SB Nation's team sites are a great resource for team-specific knowledge, and particularly recruiting knowledge. Here at the SB Nation recruiting hub, I'll be talking with the recruiting experts for all of the top teams during the off-season. Previous installments include Texas, Michigan, Notre Dame and Georgia.
Today we are joined by recruiting editor Noah Smith of the excellent Oregon site Addicted To Quack.
Oregon signed a consensus top-20 recruiting class in 2012. Did this meet, exceed or underwhelm your expectations?
I can only speak for myself, but Oregon's 2012 class met my expectations. Ranking recruiting classes is a notoriously fickle process. Any coach who is being honest will tell you the same thing. Anytime Oregon signs a class that is inside the top 20, I'll be happy. Would it be nice to be ranked in the top 5 or 10 every year? Sure. But Oregon has built its program by identifying and developing underrated recruits more than maybe any other program in the country. Chip Kelly especially has shown a propensity for signing players that fit his system, buy into his "win the day" philosophy. This year's class is no different and contains the exact type of players that went to the national championship in 2011 and won this year's Rose Bowl. I also think it's noteworthy that this is the first time in Oregon's history that they've signed three consecutive top 20 classes. To the extent people want to measure Oregon's recent success based on the strength of its recruiting classes, the future only looks brighter.
What was the most important thing that Oregon did in its 2012 class?
First and foremost, Oregon finished strong. The importance of this can't be overstated given how things went down in the weeks leading up to signing day. For a couple days it looked like Chip Kelly was gone to the NFL. This in the midst of chasing some of the highest profile recruits on Oregon's list. Unrelatedly, Jeremy Castro transferred to UCLA. It looked like the wheels might fall off after one of the most successful seasons in Ducks' history. But Chip Kelly stayed and Oregon signed a consensus top 20 recruiting class. Oregon signed one of the best recruits in the nation in Arik Armstead after Chip made his flirtations with the NFL. And on signing day Oregon flipped two outstanding wide receiver recruits from Texas in Chance Allen and Bralon Addison. Chip's flirtations with the NFL had the potential to create uncertainty in the minds of recruits. Instead, he used it as an asset by being honest about his prospects and turning his interest in the NFL into an extension of his philosophy, which involves lots of preparation and gathering as much information as possible before making any decision.
What misses in the 2012 class must now be addressed in the class of 2013?
Oregon's 2012 class was very thin at linebacker and offensive line. This is due in part to the fact that the 2011's class was strongest at offensive line and linebacker. Still, those needs must be addressed, as evidence by Oregon's recruiting so far: they've offered more offensive lineman and linebackers than at any other position. That being said, Oregon seems perennially in search of defensive tackle prospects, and didn't really land a true defensive tackle in this year's class, though Armstead, Alex Balducci, and Stetzon Bair could all slide over to the tackle position. Oregon must also address the running back position. Oregon seems to do better at recruiting running backs than any other position, but have had three transfers in the last two years, leaving a very real lack of depth behind Kenjon Barner.
What position(s) were not a need with the 2012 class due to returning players, but will now be a need in 2013 due to graduation/attrition?
As mentioned above, Oregon was already in great shape at the linebacker and offensive line positions. Both positions will be important to address in this year's class. You can also never have enough quarterbacks, as Oregon fans know all too well. As for running back, it's become a major priority since the transfer of Tra Carson, though Oregon has numerous talented athletes that can play intermittently out of the backfield (e.g. Josh Huff, Bralon Addison, and even Colt Lyerla).
How has the Willie Lyles situation impacted Oregon on the recruiting trail? Are the Ducks experiencing a lot of negative recruiting as a result? How, if at all, has Oregon changed the way it gets information on recruits? Have the Ducks changed their Texas and out-of-state strategy as a result? When is Oregon expecting word from the NCAA?
This is a tough question to answer as the finer details about Willie Lyles' involvement with Oregon's recruiting remain murky. That being said, the short answer is I don't think the situation with Willie Lyles will affect Oregon's recruiting practices anymore than it does any other school. California and LSU both used Willie Lyles' services, and other schools use similar services. I think everyone is now on notice that they need to be more careful about using this type of intermediary. Scouting services are truly a grey area in the world of recruiting, and I think the situation with Oregon and Willie Lyles will go a long way toward clarifying the rules. As far as Texas, Oregon is being very active there again this year, and signed four players from the state last year.
As far as negative recruiting, I don't personally have a gauge on what goes on inside the homes of recruits where other coaches are concerned. But to the extent that negative recruiting goes on, I think there is no doubt that this is something that other recruiters and coaches will try to use against Oregon, along with Chip Kelly's flirtations with the NFL. I'm not really worried about that. For example, Arik Armstead specifically committed to the Ducks BECAUSE they didn't recruit negatively, and because Chip was open and honest with him about his status with the school.
As for word from the NCAA, that is anyone's guess. I would expect sometime this year.
For Oregon to be elite, most of its players need to come from out-of-state because the Beaver State doesn't produce much top high school talent. How have recent coaching changes at UCLA, Stanford, Washington and Washington State impacted Oregon's out-of-state recruiting strategy?
I'm not sure that the addition of new and higher profile coaches at the schools mentioned will change Oregon's recruiting strategy. I think the influx of talent to head coaching positions will actually be a good thing overall for the league, Oregon included. Because of the dearth of in-state talent, Oregon has had to work hard to get kids to come to Eugene from out of state for a long time. The majority of Oregon's players come from California, and more recently Texas, but Oregon gets players from all over the country. Oregon has recently made good inroads in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, and Ohio, and have also pulled quality players from Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina in recent years. Oregon also does very well in Arizona, Utah, and Hawaii. This is no accident. Oregon has worked hard in the last decade+ to create a national brand, from the "Joey Heisman" campaign, to the uniforms, to the influence of Nike. To the extent the league, and specifically the Northwest, is seen as a hotbed for talented coaches and top tier programs, I think it creates more interest in the minds of recruits nationally, and that's good for everyone.
In the past three years, the Ducks have signed only seven players listed above 280 pounds. Do you see Oregon making a concerted effort to go after larger players along the lines and in the front seven? Should they?
Much has been made in recent years about the size of Oregon's players across the offensive and defensive lines. Do I think Oregon is specifically looking for bigger players because of this? No way. Oregon has been a top five program in the country since Chip Kelly arrived and they've done it through innovation, not by copying some other blueprint for success. Oregon's line play on both sides of the ball is predicated on quickness and a deep rotation. Is some of that dictated by their personnel? Sure. But it's also part of the coaching staff's over-arching philosophy to be fast and athletic all over the field. Now, would it be nice to have some 300-pound tackles who are also quick off the lines? Absolutely. But those players are rare, and every top program wants them.
That being said, Oregon brought in one of the most talented offensive line classes in the country in 2011. Their recruits along the defensive line the past few years have also developed nicely and have good size. Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi are both 300 pounds+ and agile up the middle, while Dion Jordan is a star at the end position. Arik Armstead was widely considered the best offensive tackle prospect in the country last year but prefers to play defense. I'm excited to see what a guy with his size, athleticism, and desire to play on the defensive side of the ball can do.
With only one commitment, the Ducks are off to a slow start in the class of 2013. Is this intentional? Are the Ducks waiting to see how many they scholarships they will have after off-season attrition and NCAA rulings, etc? Is Oregon being more patient? Something else?
A slow start is nothing new or surprising for Oregon. It is by design. As with everything else, the Ducks are very process oriented. They focus on gathering a lot of information about a recruit before they make an offer. They also don't allow players to commit until they've visited the university, which typically happens later in the recruiting season. Last year Oregon's first commit, athlete Oshay Dunmore, didn't occur until April 2. So Oregon is ahead of that schedule. Also, Oregon's lone commit this year is in-state standout Thomas Tyner, arguably the best high school running back in the country. I think he will be a great ambassador for the program as the recruiting season progresses and recruits get to know each other at various all-star games.
Thanks to Noah Smith for his excellent insight on the Oregon Ducks. I plan to bring Noah back for an update as soon as Oregon picks up a few more commitments.
Make sure to visit Oregon blog Addicted To Quack for your Oregon recruiting fix.