1. Can Oregon get their commits signed?
-Keep the Mater Dei pipeline going and land a signature from top 150 player and defensive back headliner Jaylin Davies. All sounds solid here despite the decommitment from his friend and high school teammate Kyron Ware-Hudson. However, you simply never know in recruiting, and this is an important get for Oregon at a position of need. Fans won’t breathe easy until the signature is in.
-Hold off late pressure from Pac-12 rivals Washington and UCLA to land TE Moliki Matavao. Worth noting Oregon holds another 4-star TE commitment in Colorado product Terrence Ferguson. Ferguson is solid, and even has ducks tattooed on his forearm, so Oregon could survive this loss but it is far from ideal.
-Overcome distance to sign the national guys (McNeill, Tilmon, David, Brevard). Not all are the highest rated commits in this class, but they have been identified by takes by the staff and have a key role to play in this group. Plus, landing big players nationally builds your program’s brand in those areas and allows you to continue recruiting nationally.
-Ink your headliners! Troy Franklin, Ty Thompson, Kingsley Suamataia, Dont’e Thornton, Bram Walden, and others. There are no major worries here, but these guys are the foundation of this great class. You cannot let one flip this late or lose out to negative recruiting in this strange season. Again, this is recruiting, things are never over until there’s a signature (and even then sometimes it isn’t over).
My Take: The on-field trouble won’t tear apart this tight-knit group too much. If there is another decommitment, which I’m not saying there will be, it’s likely from Matavao. Davies is certainly a major piece to watch as well, but I feel better about his chances of signing with Oregon in part because of his social media positivity towards Oregon. If Cristobal inks the headliners and finishes off with Davies this class will be in a great spot. The departure of Matavao would be tough to take, right now I would say there’s roughly a 20% chance he flips as I write this, but I feel confident in Cristobal and co’s ability to line up contingency plans in that event. Moreover, open spots are a huge asset, both in what figures to be an active transfer market and for the 2022 class which will likely be tight on numbers.
2. What should we make of the recent decommitments from Kyron Ware-Hudson, Jadarrius Perkins, and Christian Burkhalter?
-Ware-Hudson is a good player and a sizable loss. He particularly translates well to the college level and has elite hands. The decommitment was an issue of Covid and distance, it had little to do with on-field performance or a failure of the staff in recruiting. Also, Oregon has a loaded class at receiver with Franklin, Thornton, and Brevard. If they hang onto those 3 they will be more than alright.
-Perkins is a hit at DB because that is a position group of need within the program right now. First, it raises the stakes for Davies. Second, because Perkins was a JUCO guy expected to have some immediate impact. This may mean Oregon adds a DB later this cycle or in the transfer market before 2021. But let’s be real, anyone in the know realized that this was going to be a fight to the end to sign Perkins even immediately after his commitment. It stings, but it happens in recruiting and the Ducks will be fine.
-Burkhalter’s departure was a mutual decision. He was exploring other options, but Oregon’s staff also felt this scholarship could be used better elsewhere. The way I see it, that’s good news. Burkhalter is a good player, and Oregon feels they have better ways to use a scholarship, then that may mean there is more in the works for the finish to this cycle, or the transfer market, or the 2022 class than some realize. Because make no mistake, there are many times in this program’s history where a guy like Burkhalter would’ve been a must take and there are many other programs in this conference who still see him as a must take.
-The Burkhalter move also appears closely tied to Oregon’s expected addition of Jonathan Flowe, the younger brother of freshman LB and former 5 star Justin Flowe. This move still has some hurdles to overcome in terms of academic eligibility, which means Jonathan likely won’t sign until February. But it is an impressive pivot by the staff that provides an upgrade to depth and talent while solidifying Justin Flowe’s place in the program as well.
My Take: These decommitments are fine and normal. There are clear explanations for each that should make duck fans understand that the sky is not falling. This staff still knows how to recruit. If it was Franklin or Thompson or Kingsley leaving then we should worry. But these losses are normal and a natural byproduct of recruiting nationally at a high level. Deep classes and long distances lead to decommitments, it’s that simple.
3. Does Oregon’s late offer lead to an early decision from top 200 RB Byron Cardwell and is it the right move?
-In terms of the 2021 class, Cardwell would be a perfect closing piece to this amazing offensive group, providing a real every-down back to compliment Seven Mcgee’s DAT-like playmaking. Mcgee will get some carries but is likely to also be used as a slot receiver and just a threat for explosive plays, so I think that fit with Cardwell works well.
-One also has to wonder how, or when, Cardwell finds his place in the RB rotation given the talent Oregon has added in recent years with Sean Dollars and Trey Benson. My philosophy is this, you take the talent and figure out who gets on the field later. Competition is never a bad thing, and at a position as important as running back you want to stack talent. Those hits can pile up on a back and you never know when you’ll need another guy to step up. In my opinion, running back is one of those spots where you try to take a good one each cycle, and Cardwell would certainly qualify as that.
-The buzz is Oregon may have taken the lead here for Cardwell (other threats are Cal, UCLA, Notre Dame).
-Cardwell’s current scheduled commitment is January 25th, but don’t be shocked if this is moved up.
My Take: For my money, Cardwell is the Ducks most likely *addition* during the early signing period. Is it a sure thing? No, I probably wouldn’t bet on it at the moment. I do believe Cardwell ultimately likely ends up in this class, but making this move so quickly from offer to signee would be an impressive feat even for Cristobal.
4. Does Oregon hit a home run with an old friend & big name with a public announcement during the early signing period?
-First, who am I referencing? Ducks fans have been eager observers in the recruitments of big name targets OL Bryce Foster and DE Korey Foreman for some time, and each is set to announce in the next month.
-Is Oregon going to land either? The short answer is no. The Ducks are pretty much done for both of these guys. Oregon set up a solid foundation in both recruitments and were major factors at one time.
-What changed? Well nothing really, and that was the issue. Oregon was lurking like they had with Thibodeaux and Flowe before, but simply never got the visit that could’ve sparked a dramatic shift in either recruitment.
My Take: We can stop holding out hope on these two. Foster still has Oregon in his final group, but it would be really shocking to land him at this point. Both likely go down as more stories of what could’ve been in Oregon recruiting if this had been a non-covid year.
5. How many spots will Oregon have left for the traditional signing period this spring and the likely-to-be busy transfer season?
-Oregon, like any program, can only add a maximum of 25 new scholarship athletes in a single year (there are some exceptions, but 25 is the hard number for this cycle).
-The 2021 class currently has 20 commits, if all of them sign that leaves 5 spots. Add Byron Cardwell and Jonathan Flowe, then you would only have 3 spots left. Lose a commit or two and you have more spots. The math is simple, but with so few places left in this prestigious group, each one will have a major impact on Cristobal and the staff’s plan going forward.
-As I mentioned, Jonathan Flowe is a guy that will likely commit before the Early Signing Period but is probably not going to sign at that time. So if his academics don’t come together that could open up a spot later in the cycle, although all indications are that that process is trending in the right direction.
My Take: Oregon will have somewhere from 3 to 6 spots open after the early signing period. If I had to bet, the most likely scenario right now is 20 commits sign, Jonathan Flowe commits but doesn’t sign, and the Ducks wait to finalize any other additions until later.
6. Will there be a silent commitment and signee?
-How this works is sometimes a prospect sends in his signature but wants to plan a public announcement for a later date. Last cycle, we saw this go down with Dontae Manning.
-Silent signees are always fun because rumors inevitably come out and recruiting insiders, coaches, and recruits love to drop hints.
-Who are the candidates? Sadly there aren’t many good ones this cycle. Cardwell could go the silent route. JT Tuimoloau and Ceyair Wright are obviously major targets, but both seem a ways away from a decision. Defensive line and defensive backs are both areas where Oregon could add someone, but no clear names seem close to pulling the trigger.
My Take: No silents this time around. Oregon has already filled up so much of the class with public commits and their primary targets aren’t quite ready to make a decision. It makes more sense to keep flexibility and open spots for the spring signing period and the transfer market.
7. What does the finish to this Oregon class look like after the Early Signing Period?
-This is a multi-step process. It starts with solidifying how many spots you have to work with by seeing who signs next week.
-Next, the staff goes all-in on Tuimoloau, Wright, and LSU transfer Siaki Ika. These are 3 elite prospects at positions of need. They are absolutely must-takes if you can get them, and Oregon should battle until they know they are out of it. We probably don’t lead for any of these guys at this moment but we are in a solid position for all of them. I believe we are firmly in the mix for Ika, but things have been relatively quiet on that front and we should hear more in the next month. We are still lurking for Wright and JTT (more on him in question 10) with probably somewhere around a 20% or 30% chance with each depending on who you ask.
-Then the staff shifts focus to identify any solid depth pieces, likely at defensive line or defensive back. We don’t know those names yet really, but they’ll come out in the next month or so and the staff has a solid track record with identifying contributing pieces late in the cycle.
-One likely option to join this class is JUCO offensive lineman Jordan Moko. He’s a bit raw, but Cristobal loves his frame and believes he can turn Moko into an elite player with the right coaching.
-With any leftover spots Oregon moves to the transfer market, and likely targets an immediate contributor in the secondary, or maybe at the line of scrimmage at either side.
My Take: Cristobal and staff still have one big win left in them. They’ve done it the past 2 cycles, and so I am going to keep believing until proven otherwise. That guy could be Ika, or maybe distance becomes a factor for JTT late, or they can sell Ceyair Wright on the opportunity to play early. Byron Cardwell might sign early or he might wait, but I do think Cardwell likely ends up in this class. I think Moko likely ends up in this class too. Then, depending on spots left, Oregon looks to add an immediate impact transfer or identify a potential contributor down the road at a position of need on the defensive side.
8. Will the Pac-12’s inept leadership and indecision resulting in a shortened season have an effect on Oregon’s recruiting?
-Not this season. Cristobal and this staff are elite recruiters who haven’t shown any signs of slowing down.
-Let’s remember, earlier this decade there were times when the Pac-12 had a legitimate claim as the second-best conference in college football. Things are fluid but they certainly aren’t trending in the right direction.
-That said, a conversation is going to need to happen if the perception of the Pac-12 continues deteriorating to the point where we lose our status as a power 5 conference altogether. Change starts with Pac-12 programs securing talent within the west coast footprint.
-If things don’t change, then I believe there is nothing marrying Oregon to the Pac-12 long term. It would be sad to see Oregon leave the conference, but it seems there is potential for some major realignment in college football going forward this decade. Who knows exactly what that realignment would look like, there are a lot of options but that’s an entirely different conversation.
My Take: Oregon has established itself as enough of a college football brand that I believe they will find a way to maintain relevance in the sport and on the recruiting trail so log as they are willing to dedicate the necessary resources. This probably takes one of two paths. Either Oregon can elevate its play and make it back to the playoff, which would dramatically improve t
he perception of the conference in my opinion (the same would be true if USC made the playoff). Or Oregon ultimately realizes this conference isn’t taking football seriously enough to put us in a position to compete, and we find a better option along with USC and whoever else wants to come.
9. Does this cycle prove the importance of visits to Oregon’s recruiting strategy under Cristobal?
-The conventional wisdom in the early spring was that Oregon was going to take a big recruiting hit because of the visit restrictions. However, after an amazing run throughout the summer, that narrative was basically put to rest.
-More recently, as big recruitments of top targets Bryce Foster and Korey Foreman have trended away from the Ducks, more questions have been raised about what this cycle could have looked like with visits.
-I think those questions are legitimate, but they likely don’t matter much after this season. Visits will be back in the recruiting world soon enough, and Oregon will be able to leverage that strength to their advantage again. I’m not an expert in this area, but most seem to believe 2022 prospects will be allowed to visit at some point.
-Part of the staff’s success this cycle was because they did such a good job of getting prospects on campus before the shutdown. They had all the infrastructure in place and capitalized on it.
My Take: Oregon has a great track record with successful visits but they showed an ability in this cycle to land big targets without relying on visits down the stretch. As Oregon has more success on the field, they will only increase their ability to get prospects on campus and capitalize on those opportunities. Normal visits will eventually return to the recruiting world and they will regain their importance. Oregon is in a great position whenever that happens, but they also have shown the ability to adapt to whatever circumstances come their way on the recruiting trail.
10. Does Oregon finish with a top 5 class when all is said and done?
-Top 5 has long been the aspiration for this Oregon class. That number doesn’t mean everything, but it would be symbolic of Cristobal’s ability to recruit talent to Eugene on par with any other program in the country. Personally, it was a mark I targeted early in the cycle when it became clear Oregon had a legitimate shot to get there. Now the Ducks are deep in contention.
-What does Oregon need to get there? Step one, sign the guys we have. Step two, add a few more solid pieces to fill out the class. Step three, and this is the really important one, land one more “big fish.” Some other things need to break right for Oregon in terms of how other programs finish, but if the Ducks can do those three things they will be in a great spot. At this point, everyone should know who that final big name I’m referencing is. So here it goes, the latest on 247’s top-rated recruit in the country, defensive lineman JT Tuimoloau…
–*ATTENTION* JTT UPDATE HERE: There was a report Sunday from Adam Gorney of Rivals which said the JTT recruitment had shifted and it was now Alabama one and Oregon a close two. Brandon Huffman at 247, who is by far the closest insider to the Tuimoloau recruitment, addressed the Rivals report by saying he strongly disagreed, and instead is highly confident that Ohio State is in the lead, and Alabama then Oregon is lurking. Huffman did say that he believes Oregon would be the choice over Washington and USC if Tuimoloau decides to stay on the west coast. Justin Hopkins at Scoopduck still believes JTT ends up out West at Oregon. So what should we make of all this? Well we do at least know this recruitment is a ways from being over and that Oregon is in the top 3. It is mainly just a wait and see at this point, hopefully as things progress JTT will start to think about the benefits of staying closer to home on the west coast. But the Rivals report is not entirely insignificant. In my opinion, it does firmly solidify that we are at least contenders, and it is some of the first positive buzz that we have heard in a while. It is Adam Gorney’s job to cover this stuff, so you have to imagine he is basing his report off of some source close to the recruitment that at least believes Oregon has a real shot. That said, Huffman still knows this recruitment best and I think we should trust his characterization of where things stand right now. So like I said, Oregon is probably at a 20% to 30% chance for JTT right now.
My Take: Betting on a top 5 finish at this point might be a little over-eager given all the variables that need to break the right way. I am pretty confident that Oregon will land in that 4 to 8 range, which is exactly where we want to be to continue elevating the standard of this program. Honestly, my advice to duck fans at this point would just be to enjoy the ride the rest of the way this cycle. Being in the fight for a top 5 class is a dream for Oregon. We should enjoy seeing those signatures come in on Wednesday and enjoy the battle for JTT, Ika, Cardwell, Wright, and whoever else down the stretch. It’s a great time to be a duck!
[Cover image by John Martinez Pavliga via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]