Duck Recruiting Is Flying High

As do many people who follow college football, I like to follow football recruiting. I subscribe to a number of college recruiting publications and online services and keep my finger on the pulse of the rumor mill trying to keep abreast of which schools the country's future college players are favoring, visiting and choosing.

After more than 15 years of pursuing this hobby, even to the point of starting the web site, I can honestly say I have never encountered as much football recruiting interest for the University of Oregon as I have this year. Case in point, the preseason issue of PrepStar magazine ranks Oregon No. 3 in the nation in terms of teams receiving the most player interest from the 1607 college recruits profiled in their magazine. Oregon received 235 mentions and only trailed Florida and Colorado who received 253 and 255 mentions respectively. This level of awareness is significantly up from where it has been in the past. In the 2001 preseason PrepStar magazine Oregon ranked No. 23 with 80 mentions. In 1996 Oregon ranked No. 42 with only 62 mentions. Although SuperPrep magazine, another recruiting publication, doesn't rank schools by player interest as PrepStar does, it is also obvious after thumbing through their pages that the Ducks are gaining in popularity among the players profiled there. In the 2002 preseason SuperPrep magazine 97 players mentioned Oregon, in 2001 only 60 and in 1998 only 50.

I know that a recruit's interest in a school is usually commensurate with that school's performance on the field and winning tradition. Sure, some prep players like the local team or the school their father played for or the Ivy league education, but most kids want to play for the best - particularly those kids who consider themselves to be the best and who have visions of some day playing in the NFL. Oregon finished last year ranked 2nd in the nation behind Miami and certainly that has a lot to do with the sudden increase in awareness and preference for Oregon football, but I have seen schools in the past have a single meteoric season and not convert it into huge gains in recruiting notoriety. Remember the 1997 Arizona State Rose bowl team? Or, how about the 1998 Washington State Rose Bowl team? Even Oregon's 1995 Rose Bowl season didn't alone fuel the kind of increase in recruiting awareness we are seeing this year. No, I think establishing such recruiting awareness within the minds of young men requires a sustained record of success. Oregon has won its last three consecutive bowl appearances against Minnesota, Texas and Colorado and has won the Pac-10 Championship in 2000 and 2001. The result has been that after 45 years and perhaps since the inception of the program, Oregon has finally hit recruiting pay dirt. A perfect analogy might be Wisconsin whose recruiting classes typically ranked in the bottom half of the Big-10 Conference until Barry Alvarez sprang the Badgers loose first with a Rose Bowl appearance in 1994 and then again in 1999 and 2000. It makes sense. If a school can sustain a five-year or longer stint in the Top 25, they will be recruiting kids who remember them as a top team when they first started playing football in junior high school. Throw in some high profile billboards in major metropolitan centers such as New York and Los Angeles and you can't miss.

It's interesting to me that not only is Oregon getting more recruiting awareness, but they are also getting more looks from the nation's most highly ranked players. According to Oregon is receiving interest from seven 5-Star and 42 4-Star players. In years past, Oregon might have interest from one or two 5-Star players and only a dozen or more 4-Star players. In the PrepStar 2002 preseason magazine 38 Dream Team and All American players cited Oregon as one of their teams of interest. This represents a huge leap from the 2001 publication where only 17 players cited Oregon. The same trend holds true for SuperPrep magazine. In the 2002 preseason publication 25 SuperPrep All Americans mention Oregon. In the 2001 publication only 12 SuperPrep All Americans cite the Ducks.

Four years ago I was interviewed by a sports radio host who claimed that Oregon could never become a perennial top team without recruiting nationally. I think the Ducks have thrown that theory out the door with all of the success they have achieved while primarily only recruiting from California and the Pacific Northwest. Over the years a few players have been picked up in fringe states adjacent to the Duck's core recruiting territories including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. This last year, the Ducks made some significant inroads to the islands picking up three recruits from American Samoa and Hawaii. For the most part, the only players Oregon gets from far away states are those who are transfers, many of whom have spent time in California junior colleges. According to the 2002 Oregon Media Guide the current Duck roster breaks down accordingly: American Samoa (2), British Columbia (1), California (55), Colorado (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Missouri (1), Nevada (1), Oregon (24), Utah (2), Virginia (1), Washington (6).

But, as Oregon's sustained success on the field is increasingly getting notice nationally, the Ducks are the recipients of recruiting interest from kids from all over the country. In past years, I would chuckle when some kid from the Midwest or Southeast mentioned Oregon as a school of interest. It was a rarity in Oregon recruiting and even more of a rarity that the Ducks would actually sign such a player. After pursuing all recruiting resources available to me I was able to compile the following list of 32 players who have indicated an interest in the Ducks. Some of these players have since given verbal commitments to other schools but at one time they cited Oregon as a favorite. I have excluded players from Colorado, Idaho and Utah as these are places where the Ducks have paid some attention to recruiting in the past. The list not only reflects an unusually high quantity of players out of Oregon's normal recruiting territory but high quality as well with many players indicating their intention to take a formal recruiting visit to Oregon. It will be interesting to see if Oregon actually visits and signs any of these players.

Afa Anoai, DL, 6-2, 265, Bethlehem, PA, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star (verbal commitment to Pitt)

Terry Arnold, RB, 5-10, 185, 4.4, Tallahassee, FL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star

James Blair, OL, 6-4, 315, 5.1, Detroit, MI, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 2-Star

Kenni Burns, RB, 6-0, 190, 4.4, Springfield, IL PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star

Taylor Cates, TE, 6-3, 235, 4.8, McKinney, TX, 3-Star

Jeff Cavender, OL/DL, 6-2, 255, Elko NV, PrepStar All Region, 3-Star

Pete Cavender, OL/DL, 6-2, 260, Elko, NV, PrepStar All Region, 3-Star

Tommy Devereaux, DB/WR, 6-1, 167, 4.4, Duncanville, TX, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All Region, 4-Star

Steve Douglas, OL, 6-5, 270, Joliet, IL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 2-Star

Jason Evans, RB, 6-1, 190, 4.4, Kennesaw, GA, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, 4-Star (verbal commitment to Penn St.)

E.J. Falkner, WR, 6-0, 175, 4.4, Omaha, NE, PrepStar All Region, 1-Star

Keven Gage, OL, 6-6, 280, 5.5, Downs Grove, IL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star (verbal commitment to Illinois)

Ryan Gilliam, DB/WR, 5-10, 175, 4.4 Tallahassee, FL, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, 4-Star (Oregon visit date 12/13)

Garrett Guzman, WR, 6-4, 200, Wichita, KS, 1-Star

Dave Howell, DL, 6-4, 296, 4.8, Royal Palm Beach, FL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star (verbal commitment to Miami)

Cornell Johnson, RB, 6-1, 205, 4.5 Las Vegas, NV, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star

Zach Kettelcamp, LB, 6-3, 225, 4.7, Springfield, IL, SuperPrep All Region, 2-Star

Marlon King, OL, 6-5, 317, 5.6, Oklahoma City, OK, 1-Star

Dan Mazan, OL, 6-4, 295, 4.9, Carteret, NJ, SuperPrep All American, 3-Star (10/19 Oregon visit date missed due to car accident; visit to be rescheduled)

Bryan Mattison, DL, 6-3, 237, 4.9, Mishawaka, IN, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star

Claude "Turk" McBride, DE, 6-4, 235, 4.5, Camden, NJ, PrepStar Top 100 All American, SuperPrep All American, 4-Star

Drew Nystrom, OL, 6-5, 315, Crystal Lake, IL, 2-Star

Martin O'Donnell, OL, 6-5, 280, 5.4 Downers Grove, IL, PrepStar Top 100 All American, SuperPrep All American, 4-Star

Will Paul, TE/DE, 6-3, 245, 4.5, Ballway, MO, PrepStar Top 100 All American, SuperPrep All American, 5-Star (verbal commitment to Michigan)

Austin Russell, OL, 6-3, 320, Carrollton, TX, 2-Star

Kevin Seifort, OL, 6-6, 280, 5.1, Oak Creek, WI, PrepStar All Region, 2-Star

Lareno Seymour, DB, 6-0, 190, 4.4, St. Louis, MO, 1-Star

Jaime Simpson, RB, 6-0, 223, 4.8, Columbus, OH, 1-Star

Adrain Turner, DB, 5-10, 185, 4.5, Terrell, TX, 4-Star

Phil Van Cleave, QB, 6-3, 190, 4.8, Arlington, TX, 2-Star

Carlos Washington, DB, 6-1, 207 4.5, Shelby, NC, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, 4-Star

Andrew Weatherly, WR, 6-4, 200, 4.3, Georgetown, DE, SuperPrep All Region, 4-Star

Finally, there should be some mention of the four players Oregon has received verbal commitments from to date. And, I should comment that there might very well be others who haven't yet been uncovered by the media (Oregon coaches and athletic personnel are precluded from commenting on recruits by name until national letter of intent signing day, February 5, in accordance with NCAA regulations.) Throughout all my years of following Oregon recruiting this group not only represents the largest group to give early commitments to the school but the most highly ranked. In the past, by the time the football season started, Oregon may only have one early commitment. For example, Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens who gave his verbal commitment prior to the season starting in 2000. All of the following players were committed to the Ducks prior to August 5 of this year.

Jordan Carey, WR/DB, 6-0, 190, 4.4, Tacoma, WA, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All Region, 3-Star (Carey was reported committed to the Ducks on August 5)

Johnny DuRocher, QB, 6-4, 205, 4.8, Spanaway, WA, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, 4-Star (DuRocher was reported committed to the Ducks on May 29)

Dante Rosario, LB, 6-3, 215, 4.6, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All American, 3-Star (Rosario was reported committed to the Ducks on July 10)

A.J. Tuitele, DB, 6-0, 190, 4.5, Wilmington, CA, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, the 4-Star (Tuitele was reported committed to the Ducks on June 14)

Yes, the Ducks are flying high this year in recruiting. It will be interesting to see given all the increase in recruiting awareness whether the Oregon coaches will continue to recruit players that none of the recruiting experts are aware of or have little regard for – the so called "sleepers". Moreover, will Oregon's recruiting momentum continue despite the losses recorded this year and the team's drop in national rankings. Also, history has shown that the players Oregon signs were usually able to take an official visit to the school. Typically Oregon grants official visits to approximately 50 players in route to signing the average recruiting class. Visit dates are the heaviest in November, December and early January. Prior to the December holidays the media should have announced a number of new Oregon recruiting commitments. At that time, we should be able to better gauge how much all of the heightened recruiting interest has paid off for the Ducks as measured by new verbal commitments.

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