As a devoted Oregon fan, I’ve been thrilled at the class Coach Willie Taggart and his staff have been putting together as a recruiting class for signing day in February 2018. However, there was one strategic timing decision he made that I had questions about. Recently, I was wondering out loud with a few Duck-Buddies of the potential impact from this decision, as now we may see some significant repercussions, depending on how the season plays out.
Going back to July, we noted how Coach Taggart put together a Saturday Night Live recruiting event that attracted players from all over the nation. FishDuck.com writer Jason Fowler reported on it and the ripples it generated through Oregon football recruiting. Such an event had never been done at Oregon before, and the vibe felt by the players and the subsequent verbal commitments made the event very worthwhile. In short, it was a fantastic idea from Taggart and the Duck coaching staff.
We know that the “last school visited” is the one recruits often select, as it has the freshest and most memorable imprint upon the recruit and his family. Willie came up with an interesting tactic to take advantage of this phenomenon. He created a massive Official Recruiting Visit Weekend on December 15th, where most of the major recruits and prospects will attend using their only “official” full-blown recruiting visit. Prior games this season or trips last summer were “unofficial” visits made at the recruits’ own expense.
I thought this move could be as successful as Saturday Night Live, or it could blow up on the Ducks as many players wish to get their official visits done and school selection made by December. Again, Oregon had not done such a huge official visit weekend before, so we did not have any track record to look back on for reference. In this age players are committing much sooner than even just five or ten years ago, and this event was meant to shore up commitments already made, and to swing others on the fence to the Ducks’ side.
Overall, I felt the risk was justified with all the other components taken into account that Taggart allocated for. Some recruits are coming “unofficially” in December to be a part of the fun, as they already used their official visit with their parents to make the final selection to play in Eugene. This December weekend could generate enormous momentum going into the final stages of the recruiting season, and really finish off Oregon’s recruiting with a flourish (I was looking forward to hearing about this event).
Our friends over at Duck Territory, 24/7 Sports (who have shared recruiting information with this site for years) and in particular Matt Prehm, have been detailing the anticipated December event, but in this last week they reported a surprising development: it may not happen after all.
If Oregon qualifies for a bowl game, and in particular wins a seventh game, those results might propel the Ducks into the Las Vegas Bowl on December 16th, and thus all the practices would be on location the week before the bowl. Matt brings up another consequential component below:
“The real issue is that if the Ducks make the Vegas Bowl, Oregon won’t be able to hit the road recruiting in-home the week leading up to that visit weekend either. That’s the big impact.”
Matt asked head coach Willie Taggart about the system being tweaked for teams like Oregon that may be preparing for an earlier bowl game and the coach responded as follows.
“I don’t know how much tweaking you can do,” Taggart said. “There is always something that comes up. I am tired of all the tweaking, to be honest with you.”
“We still have some time to get out and see them, do the home visit during the contact period. From that standpoint, you have to move around some things to get there.”
Perhaps Oregon could see recruits on an earlier weekend or delay things until a weekend in January? The problem with any delay is that the NCAA has allowed a new early signing period in December. The weekend of the 15th is ideal, as it is just before the December 20th early signing day. Taggart had this timed out perfectly, and now winning games could get in the way?
This now gets us into typical “pondering” mode; a mode that, for whatever reason, we often enjoy on this site (it’s what the site is for, really). Bowl practices are invaluable for all the underclassmen getting more experience, particularly in a new system. Yet the future at Oregon is the current recruiting class. Which do you sacrifice?
As if coaching wasn’t tough enough, now you have ancillary impediments that come from turning the program around? Do we really want to not qualify for a bowl game in Sin City? Wouldn’t be cool to win the final two games to have that choice?
I am really wavering on this one and naturally invite feedback from the savvy readers of this site. What should Willie do?
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Top Photo: Eugene Johnson