Recruiting Strategy: Helfrich Has Ducks Building Momentum Quickly

Mark Helfrich 27,National Championship ,14,JS

Things are good in Eugene these days. Not only is summer in full effect and the weather great, but the hometown Oregon Ducks are compiling a fantastic recruiting class that seems to continue to heat up as well.

Last season, the Ducks finished with the No. 16-ranked recruiting class. The Ducks landed five-star defensive lineman Canton Kuamatule, the first five-star to sign since Oregon landed in-state stud Thomas Tyner in 2013. Also, the 2015 recruiting class finished with seven four-star players and a total of 22 signees.

Last year was good, but this year has the potential to be great. In fact, more talent committed to the Ducks over the past week; now they have 14 players verbally committed and already have eight four-star recruits pledging to be Men of Oregon. Coach Mark Helfrich and his staff seem to have hit their stride early on in this recruiting season.

Last Thursday, July 9, was a big day for Oregon. The Ducks received verbal commits from a pair of four-star athletes, defensive back Jared Mayden and linebacker LaMar Winston.

Jared Mayden


Jared Mayden

Mayden is a big get for the Ducks. The No. 134-ranked player in the nation, and No. 11-ranked cornerback had 43 scholarship offers in total, and had Oregon, Ohio State and Alabama in his top three. Mayden joins fellow four-star cornerback Troy Warner (No. 23 cornerback), Brady Breeze (No. 9 safety), and Troy Dye (No. 42 safety) as the defensive back verbal commits for 2016.

Defensive back isn’t necessarily a need for Oregon, as their roster is filled with freshman and sophomores, but a team can always improve its depth. Mayden will join a talented secondary when he arrives on campus next season, but considering that the Oregon roster is already fairly young in the secondary, and they already have two commits at the position for this year, will the Ducks take another cornerback?

I believe they will for two reasons. First, Dye will likely play outside linebacker or a box safety hybrid as a Duck. Dye stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs in at more than 200 pounds; if he can add some size and retain his speed he could bring some needed depth to the linebacking corps. Second, the Ducks have a shot at getting the No. 7 corner in the country, Nigel Knott, according to Justin Hopkins of 247sports.

Knott would instantly add a tremendous talent to an already strong secondary class for the Ducks. Hopkins writes, “Nigel Knott remains one of the top targets and [is] still a realistic option. The staff has some ground to make up but can still do it if he gets on campus.” Currently, Knott is considered a soft Florida State lean, but if he gets a visit to Eugene, who knows what could happen — I’m sure there would be plenty of talk about the Rose Bowl thrashing the Ducks put on the Seminoles. Stay tuned to see what develops with Knott if/when he gets to visit the Oregon campus.

LaMar Winston


LaMar Winston

Another recent commit, LaMar Winston‘s addition will be absolutely huge for the Ducks. Much has been made previously about Oregon’s needs for linebackers for the future, and getting a verbal from Winston certainly helps.

Aside from being a needed body for future depth, Winston is a very skilled linebacker. Standing 6-foot-4, he has the size and ball recognition to transition very well to the next level. Give him some time to develop and add muscle to his frame, and the sky is the limit for this kid. He joins four-star player Darrian Franklin as the only linebackers verbally committed to the Ducks.

Another thing to think about with Winston is that he is an in-state player; after last year’s class signed zero in-state guys, the Ducks have three players verbally committed this year. In fact, those are the only three in-state players who have had offers from the Ducks.

Justin Hopkins said it perfectly: “Let that sink in. Oregon has only offered three players in-state and all three of them are committed by July … That’s some power. That’s creating a demand.” The Ducks have effectively become a national brand with the ability to bring in players from all over the country, and when they want to, they can hand-select the in-state talent they desire because they are by far the best program in the state of Oregon.

Bryce Youngquist at The Opening Los Angeles.

Tom Hauck (247sports)

Bryce Youngquist at The Opening Los Angeles.

The Winston verbal commit had an impact in other areas of recruiting as well. The No. 11 linebacker in the 2016 class, Bryce Youngquist, has decided to move his commitment date up in the wake of Winston’s verbal commit. Youngquist would be another big get for the Ducks, again adding depth and talent at a position that thins out tremendously after the next two seasons.

According to Hopkins, Youngquist said, “Oregon has always been high on my list. There isn’t anything bad about the school. Eugene is a great city, a football town and I love the program.” Youngquist plans to make his decision “sometime in the next two or three weeks.” He is considered a strong Oregon lean, and his recruitment will be something for all Duck fans to keep an eye on in the upcoming weeks.

This recruiting class could be the highest-rated class in program history by the time everything is signed and official. With seven seasons in a row with at least 10 wins, the Ducks have ascended to the “reload not rebuild” mentality in recruiting. Only time will tell for sure how this class will look come signing day, but as of right now, this class is looking incredible.

Side Notes:

Oregon had five-star defensive lineman Rashard Lawarence on campus for a visit this past Tuesday. The Ducks are considered a long shot to sign the DT, but anything can happen once the player arrives on campus for the visit.

Oregon target Jordan Parker has decommited from UCLA. Even though the No. 12-ranked corner is interested in the green and yellow, he has yet to receive an offer from the Ducks. Stay tuned for updates.

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

Top Photo by John Sperry

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Nik Brownlee

Nik Brownlee

University of Oregon alumnus and Duck football fanatic. Born in Eugene and raised in Autzen Stadium, sports are the foundation for who I am. Passionate about fitness, the outdoors and making people laugh. If I'm not talking about sports, chances are I'm listening to my music too loud.

  • Jeff Sherwood

    Great Article with solid in depth analysis I’m excited to see who joins the flock next year. I know whoever the Ducks get they will be ready to roll going into the season.


    Great stuff Nik and it’s really entertaining to know the brand of winning and how this program and along with NIKE are building a national brand. To the people that keep saying it will fade, maybe you should quit your day jobs because you certainly don’t know didly! I had a feeling this year’s recruiting after all was done is going to be the best in program history and next years recruits are already visiting Oregon as in what 2 5 stars already. I certainly would love this staff to get that QB from Bishop Gorman to play in Eugene as he is skillful.

  • debtfree9

    There is no doubt the Ducks are a brand! When I have family from the eastern part of the country talking to me about them, I know they have made a dent. And when my brother came to view the NCAA Track and Field championships, he was thrilled to get a tour of the facilities. He said what you hear from potential athletes “I am blown away” and he does not impress easily. This article nailed it.

    • Matthew Montgomery

      Spending most of my life in PA, even living in State College for my childhood, I have always been a strong Penn State fan, even to this day. When I recently moved back to my hometown (Hershey), I decided to establish a closer relationship with my father, so I decided to follow more college football so we would have something to discuss and share in common. Up to that point, I knew squat about college football, other than to root for Penn State. Then I learned about conferences (go figure) and decided to pick one team in each conference to root for and learn about. Here was my list:

      1. B1G: PSU (MSU’s my second)
      2. SEC: Arkansas
      3. Big 12: Iowa State
      4. ACC: VT
      5. PAC12: Oregon

      After a short period of time, I found myself only interested in Oregon, keeping tabs on PSU only out of duty, and occasionally reading about Arkansas because in a round about way, I hope our B1G secret agent (Bilema), can one day overrun Alabama and Auburn on a frequent basis. Nonetheless, I have watched every Oregon game that’s on YouTube several times, with the exception of the National Championship game against OSU (it was just hard to watch for me too many times), most of the highlight videos, coaching staff interviews, hype videos, the Oregonian, daily, all fan sites, etc. I’ve bought into the Oregon brand and completely by a random whim. If I did decide to get a Master’s Degree, it would be at Oregon, just so I could experience Eugene and go to Oregon home games and a few road trips to closer venues.

      While I will never have the street credit as a Oregon grad or Oregon resident, I’m a die-hard fan and supporter from afar. I got my “O” gear and wear it on game days. Frankly, the PAC12 is my favorite conference overall. Man, I just love watching that conference compete.

      Anyway, life is strange. I like reading content on this site, as it has articles likes these, and a great comment section with good insight. I hope one day to get out there and join you all (maybe even this year, when Oregon plays Utah) and be in Autzen Stadium, among all the fans, representing the east coast for Oregon. :)

  • GoDucks

    “Last season, the Ducks finished with the No. 16-ranked recruiting class.”

    What I would really like to know, although I’m too lazy to find out for myself, is how much higher-ranked this class would be if the Vernon Adams get were to be included. Surely he must rate at least the equivalent of a 4-star, but I would bet a 5er, given that he was a Top 2 player in ‘Div 2’ for two years in a row – a football playing field that is surely much better than high school….

    Can anybody on this site answer how this more realistic measure of our last class would place us on 247, Rivals and so on?

    • SeattleDuck

      The classes also don’t take into consideration when players are signed after national signing day, or when players don’t qualify for school.