What this really means is that recruiting is an inexact science. It can be very subjective and very intuitive. Press clippings, high school career statistics, win-loss records, size, weight and forty-yard dash times may all be relevant, but not necessarily decisive in the recruitment of a potential college player. Coaches are also looking for the intangibles, instincts, the look-in-the-eye, and character. For successful coaching staffs this really requires a hands-on process in evaluating potential players. And, you have to be good at it, sort of like picking hot stocks in a bear market.
One can argue that Oregon has been better at selecting "Quick Twitch Fiber" than any other program in recent years. Consider that SuperPrep has only ranked Oregon's recruiting classes in the top half of the Pac-10 Conference once in the last six years (3rd in 2000), yet the Ducks have the best win-loss record in the conference, have two conference championships, and are a perennial fixture in the Top-25 with five bowl game appearances during the same time span. Nationally, SuperPrep has only ranked Oregon's recruiting classes in the Top 30 twice during the same time frame, 29th in 2001 and 14th in 2000. This includes rankings of 35th in 1999, 37th in 1998 and 31st in 1997 representing the upper classmen last year that propelled the Ducks to a Fiesta Bowl victory and the highest national postseason ranking in school history, No. 2 in the BCS, Coaches and AP polls.
Wallace claims that Oregon's recruiting classes haven't been ranked as high as they should have been in retrospect for two reasons. One, the Oregon coaches are extremely secretive about who they recruit, and two, Oregon hasn't been considered a perennial football power until recently and like it or not many recruiting services are influenced by who the traditional "football factories" are recruiting.
"They used to say that the All American was best defined by the people Notre Dame offered (football scholarships)," says Wallace. "When Oregon was a lesser football team – let's face it, a person in my profession wasn't impressed by who Oregon offered. You can't help but to be affected by whom these schools (the top football programs) like. You can't help but to be affected by the fact that Miami thinks its recruit is an NFL player because that's who Miami coaches."
To Wallace's first point, Oregon's roster is checkered with players who received very little notoriety by the recruiting services and/or in general were lightly recruited. Oregon's Samie Parker may now be arguably one of the best receivers in the Pac-10 Conference, but he wasn't a SuperPrep All American in 1998. In fact, he wasn't even mentioned in the magazine although his teammates at Long Beach Poly, Kareen Kelly, also a wide receiver, defensive back Darrell Rideaux, and running back Larry Croom were, all receiving SuperPrep All American designations. Kelly and Rideaux signed with USC and Croom with Arizona. More importantly, consider players such as defensive tackle Igor Olshansky, defensive end Roderkus Wright and quarterback Jason Fife. These are current Oregon players who didn't hail from prolific high school football programs and who were virtually unknowns to the recruiting experts. Yet, Oregon's coaches somehow located these kids, evaluated them and convinced them to come to Oregon. They now are making big impressions in Oregon uniforms.
Wallace also acknowledges that the Oregon coaches are among the best in the nation at turning undeveloped talent into successful team players under the Oregon system. He calculates that the final result of the successful college football player is 80 percent coaching and 20 percent raw talent.
"It's pretty well acknowledged that Oregon has one of the finest coaching staffs in the country," says Wallace. "That's established now. Not only are they great evaluators of potential talent but also the kids are saying, ‘I will be coached well if I go there.' The Oregon coaches are excellent at maximizing the talent that they get."
All of this is changing the way Oregon is being perceived not only by recruits but also by the recruiting services. As an interesting exercise I counted and compared the number of recruits listed in SuperPrep magazine over the last five years who mentioned Oregon. I excluded players who were committed to another school at press time.
|Commits At Publication||AA Dante Rosario|
|AA Johnny DuRocher|
|#6 WA Jordan Carey|
|#40 CA/HI/NV A.J. Tuitele||AA Kellen Clemens||0||0|
|Lists Oregon As First Favorite||12||8||7||7||5|
It is interesting to note that not only are more kids listed in SuperPrep magazine now mentioning Oregon, but more are committing early and listing Oregon as their first favorite, the team that other schools must beat out to get their commitment. I was also surprised by the number of players listed in SuperPrep magazines that didn't mention Oregon but later signed with the Ducks. In 1998 that list included Kevin Mitchell, George Wrighster, Danny Urguhart, Ric Cottengim and Onterrio Smith. In 1999 the list included Marley Tucker, Chris Lombardo, Keith Allen, Eddie Smith and Charles Favroth. This would suggest that in many instances Oregon comes from behind to win a recruit.
"Kids are very impressed with the Oregon program as it is presented to them on their visits," says Wallace. "Many times I've spoken to a kid who was a lock for another school yet wanted to take a trip to Oregon. By the time the kid gets back, he didn't know what he was going to do."
Wallace thinks Oregon will continue to recruit the diamonds-in-the-rough although he believes those kids may be harder for the Oregon coaches to keep quiet and away from other schools' coaches.
"Part of Oregon's recruiting technique has always been to be secretive," says Wallace. "They will have a tougher time hiding gems (unknown talented players) because they are now a higher profile program and because of the Internet."
Wallace makes no apologies for how Oregon has been represented in SuperPrep in the past and the momentum the school is now generating with prospective recruits doesn't surprise him.
"Oregon could care less if they sign SuperPrep All Americans," says Wallace. "That is more for the media, the kids and the fans. Our job is to best mirror college coaches' opinions of players' abilities and give the best information of where the player is going to attend college. But, I also don't think there are any sure bets. Even players mentioned in the SuperPrep Preseason 50 can miss. They may lose interest, fail to stay in school academically, get injured, or any number of other reasons why they don't pan out."
Although SuperPrep ranks the players listed numerically in order of athletic and academic excellence Wallace is quick to point out that very little separates the players.
"Between the kid ranked 35 and 75 in a given region, we are not necessarily saying one guy is 40 spots better," says Wallace. "We are saying that between those guys there are a lot of guys who are about the same."
Yet, four years down the road or perhaps even sooner, these kids do separate themselves and they do so by demonstrating who has most Quick Twitch Fiber.
Players listed in SuperPrep's Preseason Fifty who mentioned Oregon:
|Dennis Dixon||QB||6-4||186||4.6||San Leandro, CA||UCLA, ORE, MIA, LSU|
|Chris Barret||TE||6-5||250||4.65||Tustin, CA||UF, USC, ASU, UCLA, ORE|
|Whitney Lewis||WR||6-1||218||4.35||Ventura (St Bonaventure) CA||FSU, UW, TEX, MIA, ORE, USC|
|Steve Smith||WR/DB||6-1||185||4.5||Woodland Hills (Taft) CA||TEX, MICH, UW, ORE, UF, USC|