National Signing Day 2015: Wrap-Up
National Signing Day has come and gone for the Class of 2015 and Oregon was able to land 22 talented players from across the country in what amounts to a terrific class in a lot of ways on paper. There’s a lot to be excited about when analyzing those that will suit up for Oregon in the coming seasons. Like any recruiting year, there were ups and downs, and this year saw the Ducks lose only one player in cornerback James Locke, who flipped officially on National Signing Day to stay home and play for Texas. But, even with Locke’s exit, the highs seemingly outweighed the lows when analyzing the last 365 days. A very deep offensive line class led by U.S. Army All-American Zach Okun signaled a great recruiting cycle for offensive line coach Steve Greatwood. Greatwood had the added benefit of locking up most of those players early as Okun became the first verbal commitment for the 2015 cycle last March and, by the end of a busy weekend in June, the Ducks had landed four additional prospects in Shane Lemieux, Brady Aiello, Calvin Throckmorton and Jake Hanson. Okun was the only one of the five to enroll early, so he’ll have the edge heading into camp when it comes to projecting early playing time. It was another successful year for offensive skill position players as well. Led by SPARQ National Champion Kirk Merritt, the Ducks were able to land multiple players that project to be the future of the Oregon offense. Merritt brings the most hype after an explosive performance at The Opening over the summer where he showed off his all-around athleticism and top-end speed. Merritt will come in as a slot receiver, as will four-star prospect Malik Lovette, who has a similar skill set and also has the distinction of being ranked as a top three running back in the West region according to Scout.com. Alex Ofodile, at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds looks to be the next big athletic target for Oregon, which will be a boon for Oregon if Darren Carrington, a similarly sized receiver, cannot play for a portion of the season due to failing a drug test prior to the CFP National Championship game last month. Ofodile put up some big games during his senior season and is viewed as the most college ready prospect out of Missouri according to Scout.com. Jacob Breeland was the only tight end Oregon picked up, but he brings with him 6-foot-4 frame and solid pass catching ability. Although Breeland may not be as high profile a name, the three-star prospect will have the benefit of working with tight ends coach Tom Osborne and learning behind Pharaoh Brown, a breakout player for the Ducks last season. Learning as much as he can from them will help him work his way up a depth chart that includes Evan Baylis, who had a huge Rose Bowl game, and Johnny Mundt. In the backfield, dynamic all-purpose running back Taj Griffin was the steal of the spring for Oregon, but after suffering a torn ACL in his season-opener in 2014 it remains to be seen how well he’ll bounce back. If he’s anything like the player he was, and as of right now there isn’t a reason to believe that he won’t be, his speed and ability to change direction on a dime will be a nice complement to Royce Freeman’s power running game. The man that may be in charge with getting the ball to these players in the future is Travis Waller, a four-star quarterback who has been touted as a perfect fit for Oregon with his style of play. Waller is a dual-threat prospect that has developed into one of the top quarterbacks in the country over the past couple of years. After an encouraging showing at Elite 11 over the summer, Waller had a solid senior season, and while it seems likely that he’ll take a year to learn the offense before playing, the ceiling is high on this Anaheim native because of what he can do with his arms and legs. Defensive line coach Ron Aiken has to be excited with the haul the Ducks were able to pull this year up front. Although they were unable to land a front seven position player before October, Oregon was able to land three-star defensive end Gus Cumberlander, three-star defensive tackles Drayton Carlberg and Rex Manu and five-star defensive end Canton Kaumatule in a two month span. Kaumatule’s commitment was particularly memorable for the fact that he signed a financial aid agreement with the program during halftime of the Stanford game while on his official visit, a highly uncommon occurrence. As the highest-rated player in the class, Kaumatule figures to see the field early and is already enrolled early at Oregon preparing for camp. Last week they completed the class by picking up three-star defensive end Gary Baker, giving Aiken plenty of talent and depth to work with following the departures of Arik Armstead and Sam Kamp. The Ducks struggled once again this year to land linebackers, but in the end they were able to pick up two JUCO transfers in Paris Bostick and Jonah Moi, along with hard-hitting safety/linebacker Fotu Leiato, whose viral highlight tape full of heavy hits will no doubt have Ducks fans clamoring to see if he can pack the same punch at the collegiate level. And of course there’s John Neal. It was another successful year for the veteran secondary coach, although the Locke flip did damage the class in the end. He landed a duo of three-star cornerbacks in Jihree Stewart and Ugo Amadi, the latter of whom was a January flip from LSU. Dylan Kane, the top safety in Hawaii, will provide the Ducks with some more physicality, a staple that Neal's secondary units have become known for over the years.
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