It’s not quite Christmas Day, but for college football fans, the early National Signing Period is the next best thing.
On the eve of the biggest day on the recruiting calendar, Oregon football fans are eager to see if the Ducks are able to capitalize on their 11-win, championship-winning season and secure another elite recruiting class. By now, everyone’s familiar with how well Mario Cristobal and his staff recruited last year, finishing with the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history. So, what will they do as an encore?
Darren Perkins gave fans a look at the biggest storylines to follow tomorrow. Let’s take a closer look at prospects who are on the bubble and predict whether they will choose Oregon, or the field.
Five-Star Linebacker Justin Flowe
Sitting at the top of Oregon’s shortlist, Justin Flowe is nothing short of a gamechanger. The five-star from California packs a serious punch, playing with an old-school, downhill mentality while also possessing top-tier athleticism. Every hit he makes can be felt from miles away; he makes his presence felt each and every time he makes contact with the ball carrier. Couple that with impressive speed and next-level instincts, and you have a prospect who’s ranked fourth overall*. (*All rankings according to the 247Sports Composite.)
Envisioning him in the same group as Mase Funa and Noah Sewell — a 2019 high four-star and a 2020 five-star — is downright scary. The trio would be the most physically talented group of linebackers in program history, and an already good defense would have the potential to be the best in the country.
What’s crazy is that Oregon was seemingly well behind some other schools in the race for Flowe earlier this year. Hailing from California, it’s no surprise that USC has been in the conversation for a while. Flowe also flirted with some southeastern schools, including the reigning National Champion Clemson Tigers. Many assumed it was either the South or USC, and that Oregon was on the outside looking in.
Credit Cristobal and the staff for being persistent. As time went on, the Ducks slowly crept their way back into the recruiting battle, and now, according to numerous reports, have surpassed Clemson as the frontrunners for Flowe.
But we’ve seen this song and dance before.
USC is likely Oregon’s biggest competition here, and although Cristobal and company recently visited Flowe in person to make a final push, USC got the last laugh by getting him on campus this week. Both ScoopDuck and 247Sports suggest that the Ducks are in a good spot, regardless. But there’s just something about that Trojan brand that makes closing on top Californian prospects so difficult for Oregon.
The Ducks were able to do so last year in stunning fashion by landing Kayvon Thibodeaux. This time around, they might fall just short.
Five-Star Cornerback Kelee Ringo
Chalk this one up as another recruit whom fans didn’t think Oregon had a shot to land until recently.
Kelee Ringo is an explosive playmaker and a human highlight reel. The No. 8 overall player and top cornerback prospect in the country, Ringo has elite ball skills, and when he becomes a ball carrier, whether on offense or on defense, he has the endzone in his sights. A player with similar traits to current Oregon defensive back and return man extraordinaire Jevon Holland, Ringo would give the Ducks an extra dose of athleticism on the back end and provide depth to a loaded secondary.
What was initially a Georgia vs. Texas battle has now become a Georgia vs. Oregon tussle. It’s hard to argue Kirby Smart’s track record of coaching up pro-ready defensive backs, but for once, Oregon does have location working to its advantage. Ringo plays on the same Saguaro squad as current Oregon commit Jaylan Jeffers, and like Jeffers, he might not want to travel halfway across the country to play his college ball.
Still, this is going to be tough for the Ducks to pull off. Ringo has been high on Georgia for a while, and although the Ducks are really closing the gap, there’s simply too much ground to make up in too little time.
Four-Star Cornerback Dontae Manning
If the Ducks don’t get Ringo, Dontae Manning would be one heck of a consolation prize. The four-star cornerback is a top-100 player with plenty of talent in his own right.
Luckily for Oregon, unlike with Ringo, all signs point to him “Quacking.” This is once again an Oregon vs. Georgia bout, but reports indicate Manning is sold on the Ducks. He and the staff are hitting it off, and although he has still kept in contact with and has recently visited Georgia, the overwhelming belief is that the Bulldogs are fighting an uphill battle here.
Smart may win the battle for one top-flight cornerback, but he won’t win them both. Oregon should pick up one of its best recruits in the class.
Four-Star Safety Myles Slusher
If you’re checking to see if you read that headline right, don’t worry. You read it correctly.
Myles Slusher is one of the Ducks’ highest-rated commits, bolstering what is shaping up to be an all-time great recruiting class in the secondary. But, as was the case with recent decommit Avantae Williams, and likely eventual decommit Johnny Wilson, a commitment doesn’t mean anything until a prospect signs his National Letter of Intent. Slusher has been feeling the heat from other schools recently, and the chatter has escalated so much so that Oregon now has to sweat out a “decision” from one of its commits.
The candidates are likely Nebraska and Oregon, although Arkansas has a fighting chance. Proximity will play a factor, as the Oklahoma prospect could elect to play in the Midwest rather than make the trip out to the West Coast.
This one is really cloudy, and that doesn’t bode well for Oregon. Slusher has made it pretty clear that his recruitment is wide open, which is never a good sign for the school that a prospect is committed to. Oregon hasn’t fared well historically when the distance factor becomes an issue, and it looks like that will be the case once again.
Four-Star Quarterback Robby Ashford
Not many programs are able to sign a single four-star quarterback in a given recruiting cycle. Oregon is very likely going to sign two.
Ole Miss’ loss could be Oregon’s gain, as dual-threat quarterback Robby Ashford decommitted from the Rebels once Lane Kiffin took over. Although Oregon already has a blue-chip passer committed in Jay Butterfield, Ashford brings something different to the table.
A true athlete at quarterback with a cannon for an arm, Ashford has the physical tools to be the next great Oregon quarterback. The Ducks wasted no time jumping in and making a push for him once he decommitted from Ole Miss, and that aggressive approach has paid off. Ashford recently visited, and usually, that’s all it takes for Oregon to make a late-cycle close on a prospect.
Yes, signing Ashford means no CJ Stroud — a four-star quarterback who burst onto the scene this off-season. But Stroud is a major Ohio State lean anyway, and not many schools are going to be able to out-muscle Ohio State for an elite recruit.
Ashford is the best realistic option, and landing a second four-star signal caller would be a major accomplishment for Oregon.
It might seem like the Ducks are going to be on the losing end of a lot of battles tomorrow, but that’s just the nature of the business. Cristobal is taking his shot with more top-100 prospects than the program ever has before. That means going up against more blue-blood programs, which are going to win their share of battles.
But Oregon is starting to win more of these battles than it used to, and that says a lot about the growth of the program and its recruiting efforts under the current staff. And these predictions are hardly set in stone. Oregon has loads of momentum with Flowe, Ringo is certainly high on the Ducks, Slusher’s still a commit and should be treated as such unless he says otherwise.
Sure, these battles might not be shaping up the way fans want them to at the moment. But how often does Signing Day play out according to the script? If history is any indication, expect the unexpected tomorrow.
If just one or two pieces fall into place, Oregon will be sitting pretty when the dust has settled.
Morgantown, West VirginiaTop Photo From Twitter
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon and is from Sterling, Illinois.
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