2. Thou Shalt Not Believe The Football Recruiting Services' Ranking Systems
That 5-Star player according to the recruiting services such as PacWest Football, SuperPrep, PrepStar or Student Sports may only be a 1-Star player to the Oregon coaches. Conversely, a player that the Oregon coaches covet may only be lightly regarded by the recruiting services, or, mercy me, not even listed at all. Do these names ring a bell? They should, none was highly ranked by the recruiting services but all are currently starting or likely to start for Oregon next year: Steve Smith, Justin Peele, Jason Fife, Ramone Reed, Roderkus Wright, Igor Olshansky, Stephen Clayton, among others. This list doesn't even include the standout walk-ons or transfers playing for Oregon. If this list isn't enough to convince you, perhaps Oregon's record on the field is. Over the past six years only one Duck recruiting class has been ranked in the Top 25 nationally (SuperPrep, PrepStar and Student Sports ranked the 2000 class 14th, 19th and 19th respectively), yet during that time Oregon leads the Pac-10 in winning percentage and has been the conference champion the last two years. The recruiting services have consistently ranked USC's and UCLA's recruiting classes in the Top 10 nationally. Those teams' results on field are not congruent with their recruiting class rankings. Go figure.
3. Thou Shalt Respect the Oregon Coaches' Abilities to Assess Talent
Under Coach Mike Bellotti's watch the Oregon record speaks for itself. The Oregon coaches are known for not making hasty scholarship offers to out of state players that they haven't seen, or based solely on junior season performance and press clippings. Not only does Oregon like to look at prospects on film, they also like to meet them in person and meet their families. Visits usually don't start in earnest until mid-December. Many of the largest visit dates are just after the first of the year. The Oregon coaches also like to see how well kids perform during their senior high scchool seasons. After all, kids can change a lot between the ages of 16 and 17, physically and emotionally. All of this leads to later verbal commitments as observed in Commandment Number 1, but also to very shrewd evaluations of talent and fit by the Oregon coaches.
4. Thou Shalt Not Believe All You Read On the Internet.
Heck, I love the Internet. I'm a co-owner of eDuck, but that doesn't mean I'm naïve enough to believe all the recruiting rumors and innuendo I read in chat and on message boards. The fact is, only the Oregon coaches really know what's going on with Oregon recruiting and they are bound by NCAA regulations to not discuss it publicly until Letter Of Intent (LOI) signing day. This year that will be February 6. A junior college LOI signing day occurred on December 19 for all currently qualified players (don't need spring or summer terms to earn necessary course work.), but Oregon coaches as is their prerogative like to keep those signings quiet until February 6 as well. Many kids change their minds leading up to the actual signing day. Arizona State linebacker Solomon Bates must have committed four or five times (including to the Ducks) before finally signing his LOI and faxing it off to the Sun Devils. Who can ever forget defensive lineman Van Brown who sent in two letters to both Oregon and Utah. Oregon's technically counted because it was sent seconds before the other, but it didn't matter because Brown didn't qualify and now after attending junior college is reportedly interested in a different school.
5. If Thou Is A True Fan, Honor Thy Coaches Recruiting Practices
Oregon recruiting is highly secretive. Even the recruiting services agree on this. As a rule, Oregon coaches don't like recruiting information getting out unless it is about other schools. Recruiting information is often used against schools. It can alert a school to players that they missed or that they didn't do their homework on. Oregon has lost players to other schools because the other schools, after learning that Oregon had offered the player, starting recruiting the same player. This might be the greatest form of flattery but a huge disappointment to the Oregon coaches. Think of it like this, once you do all the work uncovering the player, assessing the player, getting entrance requirements squared away, getting to know the family, etc., along comes another school and steals the kid because he always wanted to go to so and so, or where his brother or friend went, etc. Recruiting information can also cause misunderstandings or hurt feelings. For example, a coach may tell a player that his team is only recruiting so many players at the same position, but a recruiting service or Internet site might report differently. Well, the recruiting service may be reporting the position the kid played in high school or what they think the kid should play in college. This may be totally different from what a college coach discusses with the player. Oregon has shown the propensity to recruit a lot of athletes out of high school who are capable of playing a number of different positions at the next level. The more recruiting information that is out there, the more likely that a player's position can get reported incorrectly causing damage control for the Oregon coaches. Remember, the coaches must observed a NCAA embargo on recruiting information until LOI day; so they can't even correct misinformation they read promulgated by the recruiting services or Internet sites.
6. Thou Shalt Expect Some Players to Not Pan Out
Some players who sign letters don't make entrance requirements, others change their minds about college and others change their minds about Oregon – all before setting a foot on campus. It happens every year: Rashawn Owens, Jeff Simms, Michael Yancy, Brian Kitching, Matt Lyons, Steve Vickers, Travan Magee, Danny Urguhart, Sam Cunningham, Josh Herrera, Mario McDowell, Phillip Goodman, A.J. Mitz, among others.
7. Thou Shalt Regard As Untrue Those Who Profess that Washington Was Not Interested In or First Dropped All Players Who Sign With Oregon
Yeah, right. That's why the Huskies picked up Sam Cunningham this fall who actually signed last year with the Ducks. I guess we shouldn't mention Zack Freiter, Mike Belisle, Willie Walden, Seth McEwen, Enyi Nwamuo, Saladin McCullough, among many others.
8. Thou Shalt Regard As Untrue Members of the Media Who Profess that Oregon Must Recruit Nationally in Order to be Successful.
I argued this point with a radio talk show host in Portland two years ago. California, where Oregon does most of its recruiting, is the most fertile football recruiting ground in the U.S. Florida and Texas come close, but year in and year out, California wins out. California develops particularly prolific high school football programs such as De La Salle, Long Beach Poly, and Mater Dei. In recent years the California schools have dominated the mythical national high school championship. Notre Dame recruits nationally and yet they fail. Oregon can succeed quite nicely recruiting California and the Pacific Northwest. This year the Ducks are ranked 2nd in nation and still have a long shot at the National Championship. Case closed.
9. Thou Shalt be Reminded That While Recruiting is Important it is not Necessarily the Only thing of Importance
There is so much unpredictability in college football. A missed kick or tackle can mean all the difference. That's why college football is so much fun to watch. The best can be beaten. And, the Cinderella Stories can come out of nowhere to rule the world. College kids play with a lot of emotion. This can work for and against them. Player and team psyche is everything. What was it Bellotti said of the underdog Ducks going into the Holiday Bowl last year against Texas – "play one-inch out of control." Look at UCLA this year. At one point they were a world-beater, a Top 10 team. However, today they are out of the rankings and are not participating in a bowl. Some would say the Bruins just emotionally fell apart. The capper? Just about every recruiting service has ranked the UCLA recruiting classes over the last six years as the best in the conference. As fragile and important team chemistry and emotion is, I would argue quality coaching is paramount. First, solid coaching can help preserve and promote team chemistry even in the face of adversity. It also is responsible for the playbook, and effectively developing and conditioning the players, helping them to stay injury free and getting them ready to play. Finally, and this may be most relevant, it can't be underestimated how important walk-ons and transfers can be. These players typically have more heart and desire than the superstar who comes in speaking in the third person. Did you know that of the current Ducks, starting receiver Jason Willis, starting center Dan Weaver, starting fullback Josh Line, starting linebacker David Moretti, starting linebacker Wesly Mallard, and tailback Onterrio Smith did not sign with Oregon on a LOI day. They were either transfers or walk-ons. These players represent roughly 30 percent of the starting team.
10. Thou Shalt Not Break NCAA Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Boosters.
When a booster recruits for a school and gets caught by the NCAA, the following people and/or organizations may get hurt: 1) the player and his family. The implicated player may have to sit out a year, or not be allowed to attend the school of his choice; 2) the college program. The school may have to endure sanctions. Scholarship reductions and other restrictions could be imposed; 3) the coaches. An individual coach or staff could be fined, placed on probation or worse; 4) the booster. The booster could be fined, and/or prosecuted for damages. The Internet with its widespread communication powers has made the likelihood of an infraction more plausible. Recruiting rules and regulations are not commonly available or summarized in such a way that boosters can easily discern the variety of nuances and interpretations. For example, if a pre-existing relationship exists between a booster and a recruit, the booster may continue contact with the recruit but must not discuss recruiting. Well, what defines a pre-existing relationship? This can be a gray area. Furthermore, if boosters aren't enough of a risk concerning recruiting violations, there are hundreds of Internet sites out there that claim they are legitimate media because they follow one specific college team. These sites have taken it upon themselves to incessantly call recruits, literally hounding them for information on where they are taking visits, to which schools are they leaning, etc. After reviewing the stories from these sites one can't help but think that some alternative motives may be at play such as recruiting. We at eDuck have purposely stayed away from calling non-committed players so that in no way may we be implicated with a possible recruiting violation. We do hire reporters to call players for a story once it has been reported in the media that a player has given a verbal commitment to Oregon. Not all Internet sites behave so ethically, which I'm sure will lead to NCAA investigations at some point.