Oregon’s 2014 recruiting class keeps getting better. It might not end up a large class, but it will be talented, very talented. Fans shouldn’t concern themselves with team recruiting rankings, since as I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, those rankings are biased against teams with effective roster management like Stanford and Oregon. To recap, quantity (class size) is very important in the yearly recruiting rankings, and since Oregon doesn’t experience much attrition (a good thing), they typically have relatively small classes which hurts them in the team standings.
If you’ve read my work for very long, then you know I’m a staunch advocate of the recruit rankings themselves, especially when aggregated to account for the differences between sites and eliminate any potential biases or mistakes during the evaluation process. While fans can always use revisionist history to point out players who were over- or under-rated, in general, recruiting rankings do a very good job of evaluating talent and have considerable predictive power. This isn’t an opinion; it’s backed by very simple, elementary arithmetic.
Thus, fielding a team that is full of highly-rated players is a good thing. As explored in my Pac-12 Talent Rankings series (archived for your reading pleasure here at fishduck.com), Oregon came into this season as the 2nd-most talented team in the conference (for the third consecutive year). Don’t let unknowledgeable fans fool you; Oregon’s success over the past five years hasn’t come on the backs of two and three-star players, but rather, with one of the top two or three most talented rosters in the conference. Obviously, things other than talent are what make Oregon special (coaching stability, culture, scheme, talent development, strength and conditioning program, practice philosophy, etc.), but without elite talent, Oregon ceases to be nationally relevant.
Continuing to add elite talent to the roster is a critical component of Oregon’s plan to remain one of the premier football programs in the country. New recruit (verbal commit) Jalen Brown is going to help with that. Brown, a unanimous four-star wide receiver out of Arizona, announced for the Ducks on Sunday night via twitter. His commitment gives Oregon ten recruits so far this cycle, and with only 17 to 19 scholarships likely to be filled this year, there aren’t many spots left in the 2014 class.
Let’s talk about Brown for a minute. I’m especially stoked about his commitment. He reminds me of Darren Carrington: both are 6-foot-2, 185 pound receivers, with great hands and even better body control. Additionally, they’re both good route-runners and blockers. Both were consensus four-star recruits, garnering that designation on 247, Scout, Rivals and ESPN. Similar to Carrington, Brown’s only perceived “weakness” is his lack of top-end speed and explosion.
I was really excited when Carrington came on board and I feel the same way about Brown. These are the type of wideouts that I’ve been hoping Oregon’s staff would focus on, as opposed to the small, more explosive guys such as Tacoi Sumler or Braxton Berrios.
In Brown, you’ve got a guy who, after adding some weight, should be ready to step in and help the team immediately. Both he and Carrington have the requisite size and arm length to be great blockers on the outside. The combination of hands and body control possessed by both players is exciting. Give me those skills over pure “speed” every day of the week. Just because a guy doesn’t run 4.4 in the 40 doesn’t mean he’s not a vertical threat; think about the number of times receivers have to adjust to a deep ball and pluck it out the air at the top of their jump. That’s not easy to do. Brown and Carrington will be plenty effective at stretching defenses vertically.
Here’s a look at Oregon’s commitments so far, using the tier system I developed to objectively aggregate recruiting rankings from the four major services:
Tier E: RB Royce Freeman
Tier E: CB Aarion Springs
Tier 1: WR Jalen Brown
Tier 1: DE Tui Talia
Tier 1: RB Tony James
Tier 2: QB Morgan Mahalak
Tier 2: OT Tyrell Crosby
Tier 3: CB Dominique Harrison
Tier 3: DT Jalen Jelks
Tier 5: LS Tanner Carew
The Oregon staff is doing a great job on the recruiting front. I love what they’re doing. The overall recruiting strategy has undoubtedly improved under first year head coach Mark Helfrich. Will the results follow? It sure looks like they will.
The Ducks are still major players for elite recruits such as OT Casey Tucker, ATH JuJu Smith, ATH Adoree Jackson and DB Budda Baker, among others. If Oregon can add even a couple of the aforementioned players, 2014 could be their best recruiting class ever. Even if the class doesn’t close with a bang, the Ducks are all but guaranteed to add some really good players. Worst-case scenario, this class will be every bit as good as the last two.
I won’t be surprised if Oregon doesn’t end up in the top-20 of the team rankings this year, but again, it just doesn’t matter. Team rankings are only valuable as a quick snapshot of a team’s recruiting success in a given year. And don’t forget that their quantity-driven formulas used to rank teams will disproportionately impact smaller classes like Oregon’s.
The staff is doing a great job so far, and even if they only take 17 players this cycle, those are going to be 17 quality players. Regardless, Oregon’s talent profile is going to improve with the 2014 class, and I don’t expect them to be displaced as the 2nd-most talented team in the conference heading into the 2015 season.
The bottom line is that fans should love this class along with the recruiting strategy that Helfrich is implementing and the direction this program is headed.
I know I certainly do.