Just before the recruiting dead period hit this week, Dan Lanning and his staff made the most of their time by inviting an unreal set of recruits to Eugene this past weekend. The Oregon staff utilized one of their coveted official visits with four-star linebacker Blake Nichelson out of Manteca, Calif.
Ducks Digest spoke with Nichelson about his fourth trip to Oregon's campus, other top schools in his recruitment and his commitment timeline.
Before Nichelson takes his talents to the college level, he has scores to settle at Manteca High School in Northern California.
2023 Linebacker Blake Nichelson
Blake Nichelson surrounded by Oregon-exclusive Jordan shoes on his official visit.
At 6'2" and 215 pounds, Nichelson does a little bit of everything for the Manteca Buffaloes. Nichelson said he feels "most at home" at linebacker -- and that's the position he's being recruited for -- but last season he played on both sides of the ball.
His most recent game showcased his versatility. Nichelson put up a mind-boggling 344 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a 35-21 loss to Wilcox in the C.I.F. Division 2-A Regional Finals.
But despite the harsh end to last season, Nichelson's focus hasn't been deterred.
"My goal is to just keep winning and keep putting up the stats I did last year, but just even better to be honest," he said. "I want to build upon what I did last year and just to get better and keep getting better."
Nichelson's attitude and talent has made him a hot commodity among the top schools in the nation -- but especially on the West Coast. Nichelson currently holds 18 offers, with 10 of those coming from the Pac-12. But Nichelson says the animosity between schools on the field doesn't carry over to the recruiting trail.
2023 Linebacker Blake Nichelson Visits Oregon
Blake Nichelson tries on the all-yellow Oregon uniform.
"Most programs just stay in their own lane," Nichelson said. "I like that better than them having to talk bad about other schools instead of just pitching their [own] programs."
This past weekend saw the Ducks throw everything they had into locking down some of the top targets in the 2023 class. That meant getting elite five-star prospects like Dante Moore, Matayo Uiagalelei, Jayden Wayne and Richard Young on campus all at the same time.
Nichelson is well ware of the value that comes with an official visit.
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"It means a lot to me that I was chosen on an official," said Nichelson. "On that official, [we] covered more stuff about Oregon, got to know more about the program overall."
Members of Duck Twitter saw the hashtag #CoachLanningAmazingRace pop up a few times from recruits and their family members on Saturday, June 25.
According to Nichelson, "Coach Lanning's Amazing Race" was a scavenger hunt that split up the group of recruits with Oregon coaches, and sent them around campus in golf carts to complete tasks, earn puzzle pieces, and eventually find Coach Lanning. The various pictures posted with the hashtag were one of the final steps in the activity.
Nichelson, who was teamed up with four-star Texas defensive lineman Terrance Green, broke down his group's performance.
"We had Coach [Jake] Long as our own person that was driving us around," said Nichelson. "We ended up getting second place .. that was pretty fun."
Oregon's Inside Linebacker Coach Jake Long has been Nichelson's main recruiter, but Nichelson said he also keeps in "great contact" with Defensive Coordinator Tosh Lupoi. It seems that the constant communication from Long and Lupoi have gone a long way with the talented backer.
"Oregon, Florida State and Nebraska are definitely the ones that are hitting me up the most," said Nichelson.
Just a week before getting back to Eugene, Nichelson was in Tallahassee on an official visit with Florida State. It's clear that some schools are moving ahead for Nichelson, and he's preparing for the next steps in his recruitment.
"I'm looking towards dropping my top schools in the next week or couple days even," he said. "The plan for me right now is either early August or late July is when I'm gonna end up planning [on committing]."
Although the Ducks are currently loaded with linebacker talent for 2022, they have no linebacker commits for the 2023 class. Nichelson would be a perfect addition to the this latest haul for Oregon and would be a key pick-up in the talent hotbed that is Northern California.
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