Willie Taggart has settled into his new role at Oregon quite well. Despite the “hospitalized players” drama, hiring a new coaching staff and the pressure to bring Oregon back to compete for a PAC-12 championship, Taggart has delivered a solid 2017 recruiting class. His ability to bond and forge relationships with players has really shown during this offseason.
The biggest takeaway I got from this recruiting cycle is that Oregon, despite the last two seasons, can still attract players from the south away from SEC schools, most notably Florida. The two key additions to the defensive line, Rutger Reitmier and Jordon Scott, had offers from big southern schools.
Admittedly, the fact that the Ducks couldn’t lock down 4-star tight end Josh Falo is unfortunate. The Sacramento native decided to stay in California, and is going to play for USC instead. Currently, the Ducks have no new tight end signed for 2017, but they do have a 4-star potential prospect for the 2018 class. Mustapha Muhammad is a junior from Missouri City, Texas, and at 6’5″, 235 lbs, is one of the highest ranked tight ends in the country (No. 12 on rivals.com).
It’s rather important that Oregon get Muhammad, or any good tight end at this point, as they don’t have a go-to guy at that position. So far, Muhammad has expressed interest in coming to the PAC-12. As he told scout.com, “[Oregon] was a pretty big offer for me. USC was about a month before that. So the PAC-12 is coming.”
That’s a promising thing to hear, considering Muhammad just visited Clemson. Here is some analysis of Muhammad from Rivals.com:
One of the more puzzling storylines this offseason was the recruitment of 4-star cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, who you might remember decommited from Oregon back in November. Lenoir initially announced he would play for Oregon way back in June 2016.
It’s actually fairly understandable why Lenior left, considering the situation at Oregon at the time. Mark Helfrich was fired on Nov. 29. Immediately after that news reached Lenoir, he decided enough was enough and decommited, leaving many Oregon fans wondering if his decision would spark a chain reaction throughout this leaderless team.
So what brought him back? In an interview with Scout.com, Lenoir claimed that it was “the building of relationships with the coaches.” It was, of course, Taggart who led the charge for Lenoir. “His main message was to get me back on board,” Lenoir said.
Combined with 4-star Thomas Graham and fellow Salesian teammate Nick Pickett, Oregon has some promising young secondary players in the making.
Coach Taggart may not live in Florida any more, but that doesn’t stop him from going back to his old stomping grounds to find players. It also doesn’t hurt to have Mario Cristobal at his side, not just as an offensive coordinator but for his recruiting experience and ability as well.
Oregon has just extended an offer to 4-star wide receiver Warren Thompson of Seffner, Fla. Thomson is 6’4″, 185 lbs, and he has impressive speed for a guy that size. Fortunately for Oregon, Thompson already has a connection to a new addition on the 2017 roster. Former teammate and 3-star wide receiver Darrian McNeal is sure to help attract Thompson to Eugene.
Thompson would be a valuable addition to Oregon. Having a wide receiver as big and fast as he is would be incredible, especially considering Darren Carrington will be gone after this upcoming season. To put Thompson’s size in perspective, Carrington is 6’2″, 186 lbs, and often looks like the biggest receiver on the line. Thompson is even taller, and he could have an instant impact on the field.
Here are some of Thompson’s highlights from his sophomore year:
Thompson told Duck Territory that Oregon is “definitely up there in the mix now.” On McNeal’s decision, he said “It gave kids like us a chance (to go to Oregon).”
Thompson and Taggart already know each other fairly well. Back when Taggart was still head coach at USF, He offered Thompson and Thompson took an official visit. Of Taggart, Thompson has said “He is very honest and true to his word.”
That sounds like Taggart, making positive connections with players. Perhaps both Taggart and McNeal can sway Thompson towards Oregon and away from Miami and Florida, both of which have a strong interest in him.
It has been one heck of a recruiting period for the class of 2017, and Taggart should be proud of his first class. Of course there are improvements to be made, as no class is perfect. It will be exciting to see what the next moves are regarding the 2018 class.
Eugene, Ore. (from Half Moon Bay, Calif.)
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Top Photo by Mark Bruntz for 247sports