When it comes to recruiting, Mario Cristobal has made it obvious that his priority lies in the trenches and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. He's consistently built his recruiting classes at Oregon from the inside-out--and that doesn't look like it'll change any time soon.
The Ducks recently welcomed Kelvin Banks, a 5-star offensive lineman from Summer Creek High School in Humble, Texas, to Eugene for an official visit. Ducks Digest caught up with him to get the details on the trip.
Freshman offensive lineman Marcus Harper hosted Banks on the trip, and the two connected while discussing the football program Mario Cristobal is building.
"He was giving me the rundown about everything: how the coaches are gonna be real with you, they're gonna love on you, but at the end of the day they’re gonna tell you what's best for you," Banks said.
We've seen time and time again how important it is for a coaching staff to budget their time when hosting so many high-profile visitors, and the Ducks were all over Banks, making sure he knew how important he was.
"It was literally the whole staff. It wasn't even just one person," he said of which coach he spent the most time with. "Everywhere I went the whole staff was right there."
It's another detail that can't be overlooked when making your pitch to one of the most sought-after prospects in the entire country.
"Some schools, they just ditch you with your position coaches and call it a day," Banks said of how he reacted to the attention. "It felt like more than just football, like they had a whole family there-- everybody was going to be right there talking to you, asking you how your day went."
Following the trip, one photo blew up on social media. It was all 6-foot-4, 315 pounds of Banks in an Oregon uniform, holding Ducks Offensive Line Coach Alex Mirabal, and beaming from ear to ear.
How exactly did that situation come about?
"The staff that was in there, they were telling me that they wanted me to pick coach up. He jumped up and I held him. It wasn’t a plan it just happened," Banks said of the photo.
From the sound of it, he could certainly see himself playing under Mirabal.
"I think very highly of him. I got to see him and the way he coaches. He knows what he's doing," Banks said. "He knows exactly how to get to the kid, to get him to push himself.
"He’s a good family guy, he’ll treat you like you're his kid. He talks about how he always has his players over there. Treats you like his kid. I really liked that about coach."
Kelvin Banks Oregon Official Visit
The praise for the Oregon staff didn't stop at Mirabal, as Banks pictured what it would be like to play under two of the best developers of offensive line talent in the country. With Mario Cristobal leading the team into battle.
"It's good having your head coach being an O-line coach. Why wouldn't it be a good decision to go to Oregon and be developed by two great guys?"
"Who wouldn't want to go to a school where the head coach is an O-line guy? You know you’ll get taken care of. I feel like that’ll be pretty good."
The visit gave the Texas prep ample time to hang around the players and the coaches' families, including some competitive frames of bowling--which Banks called his favorite part of the trip.
Eugene may be more than 2,000 miles away from Banks' native Texas, but that isn't lessening the appeal of the Emerald City.
"I loved it a lot. It's a great place, great weather, the mountains are great," Banks said of Eugene. "Everything about Eugene, Oregon was great: The people, the fans surrounding the school, all the support they get is great.
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"I feel like it would be a great place for me in the future if I choose to go there, to develop as a person and chase my dreams."
The Ducks have more than just their staff recruiting him. 2022 wide receiver commit Stephon Johnson, who grew up playing football with Banks, has stayed in his ear since joining the flock.
"We have a great relationship," he said of Johnson. That kinda will be a good thing. That would be like the old days. That would be a great thing to have, being able to play with another teammate you had in the past."
Johnson is relaying how strong of a relationship he has with the staff, among other things.
"How good the place is and how good the coaching staff is as well. Letting me know if I do go to that school I wouldn't have to worry about feeling like I'm not at home."
Speaking of home, Banks said his mother loved the trip-- particularly the support system Oregon has in place for student athletes.
Following a busy weekend in Eugene, one aspect of the Oregon program is standing out the most.
"I would say them just not sugarcoating anything," Banks said of the Oregon staff. "Letting me know how its gonna be from day one. I don’t want that 5-star rating to make anyone sugarcoat anything. I don't want to be given anything, I want to earn it."
With trips to LSU and Oregon in the books, Banks will head to Stillwater for a visit to Oklahoma State, a familiar place seeing that he was at one point committed to Mike Gundy and the Cowboys. He will also make trips to Texas and Texas A&M.
Banks is planning to commit either before the football season or a couple games into the season, and will "probably" be back in Eugene for a game during the season.
This one is far from over, but the Ducks gained some ground on the Texas schools with a huge visit.
"They’re gonna be a contender all the way until the end."
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