The nation's top uncommitted prospect decided to turn down the nation's top recruiting class on Saturday, when Oaks Christian (Calif.) School defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux chose Oregon over Alabama, Florida State and Florida, announcing his college of choice during halftime of the New Mexico Bowl. Thibodeaux tweeted on Friday night that he had finally reached a decision and made it official on his birthday.
The 6'4", 239-pound Thibodeaux spent most of this recruiting cycle as the No. 1 overall prospect in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings before giving way to fellow weakside defensive end Nolan Smith, a IMG (Fla.) Academy standout who has been committed to Georgia for nearly two years. Thibodeaux remained the No. 1 player in the ESPN 300. Thibodeaux becomes the highest-rated recruit in Oregon history, according to 247Sports, surpassing Haloti Ngata. He passed up the opportunity to be the third five-star to join an Alabama class that appears to have 2019's No. 1 ranking locked up, no matter what happens next week during the three-day early signing period.
Simply put, this is a gigantic coup for Mario Cristobal, the former Alabama staffer and renowned recruiter who led the Ducks to an 8–4 record in his first year. Cristobal’s promotion to head coach helped keep last year’s No. 13-ranked class in place and smoothed over the lingering bitterness from Willie Taggart’s departure. The 2018 cycle was capped off by the signing of four-star lineman Penei Sewell, who blossomed into one of the nation’s most valuable freshman once he took over at left tackle, only to have his season cut short by a high ankle sprain. The Ducks entered Saturday with 2019’s No. 7 class, according to 247Sports; that ranking rose to No. 5 with the addition of Thibodeaux, creating separation from Washington in the race for the best haul in the Pac-12. If quarterback Justin Herbert passes on the NFL draft for another year of development in Eugene, Oregon will enter next fall as the conference’s clear favorite and a legitimate playoff contender.
Thibodeaux will formally sign with Oregon during the early signing period, which runs from Dec. 19 to Dec. 21. Any recruits that don't sign their letters of intent during that window will have to wait until the traditional National Signing Day, which falls on Feb. 6 this cycle.