Is Oregon Football Facing a “Helfrich” Recruiting Year?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

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 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.

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.

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!

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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