National signing day is officially over, but the Ducks appear to be just getting started. You may have noticed the Ducks getting a steady influx of beastly recruits over the past few months, both on the gridiron and the hardwood. Your eyes do not deceive you. Oregon has been racking up talent left and right along the way to the 14th and 17th-ranked recruiting classes in football and basketball, respectively.
To provide some background, the Ducks have officially signed 22 football players for the class of 2015. That includes six offensive linemen, four running backs/wideouts, four defensive linemen, three defensive backs, three linebackers, one tight end, and one quarterback. Eight are four-star recruits, one is a five-star, and seven players are ranked in the ESPN 300 for 2015.
Our basketball recruiting is nothing to shake a stick at either. Oregon has picked up three four-star commits; two guards and one forward. The recent, unexpected acquisition of star guard Tyler Dorsey has the future of Duck basketball looking brighter than ever.
I’ll leave the recruiting analysis to someone else, but I want to touch on just how important this is for University of Oregon athletics.
Talent like this doesn’t come around every year. Oregon has never been known for its recruiting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Take, for example, our latest four-star football recruit, Kirk Merritt. Merritt hails from Destrehan, a town of 11,000 on the eastern coast of Louisiana. Merritt received offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida State, and Texas A&M, to name a few. How often can a school from the Northwest get a recruit so highly coveted, from a region so rarely combed by the West Coast?
Merritt was the Nike SPARQ competition national champion and is one of the most athletic players in the country. Obviously Oregon is no stranger to athleticism, but to be able to sign such a gifted player from the deep South is almost unheard of for the Ducks. SEC and Big 12 schools snatch up the majority of talent in the South, making it extremely difficult to bring big recruits from that region to the Northwest.
Recent signee Alex Ofodile out of Missouri is another example. The four-star standout receiver chose Oregon over 28 other schools including Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and his in-state Tigers. What’s more, he’s 6-foot-2! What? A four-star wideout with size actually chose to come to Eugene? I was as surprised as you are.
To put it in perspective, this year just one player out of the top 15 athletes (as ranked by ESPN) chose to go to a school outside of the SEC, Big 12, or Florida State. Lucky Ducks, that player happens to be Canton Kaumatule, a 6-foot-6 defensive end out of Hawaii. But the point still stands. Historically, Oregon has had a hard time recruiting stud athletes from the southern gold mines of Florida, Texas, and Alabama.
You can talk about LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, or Josh Huff, but those guys were not as highly touted as some of the players the Ducks are signing today. They were trained to become some of the best players Oregon has ever seen, but it took keen scouting and a lot of hard work to realize their potential. Now players are coming to Eugene simply destined for greatness. The Ducks’ football recruiting class is loaded with skilled, physical monsters, just waiting to make plays on the Autzen turf; and the basketball class includes the biggest recruit of the Dana Altman era.
This goes to show how much of a national brand the University of Oregon has become. It’s easy to take for granted these days, but Duck football and basketball have been spectacular over the past few years. This year in particular, with a trip to the National Championship and a Heisman Trophy winner (Thanks Marcus), Oregon football solidified its presence as one of the best football programs in the nation.
It doesn’t hurt that the College Football Playoff got the highest ratings of any cable TV program in history. That doesn’t go unnoticed, especially by recruits. These days there is even a section in the Nike store in New York for Duck apparel (Thanks Uncle Phil)!
The Ducks’ success on the field and on the court finally seems to be paying off at the high school level. The University of Oregon is getting recognized, and great players want to be part of what we have here. Of course, all of this is happening right as I am about to graduate, but I’m not bitter (yes I am). Oregon athletics is at an all time high, and the rest of the world is actually starting to notice. I can’t wait to see what the Ducks have in store for the years to come.
Top photo by John Sperry