The next three months should be an exciting time for fans of Oregon football recruiting. With national signing day approaching, the Ducks are looking to round out their class with some elite players. While smart money is on Helfrich and company to put together a group that can rival the 2012 and 2013 classes, there is still a possibility that Oregon could land its best class ever.
The commitment of 3-star DE/OLB Justin Hollins earlier in the week reinforces the theme of the 2014 cycle so far: the coaches are getting who they want. Hollins may only be a three-star player, but he had an early offer and has been a top target for a long time. Every single player currently committed to the Ducks was at the top of the staff’s recruiting board. Royce Freeman and Tony James were the two most highly coveted running backs. In fact, Oregon was in great position to land 5-star RB Joe Mixon, even after Freeman’s commitment, but the coaches wanted James more; and they got him.
Morgan Mahalak was offered early in the process and was the only quarterback that the staff really pursued. Aarion Springs, now a 5-star on 247, was the No. 1 CB on the staff’s wish list. Tyrell Crosby was an early offer and highly-coveted offensive tackle. DT Jalen Jelks and WR Jalen Brown continued this trend. CB Dominique Harrison and DE Tui Talia are two elite JUCO players who received early Oregon attention and could both make an immediate impact. Even unranked long-snapper Tanner Carew is a guy the Ducks went out and landed early in the process.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that Oregon doesn’t offer very many players early in the process. If the coaching staff pursues a player before or even during the summer months before his senior year, they’re confident said player is a good fit and has the potential to make a significant contribution for the Ducks. Based on the past five years, it’s hard to argue with the staff’s talent evaluation process. The bottom line is, if the Oregon coaches are recruiting someone hard, that player is probably going to end up being a very good player. The fact that the coaches have already landed so many of their top targets at numerous positions is a great sign for the 2014 class.
If this early season trend continues, the 2014 class will be truly special. There are still a number of top targets out there, such as WR Montae Nicholson, WR/S John “JuJu” Smith, WR Myles Autry, WR/CB Adoree Jackson, TE Bryce Dixon, OT Casey Tucker, LB Vincent Jackson, DB Mattrell McGaw and DB Budda Baker. Were Oregon to land even half of those players, they’d be extremely happy. Were they to land the majority, 2014 would push 2008 and 2011 as the best recruiting class in the program’s history. It’s worth keeping in mind that there is still quite a bit of time before national signing day and elite targets who aren’t currently on the radar (maybe because they’re committed elsewhere) might come calling in December or even January.
With 11 commits, expect Oregon to take 7 or 8 more players. As of today, here are the uncommitted players that I think are most likely to become Ducks:
OT Braden Eggert
DE Henry Mondeaux
WR Montae Nicholson
DE/OLB Vincent Jackson
DB Mattrell McGraw
DB Budda Baker
That’s six players, leaving one or two more open spots. Note that I believe Vincent Jackson will commit if he still has a committable offer. After the Justin Hollins announcement, he may not. Same goes for 4-star WR Myles Autry, who I didn’t list. I believe that he would commit if able, but look for Montae Nicholson to take his spot. Maybe the coaches will accept commitments from both, but I’m hesitant to predict that. In addition to the players listed above, expect Oregon to land one or two of the following offensive lineman:
OL Colton Miller
OL Jaden Gault
OL Quinn Bailey
OL Nick Gates
OL Chris Brown
At that point, Oregon would likely wrap up things, with a notable exception. If an elite player such as JuJu Smith or Adoree Jackson were to commit late in the process, the Ducks would have plenty of room for them. While I expect Oregon to take only 18 or 19, they could take as many as 23 or 24. They plan to save some scholarships for the 2015 cycle, since next year’s team will feature another small senior class and the class of 2015 looks to be loaded out west. Nonetheless, if a player comes calling who you can’t turn away, well, you can’t turn him away.
Whether the class fills up as expected or takes some unexpected turns, this will be another solid group of players. While it might not finish in the top-20 of the recruiting rankings, this will be due to a lack of quantity, not quality (as has been discussed in weeks prior). As the team continues to have success on the field, the program also continues to have success off of it, ensuring that Oregon football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.