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 theInsiders.com 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, theInsiders.com 3-Star (verbal commitment to Pitt)
Terry Arnold, RB, 5-10, 185, 4.4, Tallahassee, FL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theinsiders.com 3-Star
James Blair, OL, 6-4, 315, 5.1, Detroit, MI, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Kenni Burns, RB, 6-0, 190, 4.4, Springfield, IL PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Taylor Cates, TE, 6-3, 235, 4.8, McKinney, TX, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Jeff Cavender, OL/DL, 6-2, 255, Elko NV, PrepStar All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Pete Cavender, OL/DL, 6-2, 260, Elko, NV, PrepStar All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Tommy Devereaux, DB/WR, 6-1, 167, 4.4, Duncanville, TX, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 4-Star
Steve Douglas, OL, 6-5, 270, Joliet, IL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Jason Evans, RB, 6-1, 190, 4.4, Kennesaw, GA, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, theInsiders.com 4-Star (verbal commitment to Penn St.)
E.J. Falkner, WR, 6-0, 175, 4.4, Omaha, NE, PrepStar All Region, theInsiders.com 1-Star
Keven Gage, OL, 6-6, 280, 5.5, Downs Grove, IL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star (verbal commitment to Illinois)
Ryan Gilliam, DB/WR, 5-10, 175, 4.4 Tallahassee, FL, PrepStar All American, SuperPrep All American, theInsiders.com 4-Star (Oregon visit date 12/13)
Garrett Guzman, WR, 6-4, 200, Wichita, KS, theInsiders.com 1-Star
Dave Howell, DL, 6-4, 296, 4.8, Royal Palm Beach, FL, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star (verbal commitment to Miami)
Cornell Johnson, RB, 6-1, 205, 4.5 Las Vegas, NV, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Zach Kettelcamp, LB, 6-3, 225, 4.7, Springfield, IL, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Marlon King, OL, 6-5, 317, 5.6, Oklahoma City, OK, theInsiders.com 1-Star
Dan Mazan, OL, 6-4, 295, 4.9, Carteret, NJ, SuperPrep All American, theInsiders.com 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, theInsiders.com 3-Star
Claude "Turk" McBride, DE, 6-4, 235, 4.5, Camden, NJ, PrepStar Top 100 All American, SuperPrep All American, theInsiders.com 4-Star
Drew Nystrom, OL, 6-5, 315, Crystal Lake, IL, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Martin O'Donnell, OL, 6-5, 280, 5.4 Downers Grove, IL, PrepStar Top 100 All American, SuperPrep All American, theInsiders.com 4-Star
Austin Russell, OL, 6-3, 320, Carrollton, TX, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Kevin Seifort, OL, 6-6, 280, 5.1, Oak Creek, WI, PrepStar All Region, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Lareno Seymour, DB, 6-0, 190, 4.4, St. Louis, MO, theInsiders.com 1-Star
Jaime Simpson, RB, 6-0, 223, 4.8, Columbus, OH, theInsiders.com 1-Star
Adrain Turner, DB, 5-10, 185, 4.5, Terrell, TX, theInsiders.com 4-Star
Phil Van Cleave, QB, 6-3, 190, 4.8, Arlington, TX, theInsiders.com 2-Star
Carlos Washington, DB, 6-1, 207 4.5, Shelby, NC, PrepStar All Region, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 4-Star
Andrew Weatherly, WR, 6-4, 200, 4.3, Georgetown, DE, SuperPrep All Region, theInsiders.com 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, theInsiders.com 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, theInsiders.com 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, theInsiders.com 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 Insiders.com 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.