Oregon Has Failed to Recruit the State of Washington

David Marsh Editorials 25 Comments

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When J.T. Tuimoloau, a five-star recruit out of the state of Washington, announced Oregon as one of his final four schools, the Ducks were hopeful they could persuade him to make the short trip south to begin his college football career. However, Tuimoloau chose Ohio State instead. Oregon was, in truth, always a bit of a long shot but was considered to be his second choice. In recruiting, though, second choice is nothing more than first loser. And this latest recruiting disappointment reveals a larger deficiency of the Ducks in the past decade: Oregon’s inability to go into the state of Washington and land top talent.

Beyond Tuimoloau, the high school football talent coming out of Washington in 2021 was plentiful, with three five-star recruits, two of which went to Ohio State and one of which went to the University of Washington. The state also boasted six four-star recruits, but Oregon didn’t land a single one of those players, either.

Since 2010, Oregon has only landed five Rivals top 10 recruits from the state of Washington: Danny Mattingly in 2013, Fotu Leiato, Shane Lemieux and Calvin Throckmorton in 2015 and Cale Millen in 2019. All were three-star recruits. So in the last decade, Oregon hasn’t managed to sign a single four or five-star recruit out of their neighbor to the north. It is difficult for Oregon to own West Coast recruiting when they cannot manage to pull any significant talent from Washington.

Kevin Cline

Washington native Calvin Throckmorton protects Justin Herbert against Washington in 2018.

In comparison, since 2010, Oregon has landed 11 top 10 recruits from California, all of whom were rated as four- or five-star athletes. Of those 11, six have come from the Mario Cristobal era alone. California is a far richer state in terms of football talent than Washington, so it is not a surprise that it generally has much higher rated players in their top 10. However, Oregon’s success with California recruits only highlights their ineptitude snagging top talent from Washington.

This is especially puzzling considering Cristobal and the rest of the Oregon staff have owned the rest of the Pac-12 footprint in terms of recruiting. Cristobal has regularly taken top talent out of every other state within in the Pac-12. In 2021, Oregon recruited top 10 talent from every state in the Pac-12 except Washington, and this has to change.

The most likely suspect for this problem is the mutual hatred between the Oregon and Washington fan bases. It is a special kind of hatred that has infused itself into the cultures of both states. There isn’t a whole lot of love between Duck fans and Washington State Cougar fans, either, though it isn’t anywhere near as intense.

This may seem like an overreaction, however Oregon State has done a better job landing Washington’s top 10 recruits over the past couple of decades than Oregon. If a recruit from Washington is leaving the state, they are not coming to the Ducks.

Kevin Cline

Kenny Bassett runs through Washington cornerback, and one time Oregon verbal commit, Budda Baker in 2014.

Tuimoloau is just the most recent Washington talent to snub the Ducks but he is just another in a long line of missed opportunities. However, the tides may be changing as Dave Iuli, a four-star recruit on Rivals and the No. 3 recruit in the State of Washington, has Oregon in his top group. And according to both Rivals and 247 Sports, Oregon has the inside track to landing his services. If Oregon does land Iuli, then he will be the first four-star recruit Oregon has landed out of Washington since 2008, the last year of the Mike Bellotti era at Oregon.

Oregon has proven they can win without Washington’s recruits, and there are more plentiful recruiting grounds than Washington, as well. However, Washington does produce quality talent, and if Oregon is truly going to own the Pac-12 and the West, they will need to persuade that talent to come to Eugene. Or is there just too much rivalry hatred between these states to convince their recruits to wear green and yellow?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: Tom Corno

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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J Duck

And then bam, we gut Iuli!!! Guess we can get some headliners outta WA. Oh, and when lost a legacy in Molden TO waaaa, I’ve taken solace in the fact he never beat the Ducks! Ha

oregon111

JTT was a big loss. It seems that almost every year, there is one big time player from Washington. And he can go wherever he wishes and will expect playing time.

Lately, it seems like the greater Seattle region is a minor league development program for Ohio St. Which is yet another reason I want the Ducks to beat them this year.

This problem gets solved if and when Oregon starts going to the playoffs. Oklahoma goes to the playoffs and loses every time, but it does not hurt their recruiting — because they make it there so often.

Upper level 5 stars want a shot at the post season.

UtahDuck

Washington Blue Chip commits by Year:

2022(to date)Commits only – 6 No blue chips committed

2021 – 9 tOSU – 2 UW – 4 USC – 1 ASU – 1 Virginia – 1

2020 – 7 UW – 3 tOSU – 1 WSU – 1 Stan – 1 Cal – 1

2019 – 2 UW – 2

2018 – 4 UW – 2 FSU – 1 WSU – 1

2017 – 5 UW – 3 Stan – 2

First and foremost, as I am looking at this clearly last recruiting class was an anomaly with both three 5 stars and 9 blue chip recruits. I’d expect ~5.5 bluechips and one 5 star on average in the state.

Second, outside of JT and Egbuka I don’t know how many of last years class would have been takes for oregon. Sam huard wasn’t a take with us getting Thompson(also probably never would have gone to oregon due to the legacy aspect and us not offering). IOL Owen Prentice(UW) didn’t get an offer from Oregon, both Alexander and Tinae(WR) are ranked below all three WR’s we took, Will latu(ATHL) didn’t get an offer, and josh McCarron(DE) also didn’t get an offer. the only other player I can see that would have been a likely take is LB Simon who went to USC.

I think this partially asks the question, is Cristobal missing on players because he is just missing or is it that he doesn’t value most of the talent coming from the state of washington. Obviously missing on guys like egbuka and JT hurt, they are talented players but I can’t blame them for picking tOSU and It isn’t like we even had a shot with Egbuka, he has been tOSU his whole recruitment.

Also I really can’t blame Cristobal for anything that happened prior to 2019 as he really hasn’t had the chance to influence those classes. Cristobal may not be prioritizing the state for two reasons, one is the relative limited amount of talent and two the state influence in the rivalry that pushes players away from Oregon.

It seems like there is a cost analysis going on with the staff that pushing for talent elsewhere just makes more sense. Oregon has done quite well in Texas this cycle. Last cycle they took over California and Arizona and in 2020 they had 7 commits from California and 11 commits from 11 different states. His first class Oregon pulled 5 top 100 players from California alone.

Obviously I want Cristobal to win some elite talent from the state of washington but we should also be looking at the perspective of the elite recruits in the state. one it seems the biggest talent hog is actually Ohio State, pulling in 3 of the last 5 5-stars(the other 2 not being oregon takes). As much as I like oregon, Osu is on a different level 4 conference championships in a row. back to back playoff appearances, and don’t forget they beat us in the 2014 playoffs. Also Ryan day has not lost a regular season game…

As for the rest of the state, I feel like UW fans and their hatred has really tried to paint oregon/cristobal as “pretender”. that Oregon only won in 2019 due to herbert, that we fell into the 2020 championship game.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect anything less from UW and their fans. The narrative is beneficial for them in keeping the rest of the instate talent If Oregon does pull out the division championship again this season than the I think Cristobal will be able to start working Washington a lot harder.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Good Gosh Utah….I LOVE the research and analysis you do. Your comment about the “Cost Analysis” I think makes an incredible amount amount of sense and I would imagine there is a ton of truth to it. Go where you can get the Blue-Chips the easiest!

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SeattleDuck

I echo Utah’s point about cost analysis as it comes down to a numbers game. There is a finite amount of time and energy that Cristobal and company have in recruiting. California produces large numbers of high quality players that dwarf what the state of Washington can produce, even with the handful of blue chips coming out of there recently.

What’s more, when you go flying into Southern Cali, it’s easy to hop over to Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah on the way to/from home (which is precisely what Oregon recruiting has done the last couple years with great success). Why would they divide their time going the opposite direction for a much smaller recruiting pool? Of course you make an exception for a talent like JT but how often does a player like that come out of the Seattle area? Not often.

Texas is worth it for obvious reasons, the primary being that the SE is the most fertile recruiting grounds (particularly for linemen) so it’s worth the plane trip to expand the footprint there.

Jon Joseph

And today the numbers game means leaving room open for transfers.

Jon Joseph

David, great ponder point. Love these recruiting oriented PPs.

OT – ESPN just ranked all 130 P5/G5 HCs by their respective play in CFB. (I think, as noted below that many of these rankings are whack.)

Below is the ranking of Pac-12 coaches and a few other guys of interest to Ducks fans.

Jedd Fisch – Arizona – 130 -no HS or CFB ball.

Chip Kelly – UCLA – 114 – QB/DB New Hampshire – Chip never saw the field as a QB, and his sole tackle in CFB came in 1983.

Clay Helton – USC – 83. – QB – Auburn/Houston – Clay played for his father at Houston.

David Shaw – Stanford – 55 – WR – Stanford

Jimmy Lake – UW – 50 – Safety – E. Washington

Bronco Mendenhall – UVA – 44 – LB – Captain of the Oregon State team in 1987.

Mario Cristobal – Oregon – 40 – OL Miami – Mario played on 2 national champion teams and was all Big East in 1992 – [Jimbo Fisher was a D3 All American QB + is ranked 15? No comprende]

Marcus Arroyo – UNLV – 37 – QB – San Jose State

Justin Wilcox – CAL – 36 – DB – Oregon

Karl Dorrell – CU – 25 – WR – UCLA

Andy Avalos – Boise St – 18 – LB – Boise St.

Nick Rolovich – WA St. – 14 – QB – Hawaii

Willie Taggart – FAU – 12 – QB – W Kentucky

Herm Edwards – ASU – 10 – CB – CAL/San Diego State

Kyle Whittingham – Utah – 9 – LB – BYU

Jonathan Smith – Oregon State – 8 – QB – Oregon State.

1 – Jim Harbaugh/ QB Michigan – 2. Pat Fitzgerald/LB Northwester 3. Josh Heupel/ QB Oklahoma

The majority of P5/G5 HCs played their football at D2/D3 level and many barely saw the field.

As a group, Pac-12 coaches have the highest player rankings.

Haywarduck

Slick being at 12 gives you a pretty good idea about drawing any inferences of the data tabulated.

Jon Joseph

AMEN!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Kids are brought up in Washington to “Love to Hate Oregon,” and the only way I can see bucking that in recruiting is for Washington to be bad, and Oregon to be GREAT.

Back in the 80s….Don James bragged that he could have any prospect he wanted in Oregon…and he could. He took Lincoln Kennedy from Portland, Bo Yates from Lebanon, etc. and there was nothing we could do about it.

Even if Washington is marginally good–they will still hold most of them…unless Oregon starts going to the Playoffs again. THAT could change everything, IMHO.

New_Husky_Helmets.jpg
Santa Rosa Duck

David Marsh, I think you nailed this correctly as a cultural thing. The rivalry is intense and deep. Conversely, I do not see University of Washington successfully recruiting in the State of Oregon.

Haywarduck

I think you hit on something, with the rival concept. Talanoa Hufanga was out of Corvalis and went to sc. When a kid is a from a rival area there is lots of pressure to stay local, or go to a school without the baggage, history of rooting for the other side.

At least we got Jonathan Stewart which was one of the players who elevated the program to another level. The other positive is the players aren’t staying and playing for the dawgs!

What is nice is the state of Oregon is getting recruited well, again. We just signed Keith Brown and need to take care of our own backyard, which we seem to be doing a better job of, thankfully! Too many of our own elite talent has left in the past.

Jon Joseph

J Stew was a great get.

Fortunately, the other school that can’t recruit Washington is, ta-da, Washington. UW signed legacy Huard from the in-state ‘stud group’ and that’s it.

OHIO STATE: ‘Come here Son and you are going to the Playoff and to the NFL.’ Same pitch Bama and Clemson make to west coasters.

No school in the Pac-12 can make the same ‘promise.’ But as we all hope, Oregon is moving in this direction.

Haywarduck

I will also point out Elijah Molden going up north was a low point in this whole recruiting story. An Oregon legacy should never head north to play football, never! If you want to understand how big the crisis Oregon Football Program was in back then, look no further than the Elijah story.

We are fortunate the Helfrich, slick era is over. We can now recruit Oregon well and make noise in Washington again!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Great point, as that was a painful time….losing Molden to UW, Cota to UCLA and a Winston to USC. Not keeping your legacies is not good…

Molden to the dawgs was like losing your sister to an enemy. You can understand how a relative can become attracted to the rich guy from out of town with the flashy car, but a blood enemy! I mean how can you grow up watching DAT, the dawgs going 0-12 and want to wear purple!

I suppose this speaks to how tough it is to pull players from dawg country. Agree losing legacies is never easy, especially extremely talented ones! A legacy loss means somebody is going to lose their job.

Quackanadian

Lovely article David, and though it is true in fact, I may have to politely disagree with the program impact that failing to recruit Washington has done to the Ducks. Mario is pulling big talent out of true SEC territory, as well as Texas and California. Does he really need to get the 4 or 5 guys from Washington? Where from what I have read and understood – correct me if I am wrong Duck fans – doesn’t have the same overall talent and competition level as the Big 3 (Fla, Tex, Cali) on the field?

That being said, some of those 4 or 5 stars may be only show as 3 or 4 stars playing at IMG, Duncanville or Mater Dei. In the same style of argument, I would take a player that shines in the Greater Toronto Hockey League over some small town kid from Saskatchewan, all things being equal, as the competition is beyond comparison anywhere in the world.

If anything, this article sure did provoke thought Mr. Marsh. Cheers!

Jon Joseph

Great comment, eh?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

While it would be nice–if we can get them easier from somewhere else–do it. But I think your article reminds us how much talent there is in Washington, and how it will always be a tough draw for us.

DanLduck

Just think how juicy nice it would feel though, if we could get a few top recruits from the state north of us!!
Ooh, what a feeling! What a rush!! lol