by DSH contributing writer Eric Sloat
Another National Signing Day has come and gone, across the country fans are caring more about stars than any astronomy major does during finals. It’s great when your team has a galaxy full of them, but it really isn’t as important as ESPN, Scout and Rivals all want people to think it is. It’s a hook that “experts” can use to grade a team’s class, but quickly becomes irrelevant when the season gets underway.
Oregon’s class is rated in, or just out of, the top 20. The Ducks did great with the skill players, Royce Freeman, Jalen Brown on offense, Mattrell McGraw, Arrion Springs on defense all committed early and stayed with Oregon. Budda Baker reversed fields and ended up staying home and will be a Husky. Juju Smith came so close to picking up the Ducks hat, but in the end went to USC. The Ducks were not able to address the biggest problem going into next season, namely getting big guys to come to Oregon.
In the Duck we trust: Surf the websites, but remember, recruiting is just one part of the picture in developing a winning team.
Oregon has developed a brand name that now gets them in the front door of recruits who wouldn’t have had anything to do with Oregon 10 years ago. They plucked Jalen Brown out of Arizona, Tony James is from Gainesville, Florida. That is great; but it highlights the problem that Oregon cannot solve; Oregon doesn’t grow football players, especially not big, fast ones. USC, Alabama, Texas, they get top 10 classes and don’t have to leave their zip code
Oregon has become one of the most successful teams because it evaluates and develops players as well or better than any team in the country. Marcus Mariota, LaMichael James played much better than the stars by their names said they would. Taylor Hart, Michael Clay, Kiko Alonzo, none of them were projected to have much impact.
History tells us that this class will show brighter in the years to come than it appears to now. Next season the offense should be as explosive as ever, Freeman and James both have running backs coach Gary Campbell grinning as he thinks about the depth and versatility he’ll have to work with. Jalen Brown joins a likewise deep receiving corps. On the offensive line, Hanitel Louisi, Tyrell Crosby, Braden Eggert all look solid, but it would have been a major haul if the Ducks could have landed one more of the OL’s that were in their sights. Oregon’s magic of developing players will have to materialize with the D line prospects. Tui Talia is a JUCO and should be able to contribute immediately, but Jalen Jelks, Henry Mondeaux and Austin Maloata still need to add size and of course experience before they become major assets. More than the new players coming in, the success of next year’s defense will be the changes new DC, Don Pellum makes to the system.
Overall I’d give the class a B. It could have been higher if a few of the recruits had come to Oregon, but the future looks bright for many that did choose to be Ducks; and that has worked very well.