Oregon, Football Recruiting and SuperPrep

As a follower of college football in general and the exploits of the Oregon Ducks in particular, I subscribe to most national recruiting publications and services. I've been doing this for over the last 10 years and in that time I have seen the Oregon program receive increasing notoriety among the so-called recruiting experts. However, that acclaim has in no way been congruent with the Ducks' performance on the field.

Oregon has won more games than any other team in the Pac-10 Conference over the last six years yet has never had one of its recruiting classes ranked higher than 2nd in the conference (PrepStar-1996 class) by any of the recruiting services. In fact, most recruiting services have inexplicably ranked the Duck classes in the second tier of the conference at least four out of the last six years.

So what does this mean? Do the Ducks have a super human coaching staff that can transform benchwarmers into starters? Or, do the Duck coaches have some sort of secret dowsing technique for detecting players with exceptional skills and talent that somehow go unnoticed by the recruiting experts? Or, are the recruiting services flawed and overly biased to perennial college powers and large media markets? Perhaps it's a combination of all of the above. And, as all of us have, I've grown to expect the latent respect or value that is so often placed on Oregon football. So why wouldn't the recruiting publications be any different from the media casting the annual preseason football polls and under-value the Ducks?

The first recruiting publications usually hit the mailboxes in late August. These are commonly known as preseason publications as the high school seniors they feature have yet to play their senior seasons. Later, in January most services will give an update on those players' senior seasons plus add any new players that emerged in their senior year. Finally, in March following Letter of Intent (LOI) signing day in early February the services will provide detailed college commitment lists and rank colleges based on the strengths of their recruiting classes.

The first recruiting publication I received this summer was from SuperPrep published by JCW Publishing Company in Laguna Beach, Calif. The highest SuperPrep has ranked an Oregon recruiting class in the last six years among Pac-10 schools is third (2000). In 2001 they ranked the Duck class sixth, seventh in 1999 and 1997 and eighth in 1998. Not exactly soothsayers you might say. However, I can understand SuperPrep's position – in those years the Ducks didn't sign very many highly regarded players listed in their publication. Not only that, in the preseason SuperPrep publications, the Ducks received very few mentions from the blue chip players listed within their pages.

So, being of inquisitive nature I looked at the August 2001 SuperPrep issue with an eye toward comparing how the Ducks faired from the same publication last year. This year Oregon received a total of 21 mentions from among 283 players listed in SuperPrep's All-America section. Last year Oregon only received 14 mentions from the same group. In the Farwest section listing all of the all-region players Oregon also improved. Among Califorinia, Hawaii and Nevada players the Ducks received 31 mentions compared to 13 received last year. In Arizona they held even with four mentions. In Oregon the Ducks dropped to seven mentions from 10 received a year ago. And in Washington, the Ducks received 12 mentions compared to 13 last year. In total, including All-America and All-Farwest prospects, the Ducks received 75 mentions from players this year compared to 54 last year.

The positive comparisons don't stop there. This year Oregon is also receiving more mentions from the most highly ranked players listed in Superprep. Last year Kellen Clemens was the highest ranked player listed in the preseason issue of SuperPrep who favored and then eventually signed with the Ducks. He was ranked the 5th best quarterback in the country. After Clemens, the Ducks signed no other SuperPrep preseason All-Americans. This year the picture already looks rosier. SuperPrep All-Americans including Roseburg, Ore. tight end Joe Newton and Portland, Ore. skilled athlete Derry Jackson all are reportedly favoring the Ducks.

Last year, in the Calfornia, Hawaii and Nevada region only three All-Farwest players indicated that they favored Oregon with Jayson Boyd a wide receiver from Riverside, Calif. being the highest ranked among them at 42nd in the region. This year four All-Farwest players are favoring Oregon starting with Inglewood, Calif. defensive back Darius Conner who is ranked 34th among all players in the region. Conner is followed by tight end/defensive end Jesse Taylor from West Hills Chaminade, Calif. who is rated the 55th best player in the region. Next is Tyrone Jenkins, a defensive back from Long Beach Poly high school in Calif., who is ranked 85th among all players in the region. Jenkins is followed by cornerback Keith Ellison from Redondo Beach, Calif. who is ranked 95th.

I have asked SuperPrep publisher Alllen Wallace in the past about the incongruity of his publication's ranking of Oregon's recruiting and the Duck's actual performance on the field. He has always indicated that Ducks are very secretive in their recruiting and that a high percentage of the players they sign are relatively unknown within recruiting circles. I think there is truth to this. I've observed how the Oregon coaching staff works. However, I also think a lot of players have gotten listed and/or ranked highly in recruiting publications because they have been offered a trip or a scholarship by USC or UCLA, one of the perennial conference favorites in years past.

What will become really interesting to me, based on Oregon's continued achievements on the field, is who will get listed or ranked high just because the Ducks offered them. That is provided that the recruiting services can find them.

Players listed in SuperPrep's preseason publication now favoring Oregon

Joe Newton, TE, 6-7, 235, 4.9, Roseburg, Ore. SuperPrep All-American and ranked the 8th best tight end in the country.

Derry Jackson, Ath, 6-0, 185, 4.5, Portland Jesuit, Ore. SuperPrep All-American and ranked the 34th best skilled athlete in the country.

Darious Connor, DB, 6-1, 176, 4.5, Inglewood, Calif. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 34th best prospect in the California, Hawaii and Nevada region.

Jesses Taylor, TE/DE, 6-3, 243, 4.7, West Hills Chaminade, Calif. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 55th best prospect in the California, Hawaii and Nevada region.

Tyrone Jenkins, DB, 5-11, 185, 4.4, Long Beach Poly, Calif. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 85th best prospect in the California, Hawaii and Nevada region.

Keith Ellison, CB, 6-1, 195, 4.6, Redondo Beach Union, Calif. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 95th best prospect in the California, Hawaii and Nevada region.

Shem Hardnett, RB/WR, 6-1, 195, 4.5, Portland Franklin, Ore. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 7th best prospect in Oregon.

Skyler Allen, Ath, 6-1, 180, 4.6, Pasco, Wash. SuperPrep All-Farwest and ranked the 11th best prospect in Washington.

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