Two Recruiting Revelations That Surprised FishDuck

Alamo Bowl

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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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • UO Fan

    I couldn’t agree more with challenges Oregon faces in regards to recruiting. The staff has done a remarkable job regardless of the challenges they face. The branding and success of Oregon Ducks Football is not firmly in place today because of luck or simply NIKE. Its the intelligent, loyal, committed, talented and high character people that make Oregon Ducks Football what it is. The program is fortunate to have such a person leading this program. IMO Coach Helfrich has more than the “IT” factor. He has the “What Matters” factor.

  • Sar Chasm

    Well, maybe the state of Oregon doesn’t produce much 4-5 star D-1 talent, but at least we’re surrounded by the rich recruiting pastures of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and western Canada.


      Please go back too your day job, because Oregon does way better than any of the Northern Teams in recruiting, and now more so then ever theyare getting highly rated kids from as far as the EAST Coast, and there’s not 1 kid from those 5 States you just mentioned, and Sarcasm SUCK’s, so get over yourself.

  • just ducky

    Thanks for the great insights. As an Oregon graduate in Rhetoric you will appreciate a favorite saying of Dr. Dominic LaRusso; Ad astra per aspera “A rough road leads to the stars.”

    • FishDuck

      WOW! A fellow Rhetoric major (the field was eliminated with budget cuts) who recalls Dr. LaRusso!

      My favorite LaRusso story is when he asked all of us what the UO motto in Latin meant….and there was silence. “Mens Agitat Molem!” is what he shouted. “Mind controls Matter!”

      He then looked down forlorn, and then looked upward with his arms lifted and said to all of us….”all of this for the price of tuition!”

      I use a variation of that joke often….. (and I still remember that over 30 years later…)

      • just ducky

        I love it. No one who ever took a class from him went away unchanged. Another favorite of his was Sic Transit Gloria Mundi – How fleeting is the glory of the world. Makes you appreciate the fantastic success of our Mighty Ducks.

  • hokieduck

    I think that Helfrich is very naturally self-effacing and that is quite unusual from a person in his position. IMO, that is where the “lacking the ‘it’ factor” comes from for many people.

    Especially in today’s world where we put our innermost thoughts on public display in 140 characters and Facebook, where we almost deify celebrity (the more outrageous the better for the bottom line, think Richard Sherman), where it is considered paramount to brag and swag and bully in order to prove “I am a man” (think Mike Gundy), a nice guy who deflects praise and is intentionally humble will almost certainly be perceived as lacking the “it” factor.

    If Helfrich makes Oregon his own program, puts his stamp on things and wins, that apprehension of him as lacking the “it” factor will change. Until then, it is fortunate that Helfrich doesn’t seem to give even the smallest damn about public perception.


    The thing I noticed about this Class is 17 of these kids were Captains on their respective Teams, and that say’s a lot about what our Staff is looking for especially when last years Team was LACKING in clear Leadership on both side’s of the Ball. Oregon if they fix a few of the problems from last year like the O Line being so under weight for some ODD Reason, and Helfrich tell’s Marcus he needs to step up as far as being the Leader on this Offense as far as BARKING at guys when they don’t do their job, this offense should be in reality better than last years Team, especially if this O Line runs up the GUT, where they have failed to do the last few years, and it’s the Defense that I highly believe will be a way better D than last year and Don Pellum with all the Talent he has at his disposal on that side will get the BEST 11 Players with dicipline and better Tackling and just Attacking Offenses, this could be a undefeated Team especially if they all get that WTD attitude that you will not beat us it could happen, So I’m going out on a limb here that Oregon does indeed get the PAC 12 Title back and get’s into the 4 Team Playoff and if they do, then I think this will be their BEST Shot at finally getting it done, the NATTY that is. Then more than likely the 2015 Recruiting might indeed be the BEST Class ever and wont matter the distance because winning it all does count in recruit’s eye’s, way more than FANCY Building’s.