnts that the CK regime values beyond wins and losses. It is harder to do, no doubt, but can be done this way, and the success of it is much sweeter if accomplished to the final pinnacle. It will establish a dna marker that the university can develop into a championship legacy and culture. It wil be reflected to by the character and lives of the players who come through it in the fulness of time. It will be a testament to a better way to win, as opposed to the lowering of standards and and hypocrisy that is commonly reigning within college football and the culture at large generally.

    • basementdwelling_Mommasboy says:

      Kelly’s integrity won’t allow for off field schnanagins to misrepresent Oregon’s program. I applaud him for setting examples to younger players. That being, just because you can play does NOT mean you can have a free pass. Please remember that these players are role models and WILL act as such and he stresses that your position on the filed is NOT set in stone.
      All I have is one question, Where are the days of yore when you, as a player, were to be the example and were held to a higher standard?

  5. Rcs410 says:

    Oregon needs to take Tennessee as an example for how to recruit. If they had good coaches – not great – who could bring in talent (particularly along the lines) they would be better served. Too much is made by Oregon fans on the coaches’ ability to “coach them up.” As we witnessed in the title game, that only goes so far. Ultimately, once our lack of talent becomes abundantly clear, either Oregon’s pride will get the better of them and they will futilely try to continue outcoaching USC, Auburn, LSU etc. or they will own up and hire a Lupoi-like personality who can SELL the program accordingly. Because of the distance players have to go, more resources and more salesmanship needs to be invested in the recruiting department. Tennessee is the model to follow, and the ways things are done now is not the model.

  6. pdxsiskiyou says:

    The “system” that both Kelly and Allotti use require a different type of player.  Their optimum player does not always fit the mold of what the recruiting services value in top recruits. Quite often the best player for Oregon, (speed, agility), is not the same player that USC or Alabama covet.  Even if Oregon got every recruit they desired it is doubtful that those recruits would fit the descritption of Scout or ESPN top 10 recruiting class.

    • momjoijm says:

      get vanderdoes, 5 stars, hutchings, etc,, and yeah absolutley ducks would be in the top 10 recruiting class finally,, no doubt. That is the whole point. It is one area of their jobs as coaches, that their IS room for improvement.

      • Rcs410 says:

        I completely agree. There is definite room for improvement in recruiting. So much so, that it’s probably healthy to disagree with Kelly’s current approach. It’s been abundantly clear given the close losses, which are something we need to learn from, and not find excuses for.

  7. basementdwelling_mommasboy says:

    Sounds pretty universal, fire the current recruiting staff and hire a better one. On the other hand they are doing a great job at finding the rare mature minded players that Oregon demands. Flip-side, sometimes you miss the 5 star player, but that is ok with me. I want the player that can stand in front of my kid and not be a hypocrite when giving “good” advice.

    • Rcs410 says:

      i do too, but hypocrites – the majority of the time – beat ethical coaches.  gene chizik vs. chip kelly comes to mind.  not saying i’m a fan of it, but in big boy football you can’t truly win “the right way.”

  8. Oregon Bama Fan says:

    The bottom line you need BOTH R(ecruiting) & D(evelopment).

    Oregon will NEVER out recruit USC! The state of Oregon just doesn’t produce enough players to field a Top 15 team. Oregon will have to “poach” players from SoCal and Texas to compete. But realistically, Oregon will only get 5-10 players max from Texas and Cali. So the rest will need to come from the NW and be developed. This in general means less experience and less depth.

    Oregon also needs to KEEP their players home. How did Suh end up at Nebraska?

    The best thing Oregon could do to compete with USC? Give Money to UCLA and let them split the haul from LA.

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