Ducks: Growing Pains, Youth Movement and Recruiting

Darren Perkins Editorials

There has been a whirlwind of activity around the Oregon football program over the past couple of weeks — so many topics and issues that it is hard to keep up. But darn it, I try my best. Here are my three thoughts of the day.

1. Nepotism

To touch on Mr. FishDuck’s article from yesterday on the unfair influence of former players — the former players want to wallow in the good old days like a bunch of retirees clanking whiskey sodas down at the local country club. I cannot blame them; there is something very natural about it. So, yes, they want to hire their buddy Justin Wilcox as their bridge to the past. They want a sign on the door, metaphorically speaking, that reads “Outsiders Not Welcome.

But that is the exact wrong strategy, and one that Oregon luckily avoided. 

Simply put, Oregon has evolved from a mom-and-pop organization into a business giant. And, just like in the business world, the free-wheeling, innovative souls who started the company are generally not the best to lead the company after it has grown large. Instead of bringing in talented leaders with fresh ideas, they are inclined to hire their buddies and do things as they did in the “good ole days,” which eventually leads them to become stagnant and obsolete.

Kevin Cline

Yes, the hiring of Justin Wilcox would have taken Oregon back to the good ole days. But, that would not be a good thing.

The nepotistic way of doing things recently cost USC a full decade of relevancy, but once they brought in an outsider as their AD, they started heading in the right direction. Let’s not waste away several years moving backward. Regression is not the Oregon way.

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2. “He’s so young!” 

Yes, and that is not so unusual. Dan Lanning is 35 years old. The NFL has recently trended in a coaching youth movement with several recent coaching hires of candidates in their 30s. If it is good enough for the NFL then it is good enough for college, I suppose. And, of course, our own legendary coach, Rich Brooks, was only 35 when he got the job in 1977.

Of course, my older brother made a good point in response to the age of 35. In 1977, 35 was viewed as an older and more mature age than it is now. And, believe me, our father was a heck of a lot more mature at 35 than his Beavis and Butt-Head sons ever were. I guess it is the whole “40 is the new 30” thing. But not guys like Lanning. I guess some of today’s 35-year-olds are just “old souls.

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Rich Brooks was a mature 35 when he became head coach at Oregon in 1977

3. 2022 Recruiting Rankings

With the coaching change, Oregon naturally took a big recruiting hit as several players have de-committed. This is a heavily fluid situation as we will not know the final results until National Signing Day, but currently, the Ducks are slotted in the forties by Rivals.com and 247sports.com. This should improve as Lanning gets his feet under him in Eugene, but it’s safe to say that a Top-10, Mario Cristobal type of class for 2022 is not going to happen.

In light of this, I shall attempt to supply a little hope as we stare down what will most likely be our worst recruiting class in five years. The last year the Ducks finished outside of the Top 30 was 2008. But, upon a 2012 re-ranking of that class by ESPN, the Ducks finished in the Top 3 behind only Alabama and Stanford. That “lowly” 2008 class set the foundation for Oregon’s success under Chip Kelly.

You might recognize some of these names from that 2008 class: LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, Kenjon Barner, John Boyett, Dion Jordan, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Cody and Kiko Alonso.

Sometimes you just have to take guys who fly under the radar and coach them up. So, take solace in knowing that no matter what, Lanning cannot do worse than Cristobal when it comes to getting the most out of his players. And, I’m willing to bet he will do one hell of a job.

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Craig Strobeck

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