Oregon’s Record Recruiting Class…That Never Was

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

I was on top of the world as an Oregon fan in 2021, as Mario Cristobal secured the greatest recruiting class in the history of Oregon football, the best in over 100 years! It finished ranked No. 3 in the nation as you can see on Rivals, and had an astounding 19 players signed who were either 4-Star or 5-Star as rated by Rivals. The next best year was last year under Dan Lanning with 16 of the coveted players, while the best under Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly was 12 of these highly ranked players in one year.

I took some time away from using my Valorant aimbot at Battlelog.co for some fun Valorant Cheats and hacks, because the final recruiting class under Cristobal is quite puzzling. This 2021 class would have players who would now be sophomores, (if they redshirted) or juniors who would be in line to contend for starting or major playing time. Yet all that is left from that class of 23 players is only six who are still on the team? A 26% success rate is all? 

What happened?

Committed to Cristobal

I believe there are a half-dozen reasons combined for this mess, but a big one is how so many players were personally committed to Cristobal; leaving Oregon due to a new coach seemed to make sense if they had come from a long way from their original home. I do attribute players lost such as Bram Walden and Kingsley Suamataia in the “homesick” category, as the loss of the coach that recruited them made the journey home that much easier.

“You Don’t Fit”

This happens often, where a new coach has players on the team that simply don’t fit the new offense or defense, and I think that was especially present at Oregon. The players recruited for the slogging offense of Cristobal were not aligned with the high scoring Coach Lanning had in mind, and certainly the 4-2-5 MINT defense brought from Georgia required some different skill sets. I don’t think players were run off in a “Deon” type of pronounced way, as Lanning needed enough to field a team, but players could see whether or not their size and speed would fit into the new schemes.

I am not going to give the names, but I think two highly prominently recruited players who left did not have the mental fortitude needed by the new coaches. I will watch them at the new schools to see if my theory is correct, as it is why I did not rue the loss of their play going forward. Some players just don’t have all the physical or mental tools to compete at this level and you only find that out after they practice and play with the team. This occurs at all schools, on every year.

But only six left from the 2021 recruiting class? Whew! (The remaining six are: Jeffrey Bassa, Daymon David, Terrance Ferguson, Troy Franklin, Ty Thompson, and Jackson Powers-Light)

Keith Brown was 4-Star recruit from Lebanon, Oregon. (Photo by Craig Strobeck)

There were only two players who transferred out this last year that I wanted to remain, that was LB Keith Brown, and TE Maliki Matavao. Yet I understand because both were going to be juniors, and if you are going to be in your junior year–you want to be starting at whatever school you attend. Brown had no assurance with all the recruiting done, as he might have been a “tweener” in the Lanning defense. Matavao was a good player, but he would not be starting ahead of Terrance Ferguson. Hence in both cases, I do understand. (Fortunately Lanning went out into the portal and replaced them!)

Another element brought up is how COVID prevented so many of the usual camps and combines from taking place, thus the upside analysis may not have been as complete or accurate. I do not blame that on Mario, as it could happen to any coach. However it certainly could have played a factor with a few players within that narrow time window.

A New Recruiting Monster?

Coach Lanning has assembled a staff that can recruit like crazy; have you ever seen an offensive coordinator who has not yet called a play–recruit so well at quarterback as Will Stein has done? Another factor that surfaced is the impact of the portal, as the Lanning staff has recruited superb older players who are proven, thus only the very best of the younger players can make it to the field. It also seems that Lanning’s high school recruits have moved ahead of many from that 2021 class on the depth chart, thus why so many left this last winter.

Coach Lanning attacks team weaknesses with a ruthlessness in recruiting that I have not witnessed at Oregon before. He needed a JACK linebacker, (who also is an elite edge rusher) so between the current team, high school recruits coming to Oregon early, and portal transfers–he had an astounding 12, that is twelve at that position competing during Spring football!  You do not need 12, but only four or five, but he recruits a boatload, finds out who is the best, and lets the rest transfer out.

He needed better punting and had four punters in fall camp; he had a weakness at MONEY linebacker, and now has three experienced veterans at the right weights for that position, and fourth in freshman Devon Jackson who shouts promise for the future. Without going through the list–he brought in a slug of portal defensive backs of which guarantees some talented, experienced corners and safeties who will not be starting against Portland State.

Seven McGee could not see the field as much under Lanning. (Photo by Craig Strobeck)

This coach recruits for big numbers of high quality players to solve a problem with personnel, as I have these aforementioned examples and other position groups as well. (Offensive line and running backs) Other than positions needing to be solved–it seems that his ongoing recruiting is done with the intention of having current starters passed by, and perhaps this is what happened to so many in that 2021 recruiting class?

Is This the New Normal?

I believe that the majority of media pundits do not currently realize how well Dan Lanning did in the portal over the past two years and how it transformed the offense in 2022, and will propel Oregon’s defense upward in 2023. Is the new normal in recruiting to bring in tons of portal transfers, and thus only the very best of high schoolers end up at Oregon over three or four years? Hence we can expect more vanishing recruiting classes like 2021 in the future? Discuss with me over in the only civilized Duck fan forum because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo from Oregon Football Twitter

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the FishDuck.com publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

OBD Forum members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!