Usually, early December is far too early to accurately predict an Oregon recruiting class, but this year might be the exception. After landing their 15th verbal commitment earlier in the week from JUCO stud Offensive Guard Haniteli Lousi, it appears that the Ducks are going hard after just five more players. Who are these five special targets?
1) ATH Budda Baker
Baker has been at the top of Oregon’s board for quite some time. The unanimous 4-star recruit has long been considered an Oregon lean, and despite some recent rumblings otherwise, I don’t believe much has changed. This has long been thought of as an Oregon/Washington battle for the Bellevue, WA athlete. Baker has an ill mother, so distance has always been an important factor.
UCLA has been in Baker’s top-3 for a while, but as a distant third. Was a recent visit there enough to change his mind? It’s possible, since his friend and former teammate, Myles Jack, has had so much success in his first season for the Bruins, winning the Pac-12 offensive AND defensive player of the year awards. Being a two-way standout himself, this might appeal to Baker.
Additionally, USC has entered the mix for this elite athlete since new head coach Steve Sarkisian has taken over. He’s been recruiting Baker for years now, so that relationship is something to watch. Ultimately, Baker is still likely to stay close to home, and with Washington’s recent coaching shake-up, there’s no reason to believe that Oregon has fallen out of the lead. We’ll see if new Huskies head coach Peterson can make a late move, but if Baker ends up staying in state, it will undoubtedly be due to his mother, something no one can fault him for.
2) ILB Jimmie Swain
At this time, the former TCU commit out of Kansas is probably the top defensive player on Oregon’s big board, considering Baker is an athlete who could end up on either side of the ball. Swain is a big, talented inside linebacker, something Oregon desperately needs if the last four games are any indication.
Linebackers coach Don Pellum has done a great job throughout this recruitment. Swain’s recent de-commitment from TCU leaves him to choose between Oregon and Texas A&M, among others. An in-home visit from head coach Mark Helfrich and multiple defensive coaches last night couldn’t have hurt Oregon’s chances to land the consensus 4-star prep linebacker.
At this point Oregon is in great position. Expect to hear good news in the near future.
3) WR/TE Frank Iheanacho
Much like Bralon Addison, another high 4-star WR out of Houston, Iheanacho has emerged as an Oregon target late in the year. The coaches hope that the results are similar. An upcoming visit this weekend will likely decide the fate of the 6-foot-7, 220-pound athlete’s recruitment.
For some time Iheanacho was thought to be a Texas A&M lock, but the Ducks have made a serious push in the last few weeks. Based on what I’m hearing from multiple sources, the coaches feel really good about where they stand. A good visit this weekend could push Oregon into the lead. Iheanacho currently plans on announcing at the Army All-American game in early January.
4) S Mattrell McGraw
This is a player who has long been thought to be solid Oregon. The 4-star safety out of New Orleans is down to Oregon and UCLA. McGraw plans to announce on national signing day. There were rumors that he was an Oregon silent commit, but those were never true.
McGraw visits Eugene this weekend and that could go a long way towards securing his commitment. He’s always loved the Ducks and defensive backs coach John Neal has been recruiting him hard since early on in this recruiting cycle. This player is definitely coveted by the staff. I don’t see any reason not to expect McGraw to sign with Oregon, although don’t be surprised to see UCLA and/or Ohio State make a push come January.
5) OT Nick Gates
A long forgotten target, Gates is a player Oregon’s coaches are really high on. Watch his film and you’ll see why. Many feel the 3-star tackle out of Las Vegas is Texas A&M bound, but a visit this weekend could change that.
Industry insiders certainly seem to think that Gates will end up an Aggie, but just like Iheanacho and Swain, I’m hearing from two different sources that the coaches feel like they’re actually in the driver’s seat, ahead of Texas A&M. For that reason, don’t be surprised if Gates commits after a good visit.
This coming weekend is going to be big, with Iheanacho, McGraw and Gates all coming to town. The Ducks are looking to make a big impression with all three. Early next week look for glowing reports; anything short of that would be bad for Oregon’s chances with the trio moving forward.
Right now, I feel good about all five names. If Oregon can manage to land all five, it would be a fantastic end to the 2014 recruiting cycle. Baker, Swain and Iheanacho are all unanimous 4-star rated players. McGraw has been coveted by Oregon’s staff since earlier this spring and has garnered 4-star rankings from 247 and ESPN. Meanwhile, Gates is quietly one of the better linemen out west, something confirmed by an offer list that includes Texas A&M, Nebraska and Alabama.
Should Oregon land all five of the aforementioned players, the Ducks would finish around 15th in the overall recruiting class rankings. More importantly, they would have assembled yet another strong class. If things go as expected, Oregon fans can take comfort in the staff’s ability to recruit at a high level under first-year head coach Mark Helfrich.