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5-star DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, maybe the best recruit in 2019, chooses Oregon

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Thibodeaux has been arguably the most sought-after player in the country.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is a terror off the edge.

Five-star Oaks Christian (Calif.) defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux committed to Oregon on Saturday, giving the Ducks a player some regard as the best recruit in the class of 2019.

Thibodeaux had more than 40 offers, including from most of the sport’s blue-bloods. His final group was the Ducks, Alabama, Florida State, and Florida. Oregon had been widely considered the favorite to land him leading up to Saturday. He adds to the country’s No. 7 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports Composite.

He’d previously expressed reservations about the rainy weather in Oregon, but he had praised head coach Mario Cristobal and line coach Joe Salave’a.

The Early Signing Period, when Thibodeaux can make his commitment official, runs Dec. 19-21. His verbal commitment comes on his birthday, Dec. 15.

Thibodeaux is an imposing figure at 6’5ish and 240 pounds, with the frame to add 20 or 30 more pounds in a college weight program.

He is consensus five-star, and every major services rates him somewhere between the first and 10th best prospect nationally.

He explodes off the line in an effort to get to the passer. Thibodeaux can maintain his speed while presenting a small target for blockers to strike. With that, he can bend the edge and get to the passer.

But if a blocker sets too soon or too wide in an effort to cut off his outside rush, Thibodeaux can counter by converting his speed to power for an effective bull rush, or by using a spin or rip move.

Thibodeaux will work to refine his pass-rush moves in college, but he is not a one-trick pony by any stretch.

He is also a solid player against the run, due to his quickness. But he’ll improve as a run defender in college with more reps and time in the weight room.

Tracking Thibodeaux’s recruitment

Initially, I figured Thibodeaux would attend USC, because USC signs an overwhelming proportion of the elite players it wants from Southern California. But USC didn’t seem to put the full-court press on him as early as I would have expected.

Florida State did, however, as soon as Willie Taggart came from Oregon. Thibodeaux’s early relationship with Florida State’s staff put the Seminoles in a good position, and he was also interested in the HBCU in Tallahassee, Florida A&M. Thibodeaux visited over the summer and confidence in Tallahassee was high.

He also visited Alabama over the summer, and those in Tuscaloosa always believed they had a shot, due to their track record with elite prospects, coaching, facilities, and tradition. Alabama’s been involved with a bunch of the country’s top uncommitted recruits.

He was also considering Oregon over the summer, but the Ducks weren’t seen as a major contender by recruiting contacts. Over the summer, the belief was largely that if he stayed out West, it would be USC, and that if not USC, it would be either Alabama or Florida State.

Visits and the 2018 season helped to determine his destination.

Thibodeaux’s first official was to Tallahassee. It was a hot, nasty, rainy Labor Day game, in which FSU got blasted by Virginia Tech — a precursor to a disastrous year for the Seminoles. It’s not that players can’t sign with a school that loses during a visit, but the atmosphere on campus was miserable. It wasn’t the best impression.

He took his visit to Tuscaloosa to see Alabama decisively beat a quality Texas A&M. All reports were positive for the Tide, and many believed Alabama had taken the lead in his recruitment.

In early October, Thibodeaux took a visit to Oregon. A program could not have timed up a visit any better, as the Ducks beat the highly ranked Washington Huskies in dramatic fashion, winning in overtime. Thibodeaux posted video from the field in the aftermath, and reports out of Oregon were glowing.

At that point, it was commonly believed that Oregon had a lead over Alabama.

Thibodeaux also spoke fondly of the Florida Gators throughout the process, and visited in early December. However, I never read or heard anyone suggest UF ever had the lead.

In a video released to USA Today, Thibodeaux revealed his four finalists: Oregon, Alabama, Florida, and Florida State.

He spoke about each contender in the video. The ones other than UO:

  • On Alabama: “Roll Tide Roll. The Nick Saban era has been ridiculous. He’s been able to win so many games, put so many guys in the league and being a recruit that’s a great thing to see. The whole state of Alabama is fueled by Alabama football. That was a big thing I saw. There’s nothing else there that gets the people going. Yeah, Alabama is ... Alabama.”
  • On Florida: “The history at Florida. Dan Mullen coming back was a big thing. He’s a great coach, he’s a great guy, and he has a great group of coaches around him. Coach Grantham has put a lot of guys into the league. The standard at Florida is ridiculous.”
  • On FSU: “Willie Taggart, he came in with a lot of steam and he is a great dude. He is a great recruiter. He is just a great person. They are not just for the winning and for the football. They are really interested in the person.”

His comments on each were interesting. Thibodeaux spoke of Oregon being rainy, and not liking rain, yet it was nasty in Tallahassee during his visit.

His comment about Tuscaloosa might have sounded like a major plus for Alabama, except Thibodeaux has repeatedly stressed his interest in being about more than football. He cares about social causes and wants to be an entertainment lawyer. The Tide are known for being very businesslike, but have tried to cultivate a more family-and-fun image.

In the end, instead of picking the Tide, he picked a program run by a guy who used to work for the Tide: Cristobal.