The off season for the Oregon Ducks football team has proven to be a little hectic, causing some fans to wonder what will happen to their favored program. With the unusual amount of transfers and departures in the off season, there are going to be questions about the depth of talent and concerns with the coaches retaining the scholarship players. I’m here to tell you to not worry. There’s no need for that fifth cup of coffee before 8:00 a.m., while stressing about Oregon’s future. We fans will not see a sudden jump off the elite cliff into abysmal mediocrity. The coaching staff is just doing a little spring cleaning, and the game is set to get even better.
Some of what the Ducks are going through can be compared to a car wash. Why? In your average car wash, hose growling vacuums suck up everything that’s left in cracks and crevices of each forgotten corner of the interior of cars. From Tic-Tacs to trash. From pet hair to pebbles. But despite the mess there is a reward — money in the vacuums. It might be amazing how much change you could find that seemed to be someone else’s overlooked waste. Some might see the cleanup as discouraging, but look closer, and it’s a potential wealth that will pay dividends after time.
As I look at the current offensive line recruits for the class of 2015, I see Coach Steve Greatwood looking at some lesser known players in the grand schematic. The likes of Alabama, LSU or Ohio State would envision the contents as less desirable. Particularly, Alabama prefers to recruit kids that don’t need much coaching because they are nearly NFL-ready coming out of high school.
Oregon sees the players in a different light by seeking the “treasures” that others overlook. Coach Greatwood has a knack for finding the players with lots of potential because he is confident in his coaching abilities. Oregon is actually great at “coaching up” players to grow into really good talent at several OL positions.
The offensive line has some good depth, so you may be wondering why we have five commitments already and potentially one or two more willing to play for the Ducks. Only one, Zach Okun, is a gold tier athlete that has all three major recruiting sites ranking him as a four-star offensive guard. He has the size already in high school, so earns that fourth star.
The other linemen may have the necessary skills – being the best lineman on their designated schools – but haven’t reached that size or weight that may push them into the gold tier level. Shane Lemieux is a silver tier lineman, with Rivals.com giving him the only four star. Calvin Throckmorton and Jake Hanson are solid bronze athletes with three stars across the board. Then Brady Aiello is bronze, too, but has two stars with Scout.com. I’ll be the first to say that it would be great to get those platinum-tier offensive linemen to come to Eugene to bust holes for the speedy weapons the Ducks have, but these commitments so far are guys that are true and are hungry to work hard for the team. The fans don’t need to worry about selfish prima donnas with these young men.
After Tuesday, Oregon now has 11 commitments for the class of 2015, and the question of how many scholarships Oregon will use for this recruiting cycle has popped up several times on Duck Territory. Where do the Ducks go to fill the rest of the scholarship openings that have been vacated by the recent departures of Jake Rodrigues, Damion Hobbs, Tyrell Robinson, Eric Amoako and Oshay Dunmore? This currently leaves Oregon with 68 scholarship players that will be eligible to play in the 2015 season. The Ducks are capped at 84 total scholarships due to NCAA sanctions to give them 16 available scholarships to work with for the 2015 recruiting class.
Having 11 commitments and 16 slots available for scholarships doesn’t mean Oregon will recruit only five more athletes for the 2015 class. With the blurry law of attrition that is so unpredictable, several more players may not be around next year at this time, which would allow the Ducks to sign a few more recruits in February. This could be a signing class total of roughly 20 guys. The current commitments on offense form a solid foundation and Oregon may take another quarterback and receiver, but it’s the defense that has ground to make up. Two defensive backs have committed thus far, and depending on which defensive guys the Ducks pick up, Oregon could end up with a Top 10 recruiting class.
I imagine that the new defensive coordinator, Don Pellum, would like to start his first full recruiting cycle with a spark by signing some high-profile blue chippers with the likes of Byron Cowart from Florida. Adding Cowart could start a recruiting upheaval that would disrupt the Southeastern Conference’s recruiting dominance in the South. He is that talented and would be able to start very quickly in Eugene (if playing time is a factor for this beast).
Similar to the trending signs all over the internet, I will say to all the Oregon football fans, “Keep calm and watch Oregon upgrade its talent.” Like spring cleaning and giant car wash vacuums, cleaning up the ranks will bring potential “treasures” and make things look even better.
Top photo by Andrew Shurtleff