It’s time to (finally) close the book on 2020 and see what the future holds for the Oregon Ducks, and that starts with recruiting. It’s no secret that Mario Cristobal is an ace recruiter, and he’s up to his usual tricks once again, putting a bow on what is shaping up to be Oregon’s best-ever class.
Right now, the Ducks have the sixth-best recruiting class in the country, littered with blue-chip prospects from across the nation. And the best part is, they’re not done adding to it. Today, one of Oregon’s top remaining targets will make his commitment. Four-star running back Byron Cardwell has narrowed his list to four schools, and there’s a great chance that he’s a Duck by the end of the day.
Let’s take a closer look at the talented playmaker and evaluate Oregon’s chances of landing him.
“Homerun Hitter” Byron Cardwell
The 6’0”, 203-lb. Californian is the eighth-ranked running back and 183rd-ranked prospect overall, according to the 247Sports Composite. And all it takes is a quick look at Cardwell’s highlight tape to understand why so many schools have been pushing for him.
Cardwell is an athlete in the truest form. He’s an easy mover in the open field; he uses a variety of moves to keep defenders guessing. And while he doesn’t have 4.4 speed, he has enough explosiveness to break off big runs from time to time.
FishDuck.com’s own ChicoDuck — known for his talent evaluations — shared similar impressions after watching Cardwell’s highlight tape. Chico noted Cardwell’s elusiveness, stating that he can “bend, sink, and change direction effortlessly. He picks and chooses who he wants to beat with finesse and who he decides to run over.” Quite simply, Chico says that “the great ones make it look easy.” Cardwell certainly does make it look easy; often times it’s as if he’s moving at a different speed than everyone else.
Beyond his athleticism, Cardwell also has some nuance to his game. Chico noted his ability to properly identify open gaps, and he made note of how Cardwell uses his jump step to set up his blockers. To finish off his unofficial evaluation, Chico suggested that if Cardwell wasn’t such a great running back prospect, he’d be a big-time recruit as a defensive back because of his ball skills and physicality.
The Ducks Are Sitting Pretty
Cardwell has narrowed his search down to four schools: Auburn, Cal, Texas A&M and Oregon, but he seems to be a pretty strong Oregon lean. Both of the 247Sports Crystal Ball picks predict that Cardwell will commit to Oregon, with the site reporting that he had long coveted an offer from the Ducks.
It would be quite an accomplishment for the Oregon coaching staff to secure a commitment from Cardwell, as he hasn’t even visited Eugene in person due to the complications of recruiting during a pandemic. Other schools are facing the same obstacles, but it’s particularly disadvantageous for Oregon, which generally relies on its campus atmosphere as a key selling point. The Ducks also began recruiting Cardwell later in the recruiting cycle, but have still apparently managed to make a big impression on him.
Although Cardwell is expected to pick Oregon, it’s not a foregone conclusion just yet. Auburn is likely Oregon’s top competition — a school that also joined Cardwell’s recruitment later on. New Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin actually began recruiting Cardwell back when he was the head coach at Boise State and Cardwell was only a sophomore. Auburn is hoping that Cardwell’s longstanding relationship with Harsin will be enough of a factor to sway him away from Oregon.
But barring a sudden change of heart, it looks like Oregon will add another blue-chip prospect in just a few hours.
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