Is Oregon Football Facing a “Helfrich” Recruiting Year?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 34 Comments

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It’s a crowded ledge I’m on, flanked by Duck fans in despair about the looks of HC Mario Cristobal’s 2022 football recruiting class. It would appear the final numbers for 2022 may be much closer to a Mark Helfrich class (The most he had in any year was eight 4/5-Star players) than the last three classes of Coach Cristobal. What are the current numbers and what is going on? I will offer my best guess and some thoughts that can perhaps talk all of us off the ledge and back into the window….

The last three classes of recruits at Oregon are as follows on Rivals.com(See why I use Rivals and not 247 right here)

2019: 14 of the 4/5-Star players, one 5=Star, and ranked No. 7 class in the nation.
2020: 12 of the 4/5-Star players, two 5-Stars, and ranked No. 9 class in the nation.
2021: 19 of the 4/5-Star players, two 5-Stars, and ranked No. 3 class in the nation.

Currently the Ducks have 17 verbal commitments to sign for the 2022 class, and only seven are 4/5-Star players. Getting to double digits of of 4/5-Stars doesn’t look likely, especially given the possibility of the ’22 class size being smaller with only 20 total signings. With Oregon just joining the elite company of teams having half their roster comprised of the 4/5-Star players, the pressure is now on to continue that recruiting trend.

From Twitter

Kelvin Banks Jr. is Oregon’s 5-Star verbal for 2022!

What does it take to have a Top-10 class on Rivals? It is pretty clear that if you have 12 of these prized players signed with at least one of them being a 5-Star, then that becomes the minimum bar. Without any 5-Star players it takes closer to 14 of the 4-Star players to break into the Top-10. So I think for many Duck fans, we want to see at least 12 signed in December and February at the least.

But there are other elements to consider.

We do “Critical Analysis” Here…

This means that I have give credit where due and grief when deserved. As most of you know–while I have taken Coach Cristobal to task concerning the Oregon Offense, I’ve readily acknowledged that he has shattered the recruiting ceiling at Oregon in a way that none of us Greybeard-age fans could ever imagine. I am grateful for the amazing work he and his staff have done and would like to offer some additional perspective on this next recruiting class. All is not as it first appears…

I believe that classes need some “project” players, as many do mature later athletically. With the added seasoning time between signing and getting on the field, a “project player” can add solid weight and get coached up, putting themselves into position to help the team either on the playing field or–by  pushing more highly rated players to greater heights–on the practice field. In 2003, Oregon fans jumped for joy with the signing of 4-Star OL Aaron Klovas (bust) while yawning with the commitment of 3-Star OL Geoffrey Schwartz (Star). We’re all familiar with the stories of Rivals 2-Star, 5-Time Super Bowler Patrick Chung, along with 3-Star players Max Unger, Shane Lemieux, Calvin Throckmorton and Jake Hanson and the NFL success they enjoyed after Oregon.

Twitter

Patrick Chung has been in SO MANY Super Bowls!

A percentage of the “hungry” players on the roster helps set the tone moving the culture in the direction Coach Cristobal wants. And the reality is that each year a 3-Star player or two gets elevated to 4-Star status between the end of his senior high school season and the national signing date in February. And following a year where COVID-19 limited the scouting opportunities, it would not be surprising to see more rating adjustments than normal.  It’s entirely possible we end up with more than seven among the current verbals due to superb upside analysis by the Oregon coaching staff.

Did the “Chip” Just Get BIGGER? (Not that Chip; the one on the shoulder)

In the past we often saw motivated 3-Star players come in and become great players for Oregon. It was the success of these “chip-on-the-shoulder” players upon which the last two ‘Natty appearances were built. But I cannot help but wonder if things currently haven’t tilted even more in the direction of the unheralded players. Why? As it is–an “entitled” attitude can be present for highly ranked recruits, but now add the NIL to it? Freshmen coming in who are earning money before doing anything at Autzen?

That can make the chip-on-the-shoulder for the 3-Star players earning nothing so much bigger!

I am also a bit philosophical about this, because in the sales process–you operate on percentages. You talk to enough players and give your best pitch, and a percentage will decide to join Coach Cristobal at Oregon. There are times when more recruits than you expect will plop in your lap, and other years where it goes the other way. This might be just one-of-those-years where we fill up on more projects than usual to fill out the roster after three loaded recruiting classes.

The only negative? It does put pressure on next year, as 2023 would be a must year for recruiting at Oregon. But for now, we can wipe our brow and step back inside the window. The Ducks are going to be fine…

But Wait….There’s MORE?

I have been under the impression from both 247 and ScoopDuck that this recruiting class is small due to lack of scholarships available–a result from the last three superb recruiting years. Yet Matt Prehm at 247 is hinting that more players hitting the portal than anticipated has opened up six to eight more scholarships beyond the current 17 verbals that could be signed? Holy Crap: that changes everything!

UO Athletics Video

These Duck fans have gone from the ledge to a SHOUT for the 2022 class!

I recognize it is difficult, but acquiring five more of the desired 4/5-Star players from between one 3-Star being elevated and new verbals from a larger class becomes a tall, yet attainable goal. Perhaps that Top-Ten ranking is not out of reach, and a key to watch is the development of additional scholarships being available. The prospect of a larger class is relatively new and has caught many of us by surprise… perhaps we’ll step inside off the ledge and join the party toasting the upcoming 2022 class?

Good gosh Coach Cristobal has made recruiting fun at Oregon, and now the new intrigue with scholarship numbers adds to our entertainment value so much more. It is all delightful because….

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo from YouTube Screenshot

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smith72

I am grateful your creative writing juices are pumping! No longer having to monitor behavior is just what the doctor ordered.

Duck fans are thankful!

UtahDuck

One thing to also ponder is how the pandemic may affect this class. I think this class will see a variety of miss rankings more so than any other class due to covid cutting events and seasons.

A number of players could have seen camp jumps or falls if they would have had the opportunity to attend some of the camps.

All in all I think this is a year to trust the coaches on their ability to evaluate talent.

obviously Saban and bama have perfected recruiting but even just looking at their current rivals class to last year and you can see a slight bump in the number of three stars(percentage wise). In 2021 they took 4- 3 Stars in a class of 27. In 2022 they already have 3-3 stars in a class of 13. that is nearly double the percentage.

oregon111

I was thinking that the bad showing against Iowa St in the last bowl game probably had a negative effect on recruiting this year.

Ducks need to start going to the playoffs – they should be able to sweep the pac, just like Ohio St, Clemson, and Oklahoma clean out their conferences.

Once they start doing that as a regular occurance, their profile will rise and they will get the top recruits in the west.

oregon111

I don’t even go by ‘stars’ anymore. I look at what kind of an athlete they are and how physical they are or can be with the strength and conditioning program.

Players I get excited about:

Ashford, Flowe, Kayvon, McGee, Kingsly

And there are some players that I am not so high on who are rated very highly.

——————————–

Of this 2022 group, I wish they got Cheeks and Sneed. I wish they got Foreman and JTT.

I go by hits and misses of prime targets. Cristobal is getting hits. But this year, he seems to also be getting some misses that the team might have got the last 3 seasons.

For the 2022 class, I am not at all excited about QB, TE, D line, linebacker and DB. They did get some good ones on the O line.

——————————–

Maybe there is so much FRESHMEN talent on the roster, that it is hard to sign top players right now because they don’t think that they will play?

2020 was a freak season. Lets see what 2021 does and then look at the 2023 class.

I think the Ohio St game will have a big impact on recruiting (either good or bad) for the rest of the 2022 class.

If the Ducks can play a close and exciting game, then the recruits will want to be part of it. If the Ducks looks outclassed – like the LSU game in 2011, then top players will look elsewhere.

If they get Moss, then that makes it a great class by itself.

Also, maybe they lost out on linebackers because Sewell and Flowe are still Freshmen?

DanLduck

Charles, do I understand you correctly? The last 3 recruiting classes were the best in program history, we currently have the #1 class in the Pac12, #8 nationally, and it’s only mid August…and you want to compare coach C with coach H?!?
We have been having a heat wave here in Oregon, but you need to get in the shade with your IPA! lol 😆

Seriously, I say not to worry, yet. If we have 2 bad classes in a row, maybe then, worry.

Others have made good points, here are a couple of my thoughts; Cristobal gives out 3x the number of offers to recruits than did Kelly/Helfriech. He also starts earlier in a kids life, so we have to assume that the coaches are scouting potential as much as anything. Players all develop at different rates, so some offers accepted by kids may not develop to the 4☆ status till later.

Also, about SNL weekend, I read that this year’s camp had greater emphasis on future years, more young players, so that is partly why not so many verbals right away.

Lastly, how many scholarships do the coaches hold back for potential transfer portal spots? If any?

Ps, great to be back on FD.

DanLduck

Also, all the SNL kids have to pay their own way to Eugene. Thus, those are typically ones who are more serious about Oregon. That’s a positive.

Isn’t Feb 2, National Signing Day? There seem to be numerous players on the Horizon with top talent looking at the Ducks.

Seems a bit early to be worried considering the past results and trajectory of recruiting when coupled with the roster numbers to be considered after Covid changed the rules.

DLine is the only position I see as really needing some top physical specimens. Many other positions look greatly improved and showing some depth. QB, LB, OL, TE, DB, and WR.

Im not quite ready to start calling it a “helfrich” year. Did you possibly break your own decorum and personal insult rules by using his name as a derogatory? To the coliseum gladiator. Cesar has sentenced you to fight the lions for your transgressions.

Eliminating training and moderating has certainly decreased the string tightness from the possible violin or mandolin level but my vociferous expounding alter ego may have decreased the capacity to notice the virulence in my attempts to humor you.

Unfortunately the majority will read that quote, taken out of context, and say what a putz. The good news, those that matter will want to know more about your opinion(s) and will read more about what you think. The price of fame, I suppose.

Darren Perkins

Very nice insight, Charles. Good stuff. When I glance at the rankings, I add the 4 and 5 stars and compare them to the 3’s while soaking in the overall class ranking.

So, I look at it this way:

2022: 7 (4/5) to 10 (3 stars)…. 8th
2021: 19 to 4….. 3rd nationally
2020: 12 to 10….. 9th nationally
2019: 14 to 12…. 7th nationally
2018: 12 to 10….. 13th rationally

I think a realistic expectation with Mario is what we saw in 2018 to 2020, where there get slightly more (ex. 12 to 10) 4/5’s than 3’s.

Now we are slightly behind that right now, but that 7 to 10 might be a 9 to 10 by the end of this next week. In Mario we trust. And we are #8 overall which tells me we have some highly scoring 3’s, which could more easily become 4’s.

I see 2021’s 19 to 4 as an unusually high year, which I don’t believe we can expect every year. So, in the name of “karma” things could just be evening out a bit.

For overall rankings, I see 5-10 as the norm, top 5 on occasion, and 10-15 on occasion. If we drop below 15 then that is when I believe an eye-brow should be highly raised….. Perhaps some pulled hair as well.

On another recruiting ranking note, I’ve always thought the services put too much of a premium on “quantity.” U look at USC down at #32, yet they have the highest per player ranking. So clearly they must be getting killed in the rankings because they have a small class, only 10 so far, but a damn good ten….. Stanford gets hit with this alot as they usually have smaller classes than most…. Maybe you know the reason. Thanks.

PittDuck

Charles, thank you for a nice ponder point this morning! I gotta think that even with a few less 4 & 5 stars in 2022, the super seniors staying on keeps the overall team ratings closer to MC numbers than MH numbers, or even CK numbers.

I don’t know this for sure, it is a gut feeling, much like my gut tells me these Ducks are gonna be fine for a few years to come. My hope is the sEcSPN cartel doesn’t screw college football up so bad that it becomes unrecognizable.

Parity is a good thing for the health of a league,. Unfortunately, Disney/ESPN taking over the SEC and poaching from other leagues does nothing for parity.

Annie

I’m thinking/hoping that Oregon is not just “settling” for 3-star players, but rather sees something in each of them that made the Ducks eager to recruit them. Admittedly, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the walk-on to 3-star players (Wesley Mallard, Jed Weaver, for example) from the past who have gone on to be great players for the Ducks and in some cases in the pros too.

rden

Very interesting article, Charles.

Usually, UO gets some pledges at, or right after, SNL. This year, it took a week to get just one. I’m wondering if maybe Texas & Oklahoma to the SEC is already having an effect … maybe permanent … on recruiting top players to non-SEC conferences. 

Haywarduck

How the NIL works out for Thibs as compared to others in college football will indicate how an elite athlete will do at Oregon. I think this is something to watch and I was surprised our pitch to JTT wasn’t more persuasive on this topic. With Nike it would seem we have an advantage. Time will tell how we play this card. Is our small market going to hurt this?

Position groups are also something to watch with recruiting. It seems we continue to lack the ability to pull in the elite D-lineman as compared to other positions. We have a whole flock of players at TE, Oline is loaded, and the skill positions are all gaining star power. The DT position is a weaknesses we need to either pull a surprise or a transfer.

Great ponder point as we head into the season. Starters, playing time and outcomes will soon become the focus. Recruiting is the heart of the program which keeps it pumping!

Completely agree, and while the D-line has developed talent, the RB position seems to be waiting for a phenom to sign on.

Both positions could use an elite talent. There was nothing like Ngata in the middle, or Jstew going for 6.

The big question is why can’t we sign the phenom with the O-line talent we have? If I was an elite RB, I would look at history, check, the O-line, check. What is it that we are missing, coaching, scheme?

NJDuck

Hi Charles,

Thanks for the article. I am thinking what you were saying about more scholarships opening that could up that 4 star plus count to the team. We just got a commitment from Jahilil Florence, possibly more to come this month with Jalil Tucker and Tetiroa McMillan are ready to set their commitments. I am agreeing with you it isn’t over with yet for the 2022 recruiting year to add more 4 star recruits.

Notalot

Thanks for providing the comparative numbers along with possible future outcomes. We know that Coach Cristobal’s recruiting chops are superior to any seen before in Oregon football history.

Given his track record I suspect everything will work out just fine with the 2022 class before February.

Will we see more action than before with JUCO and portal signings? With 17 verbal commits and another on the way this week, Ducks football is in good shape for the second week of August.

The next 7-8 recruits to fill out the team may be the most interesting showing us more about the priorities of the coaching staff.

Quackanadian

Nice Sunday read Charles!

I think you make some strong points. I have to agree strongly with how NIL will affect attitude, entitlement, and culture in the most unexpected ways. You see it up here in Junior hockey, where none of this historic NCAA “you can’t have a job” or trade a jersey for a tattoo garbage has ever mattered. I would love to believe that 3 stars will hold a grudge and make a splash, but I hope it doesn’t go as far as “resentment to team mates”.

Case and point: a caller to ESPN radio on XM was concerned about Clemson QB DJU making a boat load of cash from Dr Pepper this season. He stated, “How is his wide receiver group gonna feel if he misses a read? Or over throws them when open in the end zone? Or has a off day? They won’t let him slide with all is extra cash floating around”….

I have to admit, I never thought of that. Some of these Have-Nots are going to have massive chips, to the point it may even get in the way of Team Culture. I get the sense MC and crew have anticipated this.

Should be interesting.

Cheers.