It’s been a wild journey this offseason in the landscape of football recruiting. Head Coach Willie Taggart has seen multiple class of 2017 recruits commit and/or decommit. That pattern is likely to continue as signing day approaches. Taggart’s plan to get Oregon back on track has some players looking elsewhere, while others appear on board with his ideology.
A huge piece of news landed in Eugene last week, as former Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal was hired to become Oregon’s new co-offensive coordinator! Cristobal brings four years of experience working with Nick Saban, and he was named by 247Sports as the National Recruiting Coach of the year in the 2015 cycle. Cristobal has helped bring in some truly massive, NFL-caliber players to Alabama, so he is going to have a huge impact on Oregon recruiting.
If Taggart’s speeches on game days match his excellent speech at the first players’ meeting, then Oregon has great chance to be, as Taggart himself puts it, “Highly successful.” Footage courtesy of GoDucks.
Taggart said it was his responsibility to “recruit guys to take your job. It’s on you to keep your jobs.” Well, Taggart is definitely doing his job and was right back on the recruiting trail when the dead period came to a temporary end on January 11. National Signing day is February 1, and the Ducks are looking to make the most of their scholarship offers.
His first visit was to new commit Rutger Reitmaier, a 3-star defensive tackle from Lipscom Academy High School in Nashville, Tenn. Taggart watched the 6’3″, 270-lb DT play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Reitmaier is fast and quick off the line of scrimmage, and he would be a great combination with Jordon Scott to impede the running game. Reitmaier’s decision is a great example to other recruits who are on the fence about Oregon. He had offers from huge programs such as Michigan and Tennessee, but he stuck with Oregon. That will send a message to other recruits.
Oregon has scored another top-tier coach in defensive line coach in Joe Salave’a. Salave’a brought dramatic change to Washington State’s defensive line, where he was also the defensive line coach for five years. He also played in the NFL for eight years. Now that he is at Oregon, it will be interesting to see how dramatic the changes will be here. He is going to have some promising talent to work with this upcoming season.
Another big pickup for the Ducks is 3-star inside linebacker Sampson Niu of Madison High School in San Diego, Calif., who actually signed when Mark Helfrich was still calling the shots. Throughout this dramatic offseason, Niu has been an unwavering recruit.
Niu and new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt had a connection well before Niu’s recruitment seriously started. ”In my recruitment coach Leavitt recruited me from Colorado,” Niu told Barton Simmons of Duck Territory. “He always stayed in touch, he really wanted me. Once coach Leavitt was hired (at Oregon) he reached out within a day or two. He was excited about me and I was excited he was going to be my next defensive coordinator.”
Niu is 6’1″,217 lbs, and he is is not afraid to deliver big hits as an inside linebacker. Here are some of his junior highlights:
Not all the changes are happening on the defense. The loss of wide receiver Jalen Brown is unfortunate, as he had a promising 2016 season after being the fourth highest rated wide receiver on the team last season. Brown plans to graduate in June, then use his last two years of eligibility at a different school.
Aside from Brown, Oregon no longer Pharaoh Brown, Johnny Mundt and Dwayne Stanford, all of whom have graduated. So, there are lot of positions to be filled on the offensive end. Fortunately, help is on the way.
Oregon has found a boost in speed and versatility with 3-star all-purpose back Darrian Felix, from Fort Myers, Fla. He is 5’11”, 194 lbs, and his skill set is remarkable. “He has a 44-vert and elite speed that’s been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash,” Matt Prehm of Duck Territory explained. He is also a deep threat with great catching ability.
But don’t just take my word for it. See for yourself, and watch his speed blow you (and opponents) away.
The big question now for the coaching staff lies with 5-star running back Stephen Carr. While he has committed to USC, he’s still on Oregon’s official visit schedule, and the coaches are not going to let him go easily. He was able to witness the 347th Civil War Men’s Basketball game in a completely packed Matthew Knight Arena.
Oregon has also managed to snag 4-star QB Braxton Burmeister. According to Duck Territory, Taggart made a visit to Burmeister’s home in La Jolla, Calif., just after the quarterback flipped his commitment from Arizona. Burmeister made his commitment public on his Twitter account.
More decisions will be coming soon as recruits make their final choices. Expect some to flip and join Oregon, and some to possibly leave. It may be nerve-wracking, but hey, at least there’s never a dull moment!
Eugene, OR (From Half Moon Bay, CA)
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Top Photo by 247sports.com