RUDY. RUUDY. RUUUDY! RUUUUDY!!: Overachieving Ducks of the Chip Kelly Era

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National Signing Day is, by now, a distant memory.  We silently fist-pumped (probably at work) as preps across the nation used something called a “facks machine” for the first (and probably last) time to send their NLIs to Eugene.  We looked over the tremendous haul of new Ducks recruits, nodded in approval, and said things like, “THAT KID IS A BEAST.”  We made our Duck Face (this one, not that one) as we counted all the “recruiting stars” our new preps had to their name.  We watched their highlight videos, and joyfully watched them outrun, embarrass,  and truck poor defenseless zero-star recruits over and over.  We imagined these new Ducks donning the Green and Yellow (and Black and Chrome) and making big hits, clutch catches, or game-breaking runs on some not-too-distant Saturday afternoon.

Sooo…..now what?

Well, we can keep fawning over the “stars” that hang next to each of the new recruits’ names, or we can wait and watch this spring and fall to see what kind of players they REALLY are.

Because as entertaining as the recruiting process may be, I would wager that recruiting projections are just as often wrong as they are right.  How often do we see a four- or five-star “sure thing” flame out?  Or a two-star “dark horse” become an all-conference performer?

While projections based on high school performance are helpful, it’s an incredibly difficult task to project how a 16-year-old will perform in 5 or 6 years as a college senior.   High school skills are step 1 of this process.  Steps 2 through 10,347 involve what happens after players get to campus.  Some programs develop players post-arrival well, and some others do not.

Since Chip Kelly arrived, Oregon has done an outstanding job of squeezing more “stars” out of their preps.  Admittedly, a ton of this success has resulted from the caliber of people – not players – that Oregon has recruited.  After all, “Rudys” don’t become stars just because coaches tell them to work hard.  Only special people make the hard choice to buy into the system and work their butts off.  Oregon recruiters have found a lot of those special people.

However, I also give immense credit to Chip Kelly and his holistic approach to teaching.  Schedule and pace of practice, diet, academics, the Xs and Os themselves, and a thousand other things: each plays a role in developing raw teenagers into wily veterans.

It just so happens that there are a TON of Rudy-like Ducks who’ve performed far beyond their (fairly) low hype after high school. And it just so happens I put some of the best of those in a list for you to read (and probably critique!).

Behold: the Most Overachieving Oregon Ducks of the Chip Kelly Era.

-Brandon Bair was a two-star tight end who was returning from a Mormon mission.  Want to talk about growing into your britches? And who can forget this hands-soft-as-silk moment?

 

 

Spencer Paysinger was but a two-star recruit….at wide receiver!  He developed into a multi-year starter at linebacker: a great cover-man, fantastic blitzer, and a solid presence for the Ducks over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.  He now has a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants.

 

Casey Matthews stood in his older brother’s shadow as a three-star linebacker.  Some time later, he did this.

 

Mark Asper may be best known for his life-saving talents at the Lawry’s Beef Bowl before the 2012 Rose Bowl.  He was also started in four straight bowl games for the Ducks (’08 Holiday Bowl, ’09-’10 Rose Bowl, ’10-’11 BCS National Championship, ’11-’12 Rose Bowl).  A starting anchor for a then-unprecedented four-year run? Not bad for a two-star recruit from Idaho Falls.

 

 

-Jeff Maehl was a two/three-star rated safety.  This is all I have to say about that.

Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay were both three-star linebackers out of San Jose.  They became one of the finest linebacker tandems in the nation for two straight seasons, and were responsible for two of the biggest turnovers in Oregon Ducks history:  Did-That-Just-Happen?-No. 1 and Did-THAT-Just-Happen??-No. 2.  Biggest thing I’ll miss about Michael Clay: “Number 46 in your program, but number 1 in your heart.” Biggest thing I’ll miss about Kiko: him doing this.

Kenjon Barner, a three-star defensive back recruit, became one of the most decorated running backs in Oregon history (which   is   saying   something) and probably is in the All-Decade Hair Honor Roll.

 

 

-John Boyett was a three-star recruit out of Napa who was undersized and lacked speed.  The Oregon Missile Crisis had this to say as he became an All-American: “Big whoop.”

 

 

 

-Josh Kaddu was a two-star recruit before coming to Oregon and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.  Two-star recruits aren’t supposed to become 5th-Round NFL Draft Picks.

-The massive and very skilled Wade Keliikipi (one of yours truly’s favorite current Ducks) was only a two-star recruit out of high school.  Say what?

 

 

 

-Hroniss Grasu was rated as a three-star center.  After what he’s already accomplished (won Rose Bowl, won Fiesta Bowl, on watch list for Rimington Trophy), can you believe this dude still has two more years of eligibility?  I think you all can join me in saying: “SUMMON THE HRONISS.”

 

 

 

 

Jake Fisher was but a three-star recruit out of Michigan.  The outstanding young lineman played right away as a true freshman on 2011, and has only gotten better since (and, like Mr. Grasu, he still has two years of eligibility).  And he was able to fortuitously keep up with DAT at least once this past fall.

 

-Marcus Mariota: Super Mariota, the Flyin’ Hawaiian, the Throwin’ Samoan, Pineapple Express, Saint Mark, and – of course – MarioTAH.  (Conventional wisdom says we need to choose just ONE nickname, but I reject convention and choose them ALL.)  8MM was a skinny, little-known three-star quarterback with only one year of starting experience under his belt when he arrived in Eugene.  Care to reevaluate, starmakers?  How about now? (I’ll heap even more credit upon our young quarterback who completely spoiled this young sir’s senior campaign.)

– Kyle Long was rated as a three-star JUCO player.  After a truly impressive one-year stint at Oregon, he’s now one of the highest-rated linemen in the 2013 NFL Draft.

 

 

If you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, you have the impeccable Duck coaching staff to thank.  Again and again, they’ve taken rough pieces out of the gravel quarry that is high school football, and buffed ’em into diamonds.  I can’t wait to see the next generation of Oregon’s “Rudys.”

Put YOUR favorite rags-to-ridiculously-good story in the comments section below.

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Sean Goodbody

Sean Goodbody

With a high school defensive-coordinator-turned-offensive-coordinator-turned-head-coach as a father, Sean Goodbody has always had an interest in the X's and O's of football. He played two years with FCS University of Pennsylvania as a fullback, but having grown up in a football family Sean has spent much of his life studying the game--reviewing game film, designing offensive and defensive schemes, and game-planning upcoming opponents. Sean has coached running backs, option quarterbacks, linebackers, defensive linemen, and safeties for his dad's high school program. He has been a rabid Duck fan since meeting his significant other Maeve (an Oregon grad). Residing in Grand Junction, CO, Sean and Maeve both work as attorneys while cheering on their beloved Ducks from the Rockies.

  • fishduck

    Now THAT was fun. How can you read that, watch the short video clips and NOT be smiling the whole time? Great stuff, and thanks Sean.

  • worldwidewebfoot

    Well written. On a slightly different subject, I would like to hear about the redshirt freshmen that we hope will emerge this spring. Lets hear about Dunmore, Amoako (plural), Rodriguez, Allen, etc.

    • fishduck

      I want those articles too, and we have writers working toward covering them all in the offseason. Go click on Joe Packer’s name to the right and you will find one about Jake-Rod, and back aways about Marshall. More to come!

      • SeanG

        Thanks, Mr. Foot. Planning on covering who we can expect to fill Kiko & Clay’s shoes, and why Ducks fans shouldn’t be scared of the lack of big names.

  • Defensive Duck

    Yea the “star” system seems to be lacking in manu ways, great artical.

  • Defensive Duck

    Btw, your defensive analysis (including your help with Chucks) is the best on the net. We obviously here alot about how the ducks cant handle “real footbaw”, and a solid o line/power run game exposes us. I was hoping in the future, you might do a breakdown specifically showing how we use the phillips one gap/zone blitze packages to defend 3 yards and a cloud of dust. We hear alot how our speedy defense cant stop power, but if that philosophy works in the NFL, i see zero reason why people think you need to run a 2 gap, cover 1 press to be successful…food for thought!

    • SeanG

      Thank you, and good call. Will put this idea in the queue. Lots of offseason time to fill! I think this a great topic. I’ll need to watch some Kansas State and (gulp) Stanford film to get some material.

      • Defensive Duck

        Ty much, looking forward to it.

  • Chris Charbonnier

    Cool article. Gotta bust your chops a little bit though:

    Marcus Mariota
    Josh Kaddu
    John Boyett
    Kenjon Barner
    Michael Clay
    Kyle Long
    Jake Fisher

    …were all ranked as 4* guys by one of the major sites at the time, so it’s not like those guys were considered scrubs.

    I like the concept, though. Good work.

    • Sobakawa Pillow

      Eddie Pleasant

      Matthew Harper

      Talmadge Jackson

      David Paulson

      Kenny Rowe

      Terrell Turner

      Jeremiah Johnson

      parts of ’08/’09 Masoli

      and your boy JUSTIN ROPER

  • The only thing is the guys at ND HATED Rudy. An Ex GF of mine’s dad played at ND at the time Rudy was there and he said he just laughed his A$$ off throughout the movie.