While it seems like the 2014 class just signed their papers, the 2015 cycle is already well under way. Two of the common questions early each year are: “How many scholarships are available?” and “How will those scholarships be used?”
Using a method I’ve used each of the past two years to predict upcoming class numbers to within one player, I’ll tell you how many players you should expect Oregon to sign in 2015.
It’s really not that difficult when you understand the math; especially during this cycle, where there’s a ton of talent on the west coast (some analysts are calling it a once-in-a-decade kind of year) and not much room on Oregon’s scholarship roster. The bottom line is that the Oregon staff will look to use up every last scholarship available to them given that the 2014 junior class will be large (meaning they don’t need to save any scholarships for the 2016 cycle).
In 2014, Oregon will have 13 scholarship seniors. That’s the number; 13. The program is right at its 84-scholarship max (it’s not 85 anymore due to sanctions). So, if no one other than graduating seniors left the program between now and the beginning of the 2015 season, the staff would only be able to sign a class of 13. Obviously, that’s not going to be the case, though.
For starters, Marcus Mariota is probably going to the NFL after next season. So that brings us up to 14 scholarships available:
13 Graduating Seniors +
Mariota’s Early Entry =
How high this number will climb above 14 will depend on attrition. That’s the big question: how many scholarship players will leave the program this off-season? Add that number to 14 and you’ve likely got a pretty good gauge of the 2015 class size, as I don’t see any juniors other than Mariota who are likely to leave early for the NFL.
It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the staff decides to “over-sign” in expectation of future attrition. This isn’t the “over-signing” that you hear about in SEC-land, where they sign as many as they can every cycle and then “cut the fat” off the end of their scholarship roster through forced attrition (not renewing the scholarships of the roster’s insignificant players). That’s a horrible practice that I could devote an article to. What I’m talking about is the coaches expecting the usual attrition that happens every off-season and planning ahead.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say that 3 scholarship players leave the program prior to the 2014 season. That gives the staff 17 scholarships to use (14+3). Given the depth of the 2015 class, that’s not very many. I’m thinking that Helfrich and Co. would like about 20 scholarships to work with. So, instead of only signing 17, they decide to go ahead and sign 20. At 87, this would give them three more scholarship players than they would be able to begin the 2015 season with assuming they honored all scholarship commitments (which they would surely do).
Essentially, the coaches would be planning for pre-2015 attrition. It’s risky, since it might force them to make an uncomfortable decision or two if their projection of future attrition is off, but the alternative is playing it ultra conservative and planning for ZERO attrition apart from Mariota’s early entry into the 2015 draft. In that scenario, they’d only sign 17.
It’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out. As an Oregon fan, it’s probably a good idea to cheer for some higher-than-normal attrition this spring/summer courtesy of guys who haven’t yet and aren’t likely to make an impact. More attrition means a larger class in 2015, and that could pay big dividends.
Here’s the 2015 class position breakdown I’d like to see:
= 19 Players Signed
Right now, if I had to guess, I’d go with a class size of 18-19. Whether the coaches are planning ahead or there’s higher-than-normal attrition this off-season, I think Oregon won’t allow itself to miss out on the wealth of talent available this year, especially when so much of that talent is highly interested in wearing the green and yellow. And if early interest is any indication, the 2015 cycle could be a special one.
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