The Oregon Ducks have lost two major commitments for the 2016 class in the last two weeks or so. Is the program falling apart? Is the end of Oregon’s success coming to an end? Is it time to panic? Will the Ducks ever sign another 5-star again?
Whoa! Slow down there buddy! This is NOT the collapse of Oregon football recruiting! Sure, Theo Howard, the 4-star wide receiver from California de-committed. He was a vocal leader that helped recruit others to Oregon — he is now having second thoughts about whether Eugene is too far from home. Then 4-star cornerback Troy Warner de-committed just trying to think things through to make sure he picks the right place for his four years in college. Even these two are not entirely lost and may end up signing with Oregon when all is said and done, but there is still optimism of a talent-laden class without them.
With the loss of Howard and Warner, that leaves Oregon with 12 commitments for 2016. This is still the highest amount of recruits Oregon has had before the kickoff of the first game in the fall. The Ducks are still in good shape with the athletes that are still firm with their verbal pledges. If anything, the loss of Howard’s recruiting efforts has led to Jared Mayden stepping up in that leadership role and has given him incentive to begin his own legacy of aiding the recruiting success. So, obviously the program is not falling apart with over five months left until signing day.
It is not time to panic but time to look forward to the official visits to begin. We know of 12 official visits that will happen. I will list the visits that have been made known to me by the hard work done by our friends at Duck Territory for 247sports.com. One of the Oregon recruiting analysts, Justin Hopkins, has made extensive efforts to contact current and potentially committed players to get dates of the games each will attend. The list does include a few who are not committed to Oregon yet and likely to frequently change.
The busiest date at this point is October 10th, when the Washington State Cougars travel to Eugene. Five of the six listed are currently committed to the Ducks. Brady Breeze, Cameron McCormick, Mayden, Dillon Mitchell and LaMar Winston have penciled this particular game for their official visit. The only non-committed visitor will be 5-star Caleb Kelly for the WSU game. The Civil War on November 27th currently has three players arriving in Eugene on officials: Logan Bathke, Jacob Capra and Vavae Malepeai. Troy Dye will visit November 7th, and uncommitted candidates Andrew Fitzgerald and Javon McKinley are coming when Oregon takes on Cal.
Only Seth Green has opened up the USC game November 21st for his official, while Hunter Kampmoyer is going solo September 26th versus Utah. Two key dates for now will be September 5th when current Nebraska commit, quarterback Terry Wilson, will be in Eugene to watch Eastern Washington get a shot at potentially trying to stop its old quarterback who transferred in the offseason. Finally, the date I am most anxious for will be the game with Georgia State September 19th, when one of the most coveted players in the nation, Nigel Knott, plans to visit Eugene. The CB from Mississippi has announced that he will make his verbal commitment after this visit on September 23rd. Knott’s father played for defensive back coach John Neal at Ole Miss years ago. My hope is that Knott is sufficiently blown away by the atmosphere and facilities and game day experience to desire the same tutelage as his pops.
With the loss of a top WR, Oregon has an official visit from another top WR in McKinley. Eugene will be his final visit before he announces his commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game on January 9th. For a long time, McKinley was considered all USC until the Trojans picked up a fifth WR pledge. Now Oregon must battle Notre Dame for McKinley’s talents. Two other names that may replace Howard as a WR option if he’s gone for good are N’keal Harry and Tre Nixon. Harry will most likely stay in the heat of the South but has great height for snagging the ball from thin air. Nixon is a better fit in Oregon’s offense with tremendous quickness and cutting abilities to avoid tackles.
If Warner doesn’t stick with his initial commitment this may sway Knott even more with the potential to step in as a true freshman and get early playing time. Another that might replace Warner is Isaiah Gilchrist, even though he’s nearly a lock for Washington. However, one DB departure may open up a place for another in the form of a safety. Brandon Jones has expressed interest in Oregon being one of his five official visits. Jones may be that intelligent prep star that sees early playing time at Oregon staring him in the face and becomes the next 5-star to commit to the Ducks.
If I haven’t offered enough encouragement for optimism yet, I have more to say regarding the potential for the 2016 class as a whole. First, Oregon is not finished handing out scholarship offers. Two important offers may come to WR Dylan Crawford and CB Jordan Parker. I’m not saying these two would be Oregon locks but if they received the highly anticipated offer from Oregon, it would get their attention really fast. Two quarterbacks that may soon see offers headed their way are Hawaii’s McKenzie Milton and local Oregonian Justin Herbert.
There is plenty of speculation regarding many others wanting to take an official visit to Eugene. At least two elite prospects that are currently committed to USC want to visit Oregon. A huge prize would be linebacker Mique Juarez who does it all for his high school team — even quarterback. Another is Keyshon Camp, a 4-star defensive tackle from Florida. He says to 247sports.com that he would fit well with Oregon’s speed because he is quick for a defensive lineman. I would like to see Juarez pull a “DeAnthony Thomas” as a 5-star committed to USC but signing with Oregon in the end.
My final question is whether Oregon will be able to pull a 5-star prospect this next recruiting cycle. The answer is definitely unknown, however, there are options for Oregon to get a few shots at signing at least one in February. The three I’ve mentioned who want to take an official visit to Eugene are Jones, Juarez and Kelly. Other 5-stars that have an offer from Oregon are unlikely to commit outside the SEC. Remember to keep in mind that the success of Oregon does not come from a big group of the highest rated prospects. The coaches are able to find and coach up”diamonds in the rough” talent, getting more out of 3- and 4-stars than what the evaluators projected.
Oregon is not dropping out of the Pac-12 race any time soon. With more consecutive 9-win seasons than any school in the big five conferences, Oregon is in great shape with the development of the veterans and especially the true freshmen this fall. With the Heisman, the foundation is complete. Now it is time to soar to new heights and become a dynasty that wins national titles. If Howard or Warner chooses not to be a part of the best Duck years ever, so be it.
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.
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Top photo by Kevin Cline