This means that until Jan. 15, no in-person visits will take place and contact will be limited as the players and coaches get time off before the frantic three-week finish to National Signing Day on Feb. 5. Up until now, Oregon has enjoyed a much smoother year recruiting under first year head coach Mark Helfrich than it did last season, when impending sanctions and a head coach departure sent things into disarray.
15 players make up Oregon's verbal commitment list so far and only 20 seniors will depart following the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30. Although more roster space could open up for a number of reasons after the season, the end result remains that the Ducks have a maximum of nine spots left to fill in the 2014 class, if they choose to take that many. Let's look at a couple of the key areas that they can improve.
Don't stop…trying to land a linebacker -
Yes, it is December and the Ducks have still yet to lock down a true linebacker for the 2014 class after losing Hawaiian prospect Jordan Hoiem to retirement. True, Oregon only loses senior Boseko Lokombo from the entire linebacker group and will return the team's leading tackler (Derrick Malone) and leader in sacks (Tony Washington) amongst a core of young up-and-comers in 2014. But, that hasn't stopped Ducks coaches from making offers and trying to land at least one prospect by NSD.
The leader in the clubhouse is Olathe (Kan.) prospect Jimmie Swain IV, a one-time TCU verbal commit who visited Oregon over Thanksgiving break. Shortly after, Swain reopened his commitment and has Texas A&M and Arkansas left with the Ducks on his list. But, Swain has since gone silent and is not giving interviews. The four-star athlete was invited to the Semper Fidelis All-American Game on Jan. 5, and will be a key target to keep an eye on going forward.
Go Your Own Way -
If there's one thing that's been constant with this class, it has been the wealth of talent in the secondary. Headlined by San Antonio (Tex.) cornerback Arrion Springs, the Ducks also boast JUCO transfer CB Dominique Harrison, and Gardena (Calif.) safety Glen Ihenacho as part of the class, though Ihenacho is listed as a "soft verbal" because he is taking other visits.
Because of the depth at defensive back this year nationally, the Ducks have ample opportunity to add to it. Uncommitted prospects Budda Baker, Mattrell McGraw, Juju Smith, Montae Nicholson and Adoree' Jackson all remain on the table for Oregon, though some are more likely to commit than others.
The Ducks hosted McGraw last weekend and he gave a very positive summary of the trip, making it sound like the Ducks rolled out the red carpet for him. It'll come down to them and UCLA for the three-star cornerback, but his bond with secondary coach John Neal could push this in the Ducks favor when he announces on Signing Day.
Baker is the top uncommitted prospect in the Northwest, due to his quickness and ability to excel on either side of the ball. According to him, the Ducks have given him the option to pick where he wants to play if he chooses them. Baker also has UCLA, Washington and USC still left in the running for him in addition to Oregon, which he visited back in November.
The Bellevue (Wash.) four-star safety had the Ducks on top after the visit, but with connections at UCLA (former teammate Myles Jack recently won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year on offense and defense there), Washington (hometown school) and USC (former UW coach Steve Sarkisian is their new head coach) the Ducks could have an uphill battle when it comes down to decision time.
Distance could be a factor for Nicholoson, a four-star safety from Monroeville (Pa.). Though he enjoyed the family oriented environment during his official visit to Oregon, it's significantly farther away from home compared to his other three finalists in Florida State, Michigan State and nearby Pittsburgh. The Ducks like Nicholson's speed and cutting ability at the wide receiver position, though he is strong on either side. Oregon will find out Nicholson's fate soon, as Scout.com's Brian Dohn has reported he will decide on Thursday.
Quite possibly the biggest names left on the West Coast are Smith and Jackson, a pair of five-star California DB's. Though Jackson, the region's top corner, has yet to set up a visit he has an Oregon connection in that he is teammates with Ihenacho. He has one official left to take after visiting FSU, LSU, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Smith, the No. 1 ranked safety in the country and a supremely talented two-way player, visited Oregon in October and said it was "incredible", according to a report by Scout.com's Greg Biggins. He has Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA still in contention along with the Ducks, and all have reportedly given him the option of choosing which side of the ball he wants to play on except for the Buckeyes.
Landing even two of these players would give the Ducks an incredibly explosive secondary. But, landing one or more of the two-way players above would give the Ducks some more flexibility within the class, given that they have only one wide receiver attached so far in Jalen Brown.