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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: Oregon Ducks

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Our 7th stop around the Pac-12 focuses on a certain rival in Eugene

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Practice Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a series in which I am profiling the recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That includes the 2014-2018 classes ending with the incoming freshmen for this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more.

You can also look at the previous editions profiling: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Stanford, Colorado, and Utah. With that out of the way, let’s look at the Oregon Ducks.

Program Overview

The last 5 years couldn’t have started much better for Oregon as Mark Helfrich seemingly didn’t miss a beat taking over from Chip Kelly. With Heisman winning QB Marcus Mariota at the helm the Ducks made the inaugural College Football Playoff and advanced to the title game before falling to Ohio State. 2015 was a predictable step back without Mariota but Oregon still won 9 games. But the bottom fell out in 2016 with a 4-8 season and an apathetic defense that got Helfrich fired. Willie Taggart took over and got the Ducks to a winning season but then immediately bolted for Florida State. Mario Cristobal was retained as head coach and he mostly salvaged what had been a top-5 recruiting class and will be tasked with proving it on the field.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.71 stars, 0.913 composite rating (4th in conference)

Average Commit: 3.4 stars, 0.886 composite rating (4th in conference)

Average # of Offers: 156.2 (5th in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Spray and Pray, Quality- High Roller

Oregon has a current reputation of offering every player under the sun but that wasn’t Mark Helfrich’s style. He was always closer to the bottom which keeps Oregon’s average number of offers low despite the explosion under Taggart and Cristobal. Doing this exercise a year from now would clearly vault them up the charts.

For most of the past 5 years Oregon has clearly been a tier behind USC and Stanford while generally falling behind UCLA. They’ve consistently been in the upper echelon of recruiting but they also haven’t been able to pull in every recruit they wanted when going up against the true elite.

Best Recruiting Win: Class of 2014, RB Royce Freeman, 4 stars, 0.9831 composite rating.

Freeman came out of Imperial, California and chose the Ducks over offers from USC, Stanford, UCLA, Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida State. That’s one pretty damn impressive offer list. The decision clearly worked out for both Freeman and Oregon as he went on to have one of the most impressive careers of any back in the history of the conference.

Worst Recruiting Loss: Class of 2014, ATH Budda Baker, 4 stars, 0.9741 composite rating.

Baker was committed to Oregon before Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC and the Huskies hired Chris Petersen. That move convinced the Bellevue, WA star to stay home and spurn Oregon. Given that Baker was one of the key pieces in ending Oregon’s reign of dominance over UW I’m sure the Ducks would love a mulligan on this one.

Recruiting Map Profile

The Ducks on the back of their Nike affiliation view themselves as a national brand and the map above supports that view. Stanford is the only Pac-12 program that gives out a lower percentage of their offers to California prospects than the Ducks. That said, the plurality of their offers still go there.

Pretty much every Pac-12 school spends a little bit of time in the fertile recruiting grounds of Georgia and Florida but the Ducks take it to the extreme. The quarter of their offers that go to those two states combined is the highest of any in the conference. They’re also not afraid to throw out an offer to the best player in a state and see what happens as outside of the Dakotas/Montana and the Northeast they’ve offered players everywhere.

Highest Success States

California: +20.79%, Oregon: +7.44%, Hawaii: +2.72%

Oregon is one of the few schools in the conference who don’t have their home state as number one here which further reinforces the desire to be a national brand. They only extend about 5 offers per year to Oregon players and only 2 per year actually come to Eugene.

Meanwhile the somewhat selective approach in California seemingly pays off for them as California recruits end up comprising more than 40% of their total roster.

Lowest Success States

Texas: -8.16%, Georgia: -6.71%, Florida: -6.17%

The Ducks were known for pulling talent out of Texas (paging Willie Lyles) in the Chip Kelly era but that well mostly dried up under Helfrich. Oregon only got commitments from 4 out of 97 offers in the Lone Star State from 2014 to 2018. The conversion rates in Georgia (2 of 69) and Florida (9 of 123) weren’t that much better. Add it all up and that’s about a combined 5% conversion rate from 3 of their 4 leading states in total offers. Compared to a nearly 16% rate everywhere else.

Out of Conference Profile

Non-Conference Rival- Miami Hurricanes, 51.6%.

This one is almost too perfect. Both programs pride themselves in being flashy and over the top as their preferred manner of attracting players. Oregon’s frequent incursions into Florida and Miami’s willingness to offer west coast prospects means players have chosen one over the other 31 times. Oregon is up 16 to 15 on the scoreboard there but Miami has done a better job with the elite talent. 4 of the 5 most highly rated prospects went to South Beach although one of them (DE D.J Johnson) transferred to Oregon this off-season.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Texas Longhorns, 11.4%.

The downturn of success in Texas is on full display when checking the battles between Oregon and Texas. That’s a 30-5 score in the favor of the Longhorns with the 10 most highly rated prospects and 17 of 18 all going to Texas. Although Oregon has managed to pull a pair of 4-star players out of the state in CB Arrion Springs and ATH Tristen Wallace which is better than most Pac-12 programs have done.

Non-Conference Little Brother- Boise State Broncos, 95.0%.

The results on the field have been very close (at least when Coach Pete was there) but Oregon has dominated their MWC rivals in recruiting. Only a single player with offers from both chose Boise State in the last 5 years in 2018 3-star OLB Kukea Emmsley from Hawaii. Everyone else has ended up in Eugene.

Oregon Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 16.46% 2
2015 16.36% 4
2016 12.73% 4
2017 10.12% 4
2018 9.18% 6
Overall 12.07% 5

As a Husky fan, trend lines don’t get much prettier than that. Oregon’s recruiting win percentage has dropped every single year since 2014. But before you get too excited note that there are some confounding factors there. Coaching changes were made going into both the 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes which almost always leads to a dip from the previous year. There’s also the fact that in 2017 and 2018 Oregon offered significantly more prospects than they did in previous years. Offering fewer prospects tends to help in these metrics as it hurts if Player X goes to another Pac-12 school even if you didn’t put any resources into recruiting the player.

And it does appear that offering more prospects is the root cause of the decline in win % above. In 2014 Oregon signed players with a combined 17 offers from the other P12 recruiting powers (UW, USC, UCLA, and Stanford). That number in 2018? 21. It actually went up.

But the big change was the number of players with Oregon offers that signed at those 4 programs instead. In 2014 there were 18 such players. In 2018 there were 33 of them. While the average rating of a player offered by Oregon dipped the last 2 seasons, even with the coaching change the average rating of an Oregon commit was the highest in 2018 of any of the past 5 seasons.

Oregon Weighted Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 62.53% 3
2015 49.91% 4
2016 33.49% 5
2017 39.99% 5
2018 35.36% 5
Overall 44.26% 5

The drop in ranking again is mostly to do with the number of offers extended rather than a lack of recruiting prowess. Oregon brought in as many players with offers from at least half the Pac-12 in 2017-18 as they did in the three years of 2014-16. A little less than one-third of all Oregon recruits had no more than 1 other Pac-12 offer.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

Willie Taggart offered a lot of players but he has nothing on Mario Cristobal. Oregon has been offering just about every player on the West Coast who has ever touched a football. He’s already offered more prospects for 2019 than any other Pac-12 program in the last 5 years and it’s still only June. That will clearly hurt them in the metrics above but Oregon fans will only care about the quality of the recruits that sign on the dotted line.

Once again the Ducks are off to a blistering start in recruiting. They’ve got 9 commitments which is setting the pace in the conference and their average composite rating is significantly above the average for any season in Oregon’s history.

On the one hand, we’ve been here before. Oregon had the top recruiting class in the nation part way through last season but it started to fall apart even before Taggart’s jump and ended as respectable but a far cry from how it looked. Oregon already saw one decommitment from 4-star ATH Cam Williams this weekend (who seems destined to end up either at UW or USC) and it will shock no one if several more fall by the wayside over the next 6 months.

On the other hand this coaching staff has clearly shown that they have serious recruiting chops. While I’m still skeptical about their ability to coach, with their impossibly easy non-conference schedule the Ducks could have no upset victories and still end up with at least 8 wins. That’s probably good enough to fend off a good chunk of the premium talent from other programs in December.

Oregon is going to be able to recruit as long as the current coaching staff is in place. But Jim Mora was always able to recruit at UCLA and that led to a combined 18 wins in his last 3 seasons. Mario is going to be given a few years to implement his system and integrate all of this talent. A few bumps in the road will be forgiven. And maybe Herbert becomes a Heisman finalist and Oregon challenges for the Pac-12 North in Year 1 and Phil is overjoyed with caving to player demands in making a hire. But if we reconvene three years from now and the Ducks have been good but haven’t hit double digit wins and have seemingly been outcoached in big games then it will be an interesting dilemma down in Eugene.

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