Oregon Football: Do Blue Chip Commits Balance Loss of Slade-Matautia?

Jordan Ingram Editorials 27 Comments

Alright, Ducks fans. If you’re like me, you woke up shocked to learn that four-star linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia was entering the NCAA transfer portal. It’s official — the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Hawaiian native will likely finish his college football career somewhere else, perhaps closer to home?

In three years, Slade-Matautia had 131 total tackles, with 12 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. No mincing words — this is a tough loss and the veteran defender’s presence and charisma will be missed. I truly wish him well on the rest of his football journey.

But just as the football gods taketh away, so do they giveth. And sometimes they giveth BIG TIME. On Tuesday, four-star linebacker and full-time hulk TJ “Bull” Dudley announced his commitment to the University of Oregon for the class of 2022.

Dudley’s finalist college choices included Clemson, Auburn and Alabama, but somehow, Mario Cristobal muscled his way into the conversation and voila!

The four-star standout from Alabama (Montgomery Catholic Prep) has a similar frame to Slade-Matautia and appears to be a ferocious tackler and ballhawk. It’s always satisfying when a recruit receives an offer from the Crimson Tide but opts for a flock o’ feathers in the Pacific Northwest.

Check out the highlight reel from Dudley’s junior season below, or check it out on Hudl here

And Dudley is the second top-rated prospect to commit to Oregon since the NCAA’s “dead period” ended on June 1st. The other promising 2022 commit is Sir Mells, a three-star defensive tackle from Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada.

This lane blocking, run-stuffing MAN-O-PLENTY is 6-foot-4, 310-pounds and should find a good home along Oregon’s defensive front. FUN FACT: Mells was predicted as nearly a lock for the Washington Huskies, but opted for Oregon after a June 4th recruiting visit.

Plus, getting one over on the Dawgs makes the acquisition just a little sweeter.

What do we think Ducks fans? Are we happy? We lost a veteran to the almighty transfer portal. But we gained a high-ranked stud that could more than fill Slade-Matautia’s shoes.

Jordan Ingram 
San Diego, California
Top Photo by Eric Evans, UO Athletics

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

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Jon Sousa

I had to learn this trial and error. It works folks!


I was never overly excited to watch ISM play. He never had that it factor like Dye, Alanso, Clay and others. There is a new D coordinator coming in and I’m sure that he would have stayed if he was in the plans for the new defense. He is making a good move for him to set himself up for an NFL payday. Losing his spot his last year in college would not look good right before the draft. In the Spring game, I though t that Flowe was a much more exciting player to watch.

If Noah can stop ‘whiffing’, the inside linebackers should be fine in 2021, assuming Keith Brown is a capable backup.

Carl N

The question is what will happen if Flowe gets injure, that is who competes for the backup minutes?

Originally I had Keith Brown third on my depth chat behind ISM and Flowe. But can you imagine if Flowe was injured and suddenly you have a true freshman starting. Yikes!

I would not be surprised in that situation to see someone shift over. But I suspect we will see someone else emerge in the picture during fall camp.

Candidates? Dru Mathis, if healthy makes sense. Jackson LaDuke would not surprise me. Or would we see someone with more experience like Adrian Jackson make the shift? Plus Adrian is not the only potential outside linebacker that we might consider.

Waiting for fall camp to open is going to take a lot of patience!


We don’t know what the new DC is going to have in store for linebackers. I would expect to see some linebackers move around.


Immediate returns, not a plus. But, in the long term? Looks good!


The only way Issac is closer to home is if he plays for Hawaii or for a California school. I’m guessing he saw less play time in his future and wanted out. As has been said many times, there are a whole lot more guys in the portal than open roster spots on teams. I hope it works out for him.

I heard a great saying. You may think the grass is always greener on the other side, but if you take the time to water your own grass it would be just as green.

Jon Joseph

OT, FYI – ESPN’s Bill Connolly has identified the teams he believes and his formula predicts, could win the PO in 2021. BC assigns issues that a team must overcome to win a title.

Teams in descending order: Bama, Clemson, Ohio State, UGA, OK, A+M, TX, Iowa St, UNC, Florida, Notre Dame, OREGON, USC, LSU, Miami, Wisconsin, Penn St, OK St, Iowa. Note – NO UW.

Oregon, +4000 to win the title, which may be worth a bob and a quid (?), has according to BC, 4 ‘If’s’ the Ducks have to answer in the positive.

If … Tim DeRuyter brings the havoc on D. DeRuyter is historically at his best when he can blitz effectively. Oregon in 2020 ranked a very bad 102 in havoc rate (QB pressures, sacks, TFL.) Perhaps Flowe help the cause here?

If … the non-Thibodeaux DL raises its game. 2020 Ducks came in 90th in rushing rate success allowed. Also bad.

If … Brown makes the leap to elite QB status. Needs to complete 70+% of his throws and average 4.5 yards per rushing attempt.

If … Moorhead unearths some more big plays. BC notes that Oregon in 2020, often went stagnant on O.

FYI, Bama, Clemson and Ohio State have 2 ‘If’s.’ For Ohio State, it is successfully replacing Fields and playing better pass D.

Jon Sousa

The two new recruits have nothing to do with replacing a senior transfer. if S-M would have stayed, new recruits would have never seen him.

Flowe is the one who would push S-M out of the starting position, if anyone would. If JF didn´t get hurt last year, it might have happened then. Last year JF and Sewell were more or less on par with each other and Sewell was a starter all year. No way was Flowe going to get half the reps that S-M would have gotten this coming year.

S-M wants to play on Sunday. The best way to do that is show great stats this coming year. He can’t show great stats if he isn’t on the field but half the time. If there are some family issues as suggested below, all the more reason to leave.


I don’t think you can lose a multi year starter and it ever be a good thing. With that said, I like taking commits from UW, and any school really. I like that our recruiting is improving and Dudley is a consensus top 200 player.

Blue chips that just went through their first full offseason with oregon, defensive front 7 only. Rivals only

Keanu Williams DE 4 star
Maceal Afaese DT 4 star
Jackson Laduke OLB 4 star
Justin Flowe ILB 5 star
Keith Brown ILB 4 star
Noah Sewell ILB 5 star
Jaden Navarrette OLB 4 star

Not to mention 3 star’s who got playing time last year as freshman

Bradyn Swinson DT 3 star
Jaylen Smith DT 3 star

All I am saying is that at this point there is a lot of younger talent in the front 7 with some serious potential and if charles is right and a third become starters Oregon has roughly 3 long term starters in these either freshman or super freshman already.


and this doesnt include people who have been there for two years now, such as Mase Funa or Jonathan Flowe.


No, you don’t have Signees who have yet to enroll(Flowe olb 3 star, jabril mcneill DE 4 star, Terrell Tillmon DE 3 star, and Brandon Buckner OLB 3 star) nor does it include multi year players( on the roster in 2019. Although technically some of the 2019 players could be in their first full offseason as well if they didn’t early enroll. While I don’t know who they are exactly you have Funa, Ware-hudson, poti, and Thibs who are all apart of that 2019 class.(Thibs is the only one I remember early enrolling so the rest of the guys would have had fall camp, 4th quarter wait training and then their spring cut short.

the only long term residents are Adrian Jackson and popo Aumavae.

On top of that you have 3 star Brandon Dorlus who had a really great season in 2020.

Darren Perkins

Well, for him to transfer he must know that his playing time going into the 2021 season is not guaranteed.

I think back to heading into the 2012 season when Darron Thomas declared early for the NFL Draft and we were all thinking, “What the hell is he doing?”

That worked out pretty good.

Jon Sousa

The only bad thing in 2012 is that MM didn´t have a good back up. After two full years leading Oregon to a great record and a National Championship Game, DT no doubt thought that sitting behind Mariota was not going to increase his draft stock… so “now or never”.

J Duck

As Jon and Drake mention, the loss of veteran, experience, leadership, etc. is the worst part. Up and coming 5 stars etc. will create more of this down the road, and while depth suffers, our overall recruiting is at unprecedented levels.

As Charles has pointed out over the years, some 5 stars think they are hot stuff and never crack the 2-deep, but overall the Bamas, Clemsons, tOSU’s…they win titles and they are loaded with 4/5 stars, some of which flop too and some of their 3 stars rise to the top like many Ducks over the years, but in the end…talent wins. We are on the talent uptick. Can’t wait for Moorhead to be unleashed, and see what DeRuyter brings.


You make a good point J Duck. Isaac is a known quantity, and while Justin Flowe’s upside may be huge, you just don’t know if he’ll play up to the hype. He very well may, but how long will it take him to get there?

I question whether the Ducks are better at Ohio State with Flowe than ISM. There is bound to be a learning curve. Experience, or lack thereof, may be a deciding factor at the Horseshoe.


Experience is the main factor that will be missed. Talent wise we have young players that have the potential to be better. However, the conundrum is that an experienced player on the field takes away opportunities for those guys to gain experience.

The circumstances creating this situation we’re probably known by the coaching staff before the announcement. They have worked with these guys from day one to prepare them to play at this level. Seems like whomever gets the nod will need to play well to stay out on the field. There will be others that will want that playing time.

I hope the transfer is part of the solution for this young man.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

In the short term–this is a BIG loss, as ISM was our leading tackler (and he was NOT the middle LB) a two-year starter and a veteran of two New Year’s Day Bowls. You cannot replace experience and talent like that with a freshman.

Over the longer term? Maybe. Over at the Rivals site, Duck Sports Authority, Dale Newton quoted the maxim about recruiting that I believe is true. “One third become starters and contributors, one third remain as back-ups, and one-third wash out for various reasons.”

Thus we will not know which third Dudley is in for a few years…


It would have been nice to have ISM against Ohio State. Losing his experience is huge.

Jon Joseph

The Portal Overfloweth.

Far more players in the Portal than there are ‘job openings.’ Many of these guys have or will, lose their scholarship with no replacement.

IS-M will not be replaced by a true frosh.

Great get picking up Dudley but the kid needs a year of strength+ conditioning. He is not the physical specimen that is Noah Sewell.

Mells is a 3* who will need a RS season and may or may not be capable of being coached up?

Hope it works out for IS-M. He was being pushed by a 5* in Flowe who was likely to win the starting position without this transfer.

Hurts the depth on D, no doubt. But I see a possible improvement at the position? IS-M was good. Flowe has the ability to wreck havoc.

Thanks Jordan.

Kurt Rambis

Fans always love the “unknown” – the incoming freshman, the first-round draft choice, the backup QB, etc. We can dream about what the player could be, rather than see what he/she is. Oregon and every other college program has had plenty of highly ranked players who never panned out, so nothing says Dudley will be anything special (although I sure hope he is). IS-M has one thing Dudley CANNOT bring to the table right now – significant college playing experience. So in the immediate future, this is unlikely to be a positive trade-off for the Ducks.


Great one, fans always love the back-up qb. We may want Flowe to become the starter, but Isaac was a leader, and we will miss him. We are blessed with great talent at LB, but we were blessed with the time Isaac gave us, again Mahalo!


It sounds like Isaac is one of those who used the transfer portal to help deal with family matters. This is a great use of the concept allowing a player to continue his career at a more convenient location. Another element which should help the Ducks bring in talent from afar.

I will always be grateful for what Isaac brought to the field and to the Oregon Football Program. He was an effort guy who helped us move through the post Dye era. We are in good hands, and hopefully he can now lend a stronger hand to his family needs. Mahalo Isaac Slade-Matutia, you will be missed!

Jon Joseph

Good point.

Prior to the Portal, player’s whose residence was more than 100 miles from campus and who had family issues could transfer closer to home + not lose playing time.


Good point indeed. I wasn’t aware of family matters. Good luck to the kid.


I don ‘t ever like to see us lose a talented, versatile, and experienced team player like IS-M. A lack of depth is something Ducks teams have suffered from many seasons past.

He’s given much to Oregon football. I wish Issac great things ahead in football, college, and life. Aloha.


TBH, I always thought Isaac S-M was kind of like the Duck senior receivers. Pretty good 4 stars that bring experience to the table, but not the talent needed to take down the true contenders. Sorry….

I hope he lands somewhere he likes.