Asking the Tough Questions About Oregon Football Recruiting

Autzen Stadium

The best thing about recruiting is that concerns and questions tend to pop up throughout the entire year. My continued analysis of Oregon Duck football recruiting has me asking the tough questions as we begin the month of August.

Big Duck fans, the author with Steve Roberts enjoying a reunion before the Stanford game in 2014

Jason Fowler

Big Duck fans, the author with Steve Roberts enjoying a reunion before the Stanford game in 2014.

With the tremendous, early start to the 2016 recruiting class, the tough questions aren’t easy to find. With a class ranking already inside the top 15 midway through the recruiting season, Oregon is poised to finish with a top 10 class for only the second time in school’s history. Nik Brownlee had a very nice analysis a couple of weeks ago with the current committed prospects. This class is built for success.

Elite Linemen

My first question after looking at the positions that are filling up is, “Why isn’t there an elite lineman committed yet?” I have no answer for this. I can understand that some offensive linemen might be a little wary about committing when the Ducks brought in so many O-linemen last recruiting cycle.

However, all championship teams have solid backups, and backups often make it to the field. This year seems like the perfect year to grab at least one elite offensive lineman to bolster the incoming freshmen a year from now.

I’m completely shocked that not a single elite D-lineman has jumped at the opportunity to be a part of one of the best teams in the nation. Oregon, Auburn and Alabama are the only teams to appear in more than one championship game since the 2010 title matchup. Oregon lost both games it appeared in, which in part can be attributed to a lack of defensive line depth. Any elite D-lineman anywhere in the country who watched the most recent championship game should have Oregon on his radar as a legitimate opportunity to get early playing time with a top-level team.

Oregon still has time to flip this beast from Clemson

Sean Scherer 247sports

Oregon still has time to flip this beast from Clemson.

When Oregon loses a great defensive end such as Arik Amstead, two power rushers should jump in eagerly to take his place. Only one blue chip wanted to fill the void in 2015 – Canton Kaumatule.

Though it’s still quite a while before signing day, a 4-star end had the Ducks listed in his top eight, but chose Clemson instead. You might think he’s from the South, but Xavier Kelly resides in Kansas. Yup! There’s virtually no difference in distance for this play-making athlete.

“How does Oregon make an early offer and get in the final list but not even get a visit before losing out to another school? Did the staff ‘give up’?” Kelly picked an underachieving team over the Ducks. Clemson has had two top 10 classes in the last five years, and a record of 48-18 in that time playing only once for the conference title in a less competitive conference than the Pac-12 or SEC.

Calling All DT’s

“Who is hogging all the defensive tackles?” If the No. 2 team in the nation isn’t getting any of the available DT’s, then who is? Our friends at 247sports.com and the awesome Crystal Ball predictions give us a glimpse of where each candidate is most likely to sign with in February. The Crystal Ball changes during the year, but offers an insightful gage of where the players are going. So, looking through the list of top tackles, there are several programs that have two or more DT’s committed already with potential for more.

Surprisingly, the University of Houston currently tops all schools, with two top 25 DT’s committing one day apart in May, and two more just this week. Wow! Houston can get four defensive tackles, two of them having elite status, but Oregon can’t even get one!

Rashard Lawrence is an elite DT that made an unofficial visit to Oregon

247sports

Rashard Lawrence is an elite DT that made an unofficial visit to Oregon.

Next is Alabama, with three DT’s committed so far: a 4-star and two 3-stars. That might not be good enough for the Crimson Tide this year, because they have high interest from another six.

Then comes Georgia. The Bulldogs have two current top 25 DT’s committed, with the Crystal Ball showing them as the favorite for two more as well.

Lastly, LSU is also hoarding defensive tackles. With two already committed, the Tigers are also primed to pick up three more from the top 50.

With all these schools getting multiple defensive tackles, I have trouble seeing why Oregon can’t pick up one or two. The last legitimate 4-star DT the Ducks signed was Ricky Heimuli in 2010.

If you’re looking for an elite 5-star defensive tackle, you need to go way back to 2002 when Oregon struck it rich with Haloti Ngata. I’m still waiting for someone to become the next “Ngata” for the Ducks. “Who’s going to step up as an elite defensive tackle and sign with Oregon?”

Ngata is arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of Oregon

USA TODAY Sports via 247sports

Ngata is arguably the best defensive tackle in the history of Oregon.

More Scholarship Offers

“Why do the coaches seem to ignore some talented players that are begging for an offer from Oregon?”

I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering why offers haven’t been made to certain prospects who would most likely commit to Oregon the moment they receive the offer. Oregon is one of the few football teams to take time with each player to really study him and discover more than his 40 time and how he sheds blocks.

Grades are important, too, and so is the way he treats his peers, parents and teachers. If a high school kid learns respect early, then the staff knows his quality of character will keep him from causing huge distractions to the team.

Even with the thoroughness of Oregon’s recruiting, I still wonder why certain athletes aren’t getting the nod with a scholarship offer. Some of the names that come to mind are Damian Alloway, Richard Merritt, Andrzet Hughes-Muray, Chase Lucas and Evan Weaver.

The 4-star Alloway is explosive and very quick, much like the many athletes that have come through Oregon. He was a 7-on-7 offensive MVP at one of his camps and despite not having an Oregon offer, still lists the Ducks in his top five. “Is there such a thing as too many fast, do-it-all guys on the roster?

Alloway is an electrifying player without an Oregon offer

Barton Simmons 247sports

Alloway is an electrifying player without an Oregon offer.

Another athlete similar to Alloway is Lucas. The 4-star from Arizona would thrive in the Oregon offense and would jump at the chance to play in Eugene. Possibly his 166-lb. frame has prevented him from getting an offer.

Merritt is intriguing because he is such a huge prospect. The 4-star is 6-foot-5 and nearing 350 lbs. The offensive guard lives on the other side of the country and has included Oregon in his top seven. An offer has still not been extended and it may be due to his weight and perceived slower feet than what’s expected out of Oregon’s offensive line.

Finally the two Washington prep stars, Weaver and Hughes-Muray, are both 3-star talents but play positions of need on defense. Weaver is an end that has nice film, which displays his ability to penetrate behind the line of scrimmage. Hughes-Muray is an inside linebacker, which is hard to come by most years unless you convert an outside linebacker. However, his most impressive offers so far are Utah State and Air Force. If Oregon offered, it would be a guarantee that he’d reach double-digit offers within a month.

These are just a few questions surrounding college football recruiting that continue even after signing day has passed. I can ask the tough questions until I’m blue in the face, but it will never change the fact that these are difficult decisions to make for teenagers. It’s still fun to ask, though.

Duck Territory

Special thanks to Duck Territory at 247sports.com for sharing this information with FishDuck.com. Check out their trial subscriptions for the best up-to-date daily information on Oregon recruiting.

Top photo by Jason Fowler

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Jason Fowler

Jason Fowler

Jason, born and raised in central Oregon, first noticed college football when his older brother attended the University of Oregon. Jason studied English at Southern Oregon University and enjoyed cheering for the school’s team, but longed for that major college game-day experience. That desire slowly blossomed into a fanatical passion for the national feel of college football, especially defending the Pac-12 while challenging conferences like the SEC to step up. He has spent five years expounding on the differences between the two conferences on his blog, buzzbrother2-pac10football.blogspot.com, set up solely for that purpose. Following the Ducks' recruiting progress in the off-season has made college football a year-round hobby for him. He now resides in Spokane, Washington with his incredibly patient, non-football-fan wife and three children, and works as an MRI Technologist. He can be reached at buzzbrother2@msn.com.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    WOW Jason I think you and I plus a plethora of other people are thinking these same thing’s as to why they are not offered or why they don’t want to be that difference maker that puts the Ducks over the top. Even though 2015 on both sides of the ball in Lineman Oregon is 2 deep on both sides and this should be as exciting of a season as any others have been. Maybe this is the year the Ducks finally make it. They have the talent.

  • Puddleduck

    Great article Jason, these are some of the same questions I’ve been asking. If a defense has just one D-lineman that requires an occasional double team to contain him, the rest of the defensive playmakers can clean up. We are there, we have the talent all across the board, except for elite D-linemen. Canton is a huge step in that direction, hopefully his play will coax some more of the monster Island men to come to Oregon. When and If they come, we will when the Natty.

  • Totestoto

    What a great read. The recruiting deal kind of worries me too. :/ We really need better DLs and I’d be all right with a shot gun approach. I guess we’ll have to see what happens for the rest of this class because the only groups we are really lacking in is DL and OL. People can say we brought along a ton of OL last cycle, but they will need time to develop and put on weight. Put differently, if they don’t put on weight or develop, a strong recruit this cycle will beat them out for a spot in the 2 deep come the next season. I certainly hope that Helfrich can do his magic and round out a good class, but we’ll have to wait and see. By the way, Houston is getting some serious riches, I wish we could get some of them. I hope we can add a few more LBs too since the Youngquist miss today hurts. Most don’t want to admit it but that one hurts. We’re losing 4 seniors next year and our LB corps next year relied quite heavily on transfers (nothing wrong but still). That was an awesome read, thanks. By the way, are you going to continue to analyze duck plays? I’m just afraid that opposing coaches come here before they watch Duck tape. ;)

  • SeattleDuck

    I’ll answer a handful.
    Alloway and Lucas play slot, a position Oregon got 3 big talents at in the last class (Merritt, Griffin, Lovette). In the next class, Oregon leads for Tyjon Lindsey, so in ’16, the emphasis is on wide receivers, hence Howard and Mitchell and big body targets such as N’Keal Harry and Javon McKinley.

    With Evan Weaver, Oregon couldn’t go after Connor Murphy or Brian Burns. Hughes-Murphy is a physical specimen who isn’t the caliber of an Oregon linebacker.

    I don’t know anything about Richard Merritt unfortunately.

  • duckusucker

    The D-line situation indeed is troubling and consistent. The first answer I can think of is that these guys don’t want to play in our 3-4 scheme. Staying put and “plugging” just isn’t as interesting as being a mayhem kind-of-player.
    O-line guys just may be wary of our conditioning program. Some fat guys (Ohio St.) are so proud of their pear-shaped bodies they nick name themselves about them.

  • VegasNed

    The polynesian/hawaiian connection is the only way Oregon will bring in “elite” linemen. The west just doesn’t have the selection of hogs that the southern states do, and the big hogs out west will always favor USC first. Location is still the number one factor for most college recruits. Relationships with players/coaches probably second. Scheme fit is another big
    factor. Winning program? Not as big of a factor as we think it is for a 18yr old. Oregon will always have to work REALLY hard on the recruiting trail to bring in the hogs. I actually think they’ve done a good job as of late at the DT position with Rex Manu and Austin Moloata….and then most likely Ngata’s relative in 2017.

    As a side note, Kaumatule wanted to play at Stanford first before choosing Oregon. Even Armstead would have probably gone to USC if it wasn’t for a bad situation at USC with his older brother….even then, Armstead was going to play for Tosh before he bolted from Cal to UW.

    Except for the QB position, I’m not at all worried about recruiting at the skill position for Oregon.

  • Godux

    I find it interesting that we are so intent on evaluating the recruiting class right now. At this point, Oregon has more declarations, I think, than they have ever had this early. Even with the realization that signings, overall, are happening earlier and earlier, I think we are almost dangerously ahead of schedule. The HS ‘targets’ haven’t played a down during their senior years yet.
    Generally we haven’t known who was coming to Eugene until signing day started casting shadows on the possibilities. Not only are there a lot more players declaring they want to Ducks, but a large number of them are planning on early enrollment. Plenty of time remains to create flips, particularly if another strong season is underway or even completed. Flips the other way might follow a disappointing record.
    From what I have seen, Oregon, over the past decade, has done a pretty good job in filling its needs by signing day. Each year seems to be at or above the previous season’s level. Looking at this years list, as it stands, we seem to be on the road to another best ever. Of course it takes a couple of years to know how accurate that is.
    Alabama has been at the top of the heap for the last several years and didn’t get to the championship game last year, probably won’t this season. Our friends down in LA, pick either team, have supposedly out-recruited us regularly and don’t have much to show for it. Meanwhile, up in backwater Oregon, the coaches seem to have a better idea of who can do what on the field and probably do a pretty good job of coaching them up. How highly rated was Marcus? (Yeah, I know he was ‘hidden’ in Hawaii). Oregon seem to be on the other side of the ‘meeting expectation’ line than those I mentioned and other teams that the talking heads say have out recruited the ducks pretty regularly. Oregon clawed its way to where it with classes rated in the lower half of the conference, improving with time.
    Like most of you, I’d like to see Oregon sign a roster of five star guys who are really five star guys but that ain’t going to happen at any school. I’ve developed quite a bit of confidence in the coaches here being able to build an effective roster. I’m certainly not postulating a grade for their work this year yet, particularly with the start they have made.

  • GoDucks

    I’ve often wondered this too. What’s the remedy? I’m figuring that most of the hogs go SEC or to Ohio State etc because there they are sold on pedigree, the vast numbers of guys that make the Next Step.
    If that’s true, then perhaps the best step is to try to buy some of those coaches. It does seem that we are underperforming in this area, relative to the successes we’ve had at the poorly named ‘skill’ positions.

  • Mike Green

    Last year’s D line recruiting was very good,

    if Armstead does well in the NFL, that will be a big boost for the Ducks in future recruiting

  • Larry

    It seems to me like Oregon has a pretty good track record when it comes to recruiting Defensive Lineman. Not great, but pretty good.

    My question is, where are the elite linebackers?