You probably read the headline and thought to yourself, "Max you're crazy. How could you say that after what we've seen this summer?" I completely understand the reaction, I just ask that you bear with me.
The Ducks have finished with the top recruiting class in the Pac-12 for three straight years and have brought in phenomenal talent like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Noah Sewell and Mykael Wright. All but one of those classes (2018), finished inside the top 10 classes nationally according to 247 Sports.
Looking at the 2022 recruiting class, Oregon didn't expect to get this run of commitments this early in the summer, but you have to take your runs where and when you can get them. That run consisted of three massive recruiting wins in the state of Texas (Kelvin Banks, Cameron Williams and Nicholas Anderson), a strengthening of the pipeline to Southern California (Michael Wooten), and beating out USC for two big-time talents (Dave Iuli and Isaiah Sategna).
Those were all big additions, and the Ducks are closing in on wrapping up their offensive haul with their eyes on a couple big names at wide receiver in Kevin Coleman and Tetairoa McMillan, to name a few.
Even with the program's highest-rated recruiting class in 2021, Oregon still hasn't been able to break into the top five, a hallowed ground of sorts. Teams like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, the top-tier teams in college football, consistently sign top-five recruiting classes, there's no drop off. This is why they say the best teams don't rebuild, they reload.
This is ultimately where the Ducks need to be and where they need to STAY if they want to consistently be in the College Football Playoff and national title conversations.
A couple of things happen when you push into this new stratosphere of recruiting.
The most notable is that it's easier for your team to build dependable depth, with true freshman pushing veterans for the starting job. Building that depth is something the Oregon coaches have continually harped on throughout the offseason.
We're already starting to see it in Eugene all over the field, but more importantly at quarterback and wide receiver, two positions you need to have multiple options at if you want to put up points in a modern college football that is favoring offensive firepower.
Let's rewind a bit. This one might hurt Duck fans, but it helps make my point.
When Vernon Adams Jr. went down with an injury in the 2016 Alamo Bowl against TCU, the Ducks were without a capable backup, something that is no longer an issue given the way Mario Cristobal has recruited. Former 3-star quarterback Jeff Lockie, a young freshman Travis Jonsen, a former 4-star quarterback in the 2016 class, and local walk-on Taylor Alie, were the options.
That's no slight to their abilities as athletes, but my point here is that Oregon is now much deeper in the quarterback room and is turning to multiple high school All-Americans in Ty Thompson and Robby Ashford to lead the offense. Quarterback recruiting is at a level I'd argue we've never seen before in Eugene.
As for wide receiver, the position has undergone a complete makeover since Mario Cristobal took the helm and boasts the most depth we've seen in quite some time. Projected starters Devon Williams, Johnny Johnson, Jaylon Redd and Mycah Pittman are all solid players. But their jobs aren't secure due to the massive injection of 4-stars and All-Americans like Kris Hutson, Josh Delgado, Troy Franklin, and Dont'e Thornton pushing them for snaps at practice.
A lot of top-end recruits Cristobal has brought in also enroll early, giving them a greater chance at playing as freshmen and being part of that dependable depth. He'll no doubt hope for that number to continue rising in future recruiting classes.
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With the strong recruiting in recent years, we've seen Oregon develop dependable depth particularly along the offensive and defensive lines. This should come as no surprise seeing that Cristobal prioritizes trench play.
That's not to say that there isn't talent at other positions, but I view dependable talent as having multiple players at a position that a coach feels comfortable throwing in a game at any given time, preferably blue-chip freshmen or players that have been at the school and in the system for multiple years. The Ducks have that along both lines and as such should be given the advantage in winning the line of scrimmage in most contests.
The last item on the topic of Oregon not being where it needs to be is pushing ahead to future recruiting classes, in this case the 2023 class.
Cristobal and his staff have made the good habit of doing most of their heavy lifting with recruiting in the summer months. That way when the season rolls around, they can focus on the top tier elite 5-stars, the headliners like the Thibodeaux's and the Flowe's, and look ahead to the next year's class.
Top recruiting powers in college football consist of names like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia and Oklahoma. The Irish and the Sooners already have two commits in each of their 2023 recruiting classes and each program has a 5-star in the fold (DL Brenan Vernon for Notre Dame and QB Malachi Nelson for Oklahoma). If you look at Georgia, Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs already have four commits in 2023 to give them the top-rated class in the country early on.
I say all of this to illustrate the same point: Oregon recruiting, as great as it's been, isn't where it needs to be to contend with the blue bloods and stay in the national title conversation year after year.
That should show you just how difficult it is to reach the peak of this sport and be included in the conversation for the most talented roster in the country. Following the last national signing day, Mario Cristobal said that these days keep becoming more and more historical.
That's exactly what the Ducks need to get where they want to be.
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