Oh, how times have changed! Under former head coach Willie Taggart and current leading man Mario Cristobal, Oregon has undergone a complete recruiting transformation. Seemingly overnight, the Ducks have gone from good-but-not-great recruiting classes to king of the Pac-12 recruiting hill.
In late July, still a month away from football season, the Ducks are already close to having a full class. They have 15 prospects committed, and they only have space for a few more.
And that space may soon disappear. Oregon’s much anticipated Saturday Night Live camp takes place on Saturday, and the Ducks are hoping to use the event to put the finishing touches on what looks to be another conference-best recruiting class.
What Is Saturday Night Live?
During the offseason, many programs have camps in which they’ll host dozens of their top recruiting targets. In 2017, under Taggart, the Ducks began marketing their own version, cleverly titled “Saturday Night Live.” It’s a one-day event in which prospects from across the country travel to Eugene to participate in on-field drills at Autzen Stadium in front of thousands of fans.
An offseason camp serves a couple of purposes. First, it’s a massive recruiting pitch. Oregon, for example, promotes Saturday Night Live all year long. It’s billed as the biggest recruiting event of the summer, encouraging fans and prospects alike to make it to Autzen for the captivating event.
Second, smart programs use offseason camps as an opportunity to evaluate prospects they haven’t seen in person, or ones they need to take a closer look at. While many players who come to these events are premier players, plenty of developmental prospects who are on the cusp of getting an offer show up as well. A player with no offers who performs well and impresses the coaching staff at one of these events could leave with a scholarship. Vice versa, a poor showing could be detrimental.
So far, the strategy has worked. In its first two years, Saturday Night Live has been a huge success, one of the big reasons that Oregon’s recruiting has taken off. Recruits are lining up to get their names on the event shortlist, eager to see what the buzz is about.
Top Names to Watch This Year
As in the past two years, plenty of big names will be at SNL. So far, between 247Sports and ScoopDuck, five-stars Johnny Wilson, Justin Flowe and Troy Franklin (2021) are confirmed to participate. High four-stars Noah Sewell and Oregon commit Jay Butterfield will be there as well.
With only two top-100 prospects currently committed, getting some blue-chip players to visit for big recruiting events is critical. Wilson and Sewell are heavy Oregon leans, but since they remain uncommitted, it’s important to keep getting them back on campus. The energy and hype of the event may even get them to finally pull the trigger.
SNL gives the staff a great opportunity to try one more no-holds-barred pitch on Flowe, who is a long shot at best. A bunch of other high-profile prospects feeling the love from the Oregon staff, and a crowd full of green-and-yellow-crazed fans, might be enough to make him reconsider things.
Prospects on Quack Watch
Expect the Ducks to secure a few commitments over the weekend. Many prospects use events like these as an opportunity to lock up their spot, especially with space getting tight. Some programs even ask prospects to wait to make commitments public until after a major camp to create momentum and to encourage other prospects to commit as well.
Although neither Wilson nor Sewell are expected to commit anywhere any time soon, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if one — or even both — of them committed to Oregon after SNL. If a flurry of other prospects start committing, it may be enough to convince them to hop on board. However, more realistic options at this point are three-star defensive linemen Quay Evans and Montra Edwards, and three-star offensive lineman Alex Harrison.
Evans and Edwards are huge targets, as defensive-line recruiting in the West has been tough sledding this year. The Ducks have had to look nationally to find big bodies; Evans is from South Carolina and Edwards is from Mississippi. (What better spot to look for game-changing trench players than prime SEC territory?) Neither of the two are blue-chip prospects, but considering the circumstances, they’d be valuable pieces for a recruiting class that’s nearly filled out.
Harrison is another prospect at a position of need for Oregon. With just a couple of offensive linemen committed so far, the Ducks need a few more road-graders to replace nearly their entire starting unit after 2019. Harrison fits the bill, with a next-level frame and build. The Ducks will have to fend off the hometown Utes, among others, but if Oregon makes a good impression on him come Saturday, he could end up “quacking.”
If the past two years of SNL are any indication, the Ducks will be sitting pretty after Saturday’s festivities have died down. Their recruiting class should be nearly filled out by the event’s end. That not only makes for a stress-free signing day, but more importantly, it allows the staff to be more selective with the players it decides to bring on during the rest of the recruiting season.
With just a few spots left, look for the Ducks to make a push for players like Wilson, Sewell, Flowe, Sav’ell Smalls and other blue-chip prospects. The goal is now to take the class from “good” to “great,” and Saturday is the first step to doing just that.
Morgantown, West VirginiaTop Photo by Kevin Cline
And a special thanks to the experts and insiders at 247Sports and ScoopDuck, who provide fans with the best and most in-depth Oregon recruiting news in the industry. Subscribe to each of them for premium content and the most up-to-date recruiting news.
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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