Two Recruiting Revelations That Surprised FishDuck

We all know of them, the “Web Wackos” who post crazy stuff about Oregon football on the major recruiting message boards.  You would think they had never experienced a recruiting season before, and perhaps for some of the 14-year-olds posting (in maturity, if not biological), that is true.

Sitting at the recruiting luncheon in Eugene, Oregon, a week ago made me think of some of the ludicrous things written and how what I was hearing and seeing was not only disproving their notions, but surprising me significantly with what was being revealed.  Sharing two of them with colleagues produced some “huh?!” moments about Oregon recruiting and made me rethink the direction of Oregon talent evaluation along with some insight about the Ducks’ Head Coach, Mark Helfrich.

“Coach Helfrich does not have the ‘It’ factor for great recruiting.”

Coach focused upon a play call vs. UCLA

From Video

Coach focused on a play call vs UCLA.

As I listened to him at the luncheon, I was amazed at how well he spoke, and how comfortable he was before hundreds of fans. He spoke quickly with an occasional higher vocabulary-type word, which accented his intelligence, but he also has a quick wit and a delightful sense of humor.

He was fun to listen to, and clearly was adept at public speaking and very Bellottiesque in his charm.  I was picturing him in a recruit’s living room and relating well to him and his  family, but he had superb speaker’s “poise” on this day in front of so many.  I was pretty surprised.

Coach Helfrich at Press Conference

From Video

Coach Helfrich at Press Conference

The last time I heard Mark speak in public was a year earlier when he announced to the press how the rules concerning closed practices were continuing.

It was like two different speakers, and it hit me how he was just beginning then as Head Coach, and now I am seeing him in public a year later.  My feathered friends — we ALL get better year to year, and I’m not sure how much more he could improve, because I thought his speaking skills were superb.  (I do a ton of public speaking about Planned Giving for Nonprofits, and graduated from Oregon in Rhetoric.) 

Perhaps his style, his projection does not show well on television.  Maybe that is the reason why Oregon fans have doubts about his “It” factor?  No matter, as I now have every confidence in him speaking well on behalf of Oregon football; in fact, he was such an interesting guy that I’d love to have a beer with him, to talk about — everything. That was quite an impression he made on me.

“The Oregon staff got outworked by other Pac-12 teams, big-time!”

There have been fans murmuring this in the background for years, and Coach Helfrich addressed it last week by explaining that the coaching staff had been in ONE THOUSAND high schools and 31 states over the past year!  That is hard to wrap my head around — the travel, the cost, the millions of logistical details.  NOBODY is outworking this staff, as Coach Helfrich has implemented his own brand of aggressive recruiting at Oregon.  Last year he was taking the entire coaching staff on the road to see each prospect individually in order to preserve the recruiting class after Kelly had left, this was a new strategy never done at Oregon before.

Morgan Mahalak runs the Zone Read to perfection for a 50 yard TD.

From Video

Morgan Mahalak runs the Zone Read to perfection for a 50-yard TD.

This year I saw that he had begun making offers to potential 2015 recruits before the 2014 cycle was even done!  I consulted with Recruiting Analyst Chris Charbonnier to confirm that this, too, had never been done by the Ducks before.  This coach is pulling out all the stops to improve our recruiting classes!

NFL Ready Royce Freeman

From Video

NFL Ready Royce Freeman

‘Helf stated again that the No. 1 component to the recruit is distance.  The bigger the recruit, the more apt he will stay close to Mama’s cooking because he CAN.  Do you think Sark could have pulled JuJu Smith or Adoree Jackson to Washington?  Dream on; he got those recruits in Los Angeles simply because he was THERE.

We are at a terrible disadvantage in recruiting as we are so far away from so many of the best prospects and their families, hence it takes a brave young man with conviction to come to Oregon and build a life in college football.  There are simply not enough of them, and I consider what we DO have as an amazing blessing of talent.  No wonder we love them!

The second killer component working against Oregon in recruiting is our state’s meager high school talent base.  We offered only TWO in-state players and received an LOI from one, thus you cannot build a team on the sparse offerings of our home-grown talent.  Texas (UT) is a LONG way from anywhere, thus, what if they had no talent in their state?  They would have the Oregon effect taking place with them.

Rarely does anyone put these two crippling recruiting constraints together to explain the uphill battle faced by our coaching staff.  Washington is even further away from recruits than Oregon, but the Evergreen State produces enough superb high school talent each year to supply one team at least. By contrast, Oregon has a stunning Double-Whammy in recruiting against them – distance AND low in-state talent offerings.  By all measures, coaches Brooks, Bellotti, Kelly and now Helfrich, have outperformed this recruiting dilemma dealt to them.

Hard Hitting Safety Glenn Ihenacho

From Video

Hard Hitting Safety Glenn Ihenacho

To me, our recruiting class helped to solidify our place among the elite, as this talent will keep us contending for national honors, even if it was not as highly rated as some would wish.  Considering our innate recruiting disadvantages — it is a killer class.  (Just ask Oregon State or Washington State who both deal with the same inherent difficulties.)  Supplementary information divulged this past week about the Oregon Head Coach, and the new recruiting practices implemented, has put this fan’s concerns aside.

Now let’s enjoy Spring Football!


Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for
Eugene, Oregon

(Top photo of Alamo Bowl from Video)

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