Let the madness begin! Dead period ended January 11th and in-home and official visits resume until signing day, February 1. This is when chaos sets in. Flipping commits from one school to another, last minute changes of plans for visits and recruiting sites trying their darndest to keep up with it all is what makes January the best recruiting month of the year.
The Oregon Duck football team was placed at a disadvantage with the complete overhaul of the coaching staff. However, the new head coach, Willie Taggart, has his heels on fire from traveling so much to reach out to several targets to offer scholarships or reassure that the offers are still honored. His pursuit of success has Oregon seeing new targets that the former staff would never have gone for, let alone attained.
Since the arrival of Taggart, a new recruiting mentality has developed. The Chip Kelly era seemed to dig deep into the lives of each potential target before offering a scholarship was considered. The patches on their backpacks had to be just right. Then Mark Helfrich used the same tactic but tweaked it a little to offer more prospects, using due diligence to make sure the quality of character would be approved.
Now Taggart has completely remodeled the offering system at Oregon. It’s almost like, “Offer now, ask questions later. It will all be settled when it counts.” This is understandable this year, for obvious reasons of having little staff to help determine character and the small window of time to get it done. The recruiting talk surrounding Oregon has definitely heated up because of this new method. There is passion in the process now.
Also, in past years when Helfrich may have shied away from pursuing a potential prospect because he was already committed to another school, Taggart comes in with confidence and will not settle. He seems to have a grasp of what sells the kids on Oregon, whose reputation may have gotten tarnished a bit over the decades of the prior staff who may have forgotten how great it is to be a Duck and how nice and authentic the resources are in Eugene. As an incomplete staff, the current members who are on board are like children seeing their Christmas gift for the first time and wanting to tell everybody about it.
Let’s reflect on who Taggart went after immediately, once he was announced as the new head coach. First, he made a phone call to his old school’s most dynamic offensive committed recruit, to offer a scholarship to Bruce Judson. Since that call, Judson’s recruitment has gone crazy. Because of Taggart, the west side of the country now knows who this young man is.
Also, Taggart jumped on a plane to Hawaii to visit some targets there, including none other than 5-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, an Alabama commit. He recognized the lack of communication from the former staff with this very talented dual-threat QB. It wasn’t until Alabama had offered and gained favor that Oregon finally came around, and by then it was too late. That didn’t stop Taggart from trying, though.
Everyone outside of the former offensive staff was scratching their heads, wondering why more attention was not focused on Tagovailoa. Other quality Hawaiians seemed to have been ignored as well, not utilizing the ever-present Marcus Mariota effect in the islands. To make up for lost time, Taggart has quickly gone in and offered linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia, who is a nice 4-star talent and will likely pick the Ducks — despite being late to the party.
Taggart is also using his Florida roots to bring the heat of Oregon recruiting to his home state. On Twitter, back in early June, some guy @buzzbrother2 (me) wanted a catchy tag to compete with the #Calibraska one popular at the time (how’s that working out?). Instead of talking about the flowers in Oregon, I used #FLOregon in reference to recruiting for the first time. This seems to be actually working out well for Oregon, with three more Florida commits already than the poor Nebraska Cornhuskers, who are trying to get Cali kids to Lincoln.
#FLOregon is not endearing to all, but the mammoth defensive tackle Jordon Scott who recently landed in Eugene from Florida likes it, and his concerned mother used it in one of her own tweets as a proud mama enjoying her son’s success in chasing his dreams. Scott’s size would have scared the prior staff away, judging that he wouldn’t be “fast” enough. Taggart wants him for his size, strength and presence, and so he got him.
Many Florida targets are already committed to other schools, but that doesn’t stop Taggart from going after talented players he knows would make a difference in the Oregon program. Arizona was at the wrong end of a flip when Taggart offered Darrian McNeal out of Seffner, Fla. It seemed as though it took only a few hours for McNeal to de-commit from the Wildcats and commit to his dream school. Now he is heavily involved with Scott in recruiting more Florida studs. Plus, Braxton Burmeister, a 4-star quarterback who was committed to Arizona and wanted to enroll early, recently received an offer from Taggart and is now having a very difficult time choosing. Wow! Taggart is selling it!
After Sunday’s commitment of the versatile and speedy Darrian Felix from Florida, Oregon is back up to 14 commitments. Don’t be surprised if Coach Taggart signs a class of 25-28 prospects. The high number this year will reflect the loss from transfers, graduation, suspensions and the natural attrition of a major sports program. Also, some of the current players may not jibe with the new coaching staff for varied reasons, such as being more strict than previous staff.
That leaves Taggart 11-14 more prospects to pick up in the next three weeks. Most of the targets whom Taggart is aiming for have not officially visited (OV) Oregon yet. Which leads to the question, how many OV’s does Oregon have left for this season? 247sports.com, which tracks the OV’s pretty closely, estimates that the coaches will have roughly 18-20 visitors the next three weekends to fill the 2017 class.
The visitor list, as always, is very fluid. Recruiting is so crazy in the month of January that this list can potentially change every day. I try to track intended visits through 247sports, which does an excellent job of keeping up-to-date information posted, and also through Twitter where many players like to express their recruiting progress.
Now, Oregon is looking at three busy weekends of official visits, including four targets from Florida who are committed to other schools on the weekend of January 20-22. Taggart will pull out all the stops with Judson (still committed to USF), 3-star linebacker DeMarco Artis (FSU), 3-star athlete Demetri Burch (USF) and 3-star linebacker De’Andre Wilder (Miami).
The interesting thing about the above mentioned prep stars is that all four of them would seriously consider coming to Oregon to play football, and each of them would most definitely have been overlooked by Helfrich and company.
The recent announcement of Joe Salave’a being hired as the defensive line coach from WSU has me hoping that defensive tackles across the nation will take notice. The hire should get the attention of Utah defensive end Alden Tofa, who has the Ducks in his top 4 finalists, former Oregon commit Langi Tuifua and Jordan Lolohea. Also, will a Polynesian coach influence Marlon Tuipolutu to flip from Washington or convince Jay Tufele to come to Eugene to play?
Salave’a has enough juice and the resume to sway great talent like Alabama 4-star DE Ryan Johnson or 5-star DT Aubrey Solomon from Georgia, or to give Maryland DT twins Breyon and Brandon Gaddy serious thoughts about tripping to Oregon to see what there is to be offered. Heck, current DE WSU commit Joe Tryon was thinking about visiting Eugene January 20-22 anyway, and to see a familiar face when he arrives may make a major impression.
Coach Taggart has really nailed the assistant coaching hires and created a “dream” staff that can’t lose. The rumors about Mario Cristobal from Alabama would make so much frosting on the top that it would make Clay Helton and Chris Petersen go into a diabetic coma. The top offensive line recruiter in Eugene? That would be so huge!
The class of 2017 may come together and look good, but with a full year of recruiting for the class of 2018, this new staff will show the Oregon alumni what they could have been getting for years. If you are an Oregon target and not getting on this Taggart train, you will regret it as the caboose passes you by. My stomach is doing flips just thinking about how good the future classes will be.
So, follow Taggart if you can, because anyone who shows interest in Oregon isn’t going to hide from him. He will find out about the prospect so fast! Next thing you’ll know, the little man has an offer. We Ducks fans will see the fruits of his labors in half of a month when the letters of intent begin getting FAXED. Until then, “Buckle up!”
Oregon Football Recruiting Analyst
Follow me on Twitter @buzzbrother2
Top photo by Gary Breedlove
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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