Oregon to Emulate Utah’s Key Advantage?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

There is one key advantage that Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham has created that Oregon hopes to emulate during the Dan Lanning era with the Ducks, and it is a quality within Kyle’s staff that will show up in today’s game. I was not aware that the recruiting disparity was a large as it is, and thus this component has become compelling, and is something to watch for at Autzen over the ensuing years because of how critical it is for Oregon’s success.

It is player development.

We all have admired the job that Coach Whit has done as two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and winning the conference in back to back years. Yet he has accomplished this with much less talent on paper than I imagined, and was stunned to see the recruiting rankings in Rivals.com recently. Let’s look at the last four recruiting classes, and the one shaping up for the 2024 signing dates coming up. Below are the number of 4/5-Star players signed or verballed to the two programs…

2020-2023 Recruiting Classes: Utah 18, Oregon 54
2024 Verbals: Utah 4 Oregon 17

Whoa. I had no idea that the Ducks had three times the amount of 4/5-Star players signed over the last four years than Utah, and while it makes me admire the work of the Utes that much more–it also gets me to thinking about Our Beloved Ducks. It is apparent that the vast majority of players signed by Utah are “projects” who have the raw material needed, but need a few years of growth and seasoning to become a great performers at the D-1 level. This is something Duck fans are familiar with, as Coach Mike Bellotti perfected this analysis and development process during his time as our coach.

The majority of Ute starters will be unheralded players who now can play toe-to-toe with any Pac-12 team, and that development was especially evident with the emergence at quarterback and running back for the Utes. A former walk-on and converted safety are helping Utah win major games? It is remarkable, and makes me tip my hat to the coaching staff in Salt Lake City.

Bucky Irving has developed into an elite running back under Coach Carlos Locklyn. (Screenshot from ABC Sports Video)

To be fair, only six players remain from Oregon’s blockbuster 2021 recruiting class of 19 of the 4/5-Star players due to the robust recruiting of Dan Lanning, who brought players to Oregon who have moved past that 2021 class on the depth chart. And as we know–most of Lanning’s recruits are quite young as underclassmen yet. However our concerns about development became obvious under Oregon’s former coach, and thus all eyes will be on the Lanning staff to observe if development like the Bellotti days will materialize.

If Oregon could recruit consistently in the top-ten, and have player development like Whittingham and Bellotti? Lanning would then create a perpetual elite team each year Eugene. We have noted the growth of too many players to mention here already under the Lanning staff, and thus we have the hope this superb development can continue take place. But can it occur to the level as Salt Lake City?

This, to me, is a long term aspect that will be fascinating and fun to watch for; do you think it will happen for Oregon as we hope? Share your thoughts in the only free, civilized, Oregon football message board because…

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

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Harry Caston

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