Do Ducks Overlook Oregonians?

Aaron Lewis Editorials

What you see above is a $60 million high school football stadium. It is not located in the state of Oregon. Not a total surprise….

Ducks 2015 recruiting class does not include any Oregonians.

Earlier this month Oregon closed a solid recruiting class. This was Oregon’s best recruiting class according to 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals since Chip Kelly’s last class in 2012. While coaches, fans, and pundits generally lauded the class as a success, as reported and discussed, Oregon fan and Senate President Peter Courtney was not happy with the Ducks class because it didn’t include a single high school player from the state of Oregon.

Oregon is quite unique relative to other major programs in that it didn’t sign a single player from its home state in its 2015 recruiting class. In 2015, Ohio State signed 12 players from the state of Ohio, Alabama signed 6 players from the state of Alabama, and Florida State signed 13 players from the state of Florida.

The Ducks did offer a scholarship to Cameron Scarlett, the top recruit in the state of Oregon; however, they didn’t pursue him very hard down the stretch and he signed with Stanford. Oregon is looking to recruit talented football players who fit the unique culture and system the Ducks have developed regardless of where they are from.

Oregon native Thomas Tyner takes a handoff in the Rose Bowl

John Sperry

Oregon native Thomas Tyner takes a handoff in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon scours the country and takes a long look in its own backyard to find the right players with the right talent for its program. It is hard to argue with the results, given how the Ducks have been able to consistently turn recruiting classes ranked in the 15-30 range into top 10 teams on the field. No one in the country is better at this than the Ducks.

Oregon high schools produce fewer D1 prospects….

Not having any Oregonians in the Ducks’ most recent recruiting class came down to more than just fit. The state of Oregon doesn’t have the high school football talent that other states do. While 5 Oregon high school football players in 2015 did sign with Pac-12 schools, none of them, outside of Scarlett, was rated higher than three-stars.

Recruiting is not just a numbers game due to Oregon’s relatively small population compared to California, Texas, Florida, etc. A lower percentage of Oregon high football players signed with D1 schools this month than high school football players in almost 75% of all states. Even for Oregon’s population size, Oregon does not produce a lot of D1 football talent.

In addition to a small population, Oregon doesn’t have the high school football culture that exists in other states. If Senator Peter Courtney wants to ensure more Oregonians play for the Ducks he needs to make Oregonians care more about playing and supporting high school football development.

I grew up in Oregon and have lived in Texas and traveled to other parts of the South many times. Generally speaking, the South cares a lot more about high school football than people in Oregon do. In the fast growing Dallas-Fort Worth area where I lived, when it was time to build a new high school, they would often choose to build a new campus for the freshmen and sophomores and keep both campuses as one high school.  This enabled the school to flow even more kids into one big high school football program instead of splitting the talent pool between the old high school and a new one.

In Texas there are waiting lists to get season tickets to high school football games and taxpayers are willing to pay tens of millions of dollars for state-of-the art high school football stadiums that are nicer than many college stadiums. I’m not sure this type of focus on high school football is optimal. High schools would likely be more successful with academics as the focus of tax-dollars and decision-making, but these differences in priorities lead to Oregon signing more high school kids from California, Washington, Hawaii, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida rather than high school kids from Oregon this year.

Portland's Grant High School Graduate Ndamukong Suh Mike Morbeck

Portland’s Grant High School graduate Ndamukong Suh

US men’s national soccer team as an example….

The United States men’s national soccer team’s historical performance relative to European and South American teams highlights the impact that a culture has on the number and caliber of athletes in a specific sport that a country or region produces. The United States has the 3rd largest population in the world with almost 320 million people. The United States also has a strong sports culture and produces an incredible number of world class athletes. (See historic Olympic medal tables).

However, the United States men’s national soccer team has never won a World Cup nor come very close. In the most recent World Cup, the United States was a surprise qualifier for the round of 16 where it lost to a heavily favored Belgian side. Belgium has a population of about 1/30th the size of the US, yet has produced superior soccer talent. Culture of a region surrounding a sport significantly impacts the number and quality of athletes in that sport in that region.

Oregon still produces phenomenal football talent. Joey Harrington and Ndamukong Suh are just a couple of examples of  Oregonians who were/are amazing football players. While missing on Suh, the Ducks generally do a nice job of recognizing and recruiting this in-state talent. Oregon’s offense and defense depth charts for the National Championship game featured six Oregonians (Lowe, Brenner, Peirson, Tyner, Balducci, and Coleman). Outside of California, which was represented with 18 players, Oregonians were twice as prevalent as athletes from any other state on the depth chart. Oregon’s 2016 recruiting class currently has three commits including Oregonian Brady Breeze.

The recruiting class of 2015 was a bit of an anomaly in that there weren’t any Oregonians in it. But unless the population of Oregon grows dramatically and the underlying culture surrounding high school football changes, it is unlikely our Ducks will ever be able to rely as heavily on home grown talent as much as other teams do.

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