It's also easy to get discouraged when recruits you think Oregon might be close to signing go elsewhere. It's not so easy to keep it all in perspective. That's where we come in.
So, what do we have here? We have a program currently with one five-star and four four-star recruits verbally committed. We have rumors of at least a few other high profile recruits seriously considering the Ducks.
Unfortunately, we also have an almost unbelievably high level of negativity regarding Oregon's recruiting efforts to date. It's almost like folks are forgetting that Oregon just won the Pac-10 Championship by two full games. But is there reason for concern? Is Oregon keeping up with it's own recruiting pace set over the past few years? Are the Ducks facing a downward spiral in the coming years due to past recruiting failures?
Realizing most of the players who contributed to the aforementioned championship will return next year, let's look at the recruiting classes that put this team where it is. Then let's look briefly at the classes prior to even those years.
In 2005, the Oregon Ducks signed 23 commits and finished with a Scout.com ranking of 30 nationally. This was fifth in the Pac-10. The class averaged 2.74 stars (1 five-star, 5 four-stars and 6 three-stars) and featured the following players who contributed (or were expected to contribute) during the 2009-10 season:
In 2006, the Oregon Ducks signed 20 commits and finished with a Scout.com ranking of 52 nationally. This was dead last in the Pac-10. The class averaged 2.70 stars (2 four-stars and 10 three-stars) and featured the following players who contributed during the 2009-10 season:
Bo Thran – LT (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Jordan Holmes – C (started Rose Bowl) 2 stars
C.E. Kaiser – RT (started Rose Bowl) 2 stars
Spencer Paysinger – LB (recruited as a WR)(started Rose Bowl) 2 stars
Marvin Johnson – CB (back-up) 3 stars
Chad Peppars – CB (back-up) 2 stars
Nate Costa – QB (back-up) 3 stars
This class also featured four-star Matthew Harper, and three-star Dexter Manley.
In 2007, Oregon signed 29 commits and finished with a Scout.com ranking of 9 nationally. This was second in the Pac-10. The class averaged 3.14 stars (11 four-stars and 11 three-stars) and was heralded as one of Oregon's best ever at the time, despite lacking a high-profile 5-star recruit. The following players contributed during the 2009-10 season:
Kenny Rowe – DE (started Rose Bowl) 4 stars
D.J. Davis – WR (started Rose Bowl) 4 stars
Will Tukuafu – DE (started Rose Bowl) 4 stars
Carson York – LG (started Rose Bowl) 4 stars
Talmadge Jackson – CB (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Casey Matthews – LB (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Anthony Gildon – CB (started RB) 3 stars
Eddie Pleasant – LB (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Jeff Maehl – WR (recruited as a CB) (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Mark Asper – RG (started Rose Bowl) 2 stars
The 2008 season saw the Ducks sign 20 commits and finish with a Scout.com ranking of 20 in the nation. This was fifth in the Pac-10. The class averaged 3.35 stars (1 five-star, 6 four-stars, and 12 three-stars). While not ranking as highly as the 2007 class, this class featured the late signing of JC quarterback Jeremiah Masoli (signed on May 5th). The following players contributed during the 2009-10 season:
John Boyett – S (started Rose Bowl) 4 stars
LaMichael James – RB (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Blake Ferras – DT (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Kenjon Barner – KR/RB (recruited as a CB) (started Rose Bowl) 3 stars
Jeremiah Masoli – QB (started Rose Bowl) 1 star/not rated
Last year's class included 26 commits as Oregon finished with a Scout.com ranking of 26 in the nation. This was fourth in the Pac-10. The class averaged 2.92 stars (6 four-stars and 12 three-stars). The following players contributed during the past season:
Looking further back
In 2002, Oregon signed 22 recruits and finished with a national ranking of 31. They had an average of 2.14 stars and it seems the high national ranking was due to signing Haloti Ngata and two other five-star recruits (Chris Solomona, a JC transfer DT and Kellen Taylor, a JC transfer WR).
In 2003, the Ducks signed 24 recruits, finished with a national ranking of 44 and an average of 2.54 stars per recruit. This was also the class that featured the mythical Lance Broadus who later ended up at WSU. It also featured Ryan Gilliam, Johnny DuRocher and Dennis Dixon.
In 2004 the Ducks had a national ranking of 15 after signing 29 recruits with a 2.72 average. T.J. Ward was a walk-on in 2004 and thus not rated. The only other player from the 2004 class on the 2009-10 Ducks was Willie Glasper.
A few thoughts
Safe to say, there will be many opinions and conclusions about what's been presented here. It certainly seems Scout got it right in ranking the 2007 class so highly. That class provided almost half the starters in this year's Rose Bowl. It's interesting to note that only four of these players were rated as four-stars.
Will the Ducks need another such class to continue to excel in the Pac-10? Or did that class simply start a trend toward higher ranked classes and make up for the lack of talent in earlier classes? The opinion here is that the 2007 class started a trend that seems to be continuing upward.
Oregon's recruiting appears to have significantly improved since the 2002 class. That class had a star average of 2.14 compared to the most recent three classes of 3.14 (2007), 3.35 (2008) and 2.92 (2009).
Currently Oregon has 17 recruits and is rated nationally at 29 and fifth in the Pac-10. While this may look concerning to some, the star average for the current class is a very healthy 3.18. If the Ducks finish strong that star average could be even higher.
There does not seem to be any doubt that Oregon has improved it's recruiting since the days of Joey Harrington and even Haloti Ngata. If you remember, many Duck fans were hoping the success of the Fiesta Bowl victory over Colorado would translate quickly to higher rated recruiting classes. As it has turned out, it just took a little longer than expected.
Oregon is still not signing many five-star players. By comparison USC signed a whopping ten in 2007, four in 2008, and four in 2009 to Oregon's zero over that time – unless you count five-star Justin Thompson who never played a down for the Ducks. However, their depth has increased by leaps and bounds.
Where holes or injuries were once being plugged with two-star players (some of whom panned out nicely), the Ducks are now are increasing the odds of having great players step in by plugging those same holes with three and four star players. John Boyett, Cliff Harris, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner come to mind.
Some will argue that in order to effectively break-down recruiting you can't look at overall stars. These folks would say you have to look at positions of need, and how classes overlap and mesh (i.e., notice how there is a current lack of highly sought after DT's on the team). They'd be right too – but it's not either or, it's just one or the other and this article is too long as it is.
So, where does this leave us? Clearly, the Ducks are still not recruiting at the level of USC, Texas or Florida (who seem to have an embarrassment of riches every year). But, Oregon is poised to continue to the recruiting momentum of the past three years. That's already led to a few strong teams and a Pac-10 champion.
No longer does Oregon have to hang it's hopes on a few players not getting injured. No longer does Oregon have to hope for a few four-stars to balance out a stable of two-stars. No longer does Oregon have to wonder whether it can recruit nation-wide. In fact, if this year finishes the way many "in the know" believe it will (and isn't that the fun part…finding out whether it will) Oregon is going to be just fine, thank you very much.