Oregon Recruiting Blueprint: The Sales Pitch

This is the conclusion of a 9-part recruiting manifesto.  This piece looks at the sales pitch, an important piece to any recruiting blueprint.  Below are the previous parts of this manifesto:

Part 1: What Happened in 2012-2013

Part 2: What Went Wrong

Part 3: What Went Right: The Oregon Brand

Part 4: A Philosophical Shift

Part 5: What the Future Holds

Part 6: A Recruiting Blueprint

Part 7: Recruiting Blueprint – The Social Demands

Part 8: Recruiting Blueprint – The Logistics

With a new head coach, a high-profile NCAA investigation wrapping up and extremely high continued expectations, the 2014 recruiting cycle will be a great barometer for the future of the Oregon football program.  There has never been a more important season.  2014 is a transition year; a year that will either mark a fall from national relevance or cement Oregon among college football’s elite.

The Duck

Kevin Cline Photography

The Duck

More important than the results of the investigation, the head-coaching competence of Mark Helfrich, or even on-field results, is the 2014 recruiting class.  Recruiting is the life-blood of a program; a strong class will help pave the way for sustained success.  While Oregon’s recruiting efforts will undoubtedly be affected by penalties and losses, those things by themselves won’t guarantee Oregon recruiting success OR failure.  The Ducks will rise or fall with the ability of the coaching staff to capitalize on the program’s widespread appeal.

This blueprint has been about coming up with a recruiting strategy to capitalize on that “widespread appeal”, the Oregon brand. There’s one step missing, though — the sale.  What follows is a sales pitch.  This is what I imagine an Oregon coach saying to a recruit, face-to-face in his living room:

“I’ll make this short and sweet. I’m not gonna beat around the bush.  I’m not gonna bad-mouth other programs.  I don’t need to.  What Oregon has to offer is enough.

Mark Helfrich

Kevin Cline Photography

Mark Helfrich

“Every Saturday from September through November, a bunch of blue-blood programs play early-morning football games.  I’m talking about Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, Florida; you get the picture.  You know what the fans of these teams do after they get home, the players even?  They watch Oregon.  They can’t help but be entertained; they can’t look away.  We’re too sexy: our dominance, our jerseys, our speed.

“Don’t forget, Oregon is synonymous with speed for a reason.  It’s intentional.  Everything we do is fast.  Offense, defense, special teams, it doesn’t matter; we play fast all the time.  I’m not just talking about games, I’m talking about practice.  We look faster than everyone else on the field because we practice faster than everyone else.  Coaches who run no-huddle practices come watch us and leave shocked.  Lineman decide Oregon’s not for them when they see how fast we practice because they’re scared of being asked to move like that.  That’s fine with us.  We want guys who want to be fast.

“Shoot, we even DOMINATE fast.  Last year, the average score at halftime of our games was 31 to 9.  31 to 9!  That’s why we’re able to play so many guys: most of our games are over before the 3rd quarter.  If you’re in the three-deep, you’re gonna play.

“Over the last four years, we’ve won 48 games and been to four straight BCS bowls.  We’ve won the last two.  The only team that’s been more successful during that stretch is Alabama, and they’ve won 3 of the last 4 national championships.  We plan to catch them.

“I could go on and list stats for days.  If you want ’em I’ve got ’em.  Offensive stats, defensive stats, it doesn’t matter, we’ve been dominant.  Some wonder whether things will slow down a little now that Chip’s in the NFL, but they obviously don’t know coach Helfrich.  Oregon’s not going anywhere.  We’re a powerhouse now, and it’s gonna be that way for a long time.  We want you to be a part of that.

“As you know, an Oregon offer doesn’t come easy.  We don’t just throw these around to four-stars with interest.  We offer guys who are the perfect fit for our program.  Guys who we think could develop into major contributors.

Autzen Gameday

Kevin Cline Photography

Autzen Gameday

“Take comfort in knowing that should you choose to come to Oregon, you’ll be surrounded by a great group of teammates.  We don’t recruit rehab projects.  We recruit intelligent young men with high levels of character.  We believe that this has serious benefits on and off the field.  When you’re surrounded by hard-working guys who stay out of trouble, you’re much more likely to work hard and stay out of trouble yourself.  Character breeds character.  You won’t find a better group of guys at this level and it’s because of our exhaustive background process.

“My point is that we are very specific and intentional about who we pursue, and we want you.  We think you’re an intelligent, hard-working, high-character individual and a special football player to boot.  You would fit in with the team and quickly begin to grow as a person and a player.  And make no mistake, we understand the dreams of our players.  We will do everything that we can to get you to the next level.  If you look at our staff and our recent history of putting guys into the league, you’ll see that the opportunity is there.

“Anyone who says that Oregon doesn’t prepare you for the NFL is a liar.  Oregon prepares you to be a great football player and the NFL loves great football players.  Why doesn’t Oregon prepare you?  Because we play too fast?  Because we work to hard to turn out players into elite athletic specimens?  I can promise you that NFL coaches and GM’s love athletic specimens who play fast.  Name a position and I’ll give you the names of players who’ve developed here at those positions and gone on to NFL careers.  That list is getting longer and longer every year.  You could be on that list, young man.

The Duck crowd surfing

Kevin Cline Photography

The Duck crowd surfing

“The bottom line is that Oregon is a special place to play your college football.  Eugene is beautiful city filled with and surrounded by every shade of green you can think of.  Academically, you’d be a part of a university that provides ample opportunity for its student-athletes, with as much support as you could possibly imagine and a network of post-graduate connections that few can match.

“When it comes to football, you’ve got the best facilities in the nation at your fingerprints.  The locker room is like a palace.  On the practice field and in the meeting rooms you’re surrounded by a staff full of coaches who love their players and the program so much, many of them have been here for 10, 20 or 30+ years.  And on Saturdays, you’d be playing your football in a universally feared stadium with fans loud enough to make your ears bleed.  It’s a game day atmosphere like no other.  This is the hottest program in the nation for a reason.  I’ll look you dead in the eye and say it again: this is a special place and a special team.  Come be a part of it.”

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