If you are looking on the Parade All-America Team for members of the newest class of Oregon Ducks, you will not find a single name representing the Ducks on the list. However, Oregon still signed a class that ranks in the top 20 nationally.
Head coach Mark Helfrich knows where the needs of the team will be in the near future and went for athletes that fit the bill. The need for big bodies in the trenches has been a goal, and Helfrich was able to gather the best offensive line class in school history. The most urgent needs were found with experienced players and JUCO transfers. I will use my rating system from this article to evaluate both sides of the ball.
The trophy recruit is found on defense with the only platinum-tier player the Ducks pulled in. Canton Kaumatule is a giant, athletic defensive end from Hawaii who will help fill the void left by the early departure of Arik Armstead. Kaumatule is one of two early enrollees on the defensive side. The other is Ugo Amadi, a silver-tier cornerback from Tennessee. Amadi will replenish depth after Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s graduation.
The rest of the defensive recruits rate as bronze-tier prospects. However, Oregon is always good at developing great players from athletes with potential. One such gem is inside linebacker Fotu Leiato from Washington with a highlight reel that shows him knocking down more opponents than Floyd Mayweather.
Three defensive tackles were brought in to add depth up front. Rex Manu from Hawaii and Gary Baker from California play bigger than they are — and they are not small. Drayton Carlberg out of Minnesota was brought in for defense but many pursued him for offensive tackle. The ability to play effectively on both sides of the ball bodes well for his versatility.
The only other defensive end is a jewel from Georgia. Gus Cumberlander’s large frame will add beef without losing athleticism. His lengthy arms are exactly what Oregon likes in the defensive end position. His ceiling is pretty high because he seems hungry and willing to work.
The only outside linebackers Oregon signed are JUCO transfers: Paris Bostick and Jonah Moi. Bostick was a high school safety, but has since added size and strength. Moi has a nose for the ball and has great closing speed. The experience these two have will provide immediate competition in the fall.
The bronze-tiered defensive backs are Jihree Stewart, a cornerback from California, and Dylan Kane, a safety from Hawaii. Stewart has great speed, and adding a little more muscle will help at the next level. Kane’s size and sure tackling will be necessary in the fall when he matches up with experienced receivers.
It’s always good to get a star quarterback at least once per recruiting cycle. Oregon picked up a good one in gold-tier Travis Waller. At 6-2 he doesn’t have ideal height but has made up for it with vast improvement in his throwing motion and accuracy the past year. In addition to a great arm, Waller is dangerous with his feet. He’s got great speed and can avoid the rush. Since his commitment to Oregon, Waller has shown his leadership skills by recruiting for the Ducks as well.
Fans don’t need to worry about the future of the offensive skill positions when they see three of the top four all-purpose backs, as rated by 247sports.com, commited to the Ducks. One of these electric talents is the Georgia native Taj Griffin. His older brother compares his abilities to DeAnthony Thomas. Once Griffin recovers from a knee injury we will get a better sense of his potential in the offense.
Malik Lovette from California and Kirk Merritt from Louisiana are very similar in that they could both play in the backfield or out wide. In addition to Griffin, these superb athletes will be wicked in the return game. Their video game-like moves will cause migraines for opposing coaches.
Griffin joined gold-tier receiver Alex Ofodile from Missouri as another early enrollee. Ofodile is a designated receiver who will have company from Lovette and Merritt. They all show great hands and are all deep threats. These guys will not be easy to tackle in the open field.
The only tight end of the 2015 group looks more like a really tall receiver. Bronze-tier Jacob Breeland from California has a reel of highlights that shows not only how well he plays the jump ball, but also his great blocking ability. In Oregon’s screen-heavy system, Breeland’s blocking ability will be valuable. In the red zone, Breeland can become a very potent weapon.
Finally, the offensive line is the backbone of this Oregon class. The solo early enrollee on the offensive line is gold-tier Zach Okun from California. Weighing over three bills, Okun brings serious size at the guard position. Guard Shane Lemieux from Washington also weighs in at over 300 pounds.
The offensive tackles include Brady Aiello and Jake Hanson from California, and Calvin Throckmorton from Washington. Hanson will come into Eugene the bulkiest of the three. He pushes 300 pounds while Aiello and Throckmorton have the size to bulk up nicely. Each of these tackles have pancakes peppering their highlight films. Size and depth up front are clear goals for the coaching staff, and this class is definitely the best O-line class to ever sign with Oregon.
As far as immediate impact, Kaumatule that has the best chance of grabbing a starting spot. The other potential instant-impact freshmen include the three all-purpose backs.
Playing for the national title this year, coupled with a more aggressive recruiting style from Helfrich, creates great momentum for the 2016 class. Even if this class would be a disappointment in Tuscaloosa, in Eugene, this is a great class, and we are very excited for the future.
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Top photo by Kevin Cline