It's getting closer. Oregon football fans will know on February 6 if the Ducks will pull out a good recruiting class on national signing day.
Even Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens acknowledged that the timing of head coach Chip Kelly's departure was less than ideal as it related to the recruiting process. However, the promotion of Mark Helfrich, promising a seamless transition, appears to be very popular with recruits.
What an amazing in home visit! Love the coaches, and Helfrich is a great guy. GO DUCKS— D4SH (@thomas_tyner) January 21, 2013
Operating under the old saw "It's not over until it's over," what should be on Helfrich's and Oregon's national signing day wish list?
Let's look at what it will take to avoid what could become a fairly grim recruiting effort.
Even before Chip Kelly bolted, the Ducks had recruiting issues with this class. Oregon got off to a characteristically slow start, and then, uncharacteristically, slowed down even further.
However, there are currently 13 quality prospects who have verbally committed to the Ducks. Every single one of these recruits has the talent to be successful at the college level, and a few of them will compete for starting roles this year.
So, job No. 1 for new head coach Mark Helfrich is to make darn sure the Ducks keep all 13 of these kids in the fold between now and Feb. 6. Most at risk appear to be wide receiver Darren Carrington, twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, and running back Dontre Wilson.
Let's examine their status.
According to Scout.com, wide receiver Darren Carrington visited Arizona this past weekend, and is looking around at other schools. Carrington told Scout.com:
“I’m trying to look at all my options right now,” Carrington said. “I don’t really know what direction I'm going to take, so right now I'm looking at what's out there."
The Robinson twins are being madly wooed by—you'd better sit down for this one, Duck fans—USC, Ohio State and Washington. According to David Dunn, the twins' high school coach, the Robinsons haven't officially decommitted, but they are opening the door to further official visits. Dunn predicts it will be a signing day decision. Ugh.
The story with 4-star running back Dontre Wilson is equally as ugly as the Robinsons' and Carrington's situation. According to Rivals.com, Wilson has scheduled visits to Ohio State on Jan. 25 and to Oklahoma State on Feb. 2. Can RB guru Gary Campbell save Wilson?
While these four prospects may be the most at risk, Helfrich and his assistants can't afford to take any recruit for granted at this stage, and it appears they are not. 247Sports.com is reporting that Helfrich and every one of his assistants are together on the recruiting trail making personal visits to all the Oregon commits. So far, it's going well.
While this article is all about wish lists, the intent is to keep it as realistic as possible. Therefore, dream recruits like Robert Nkemdiche and Eddie Vanderdoes, while still technically uncommitted, have indicated they have no interest in the Ducks and are not included.
You may, however, continue to dream. It doesn't cost anything, and there is always the chance of a last-minute epiphany by a 5-star prospect (see De'Anthony Thomas, 2011).
For these purposes, let's talk about some big names who are still uncommitted and have at least some interest in the Ducks.
First on that list is outside linebacker and 4-star prospect Quinton Powell. From Daytona Beach, FL, Powell originally committed to the Florida Gators last summer. He took his official visit to Florida on Dec. 7 and decommitted on Dec. 10. Hmmm.
According to 247Sports.com, Powell will officially visit Oregon on Feb. 1. There are five schools on Powell's "warm" list: Oregon, USC, South Carolina, Florida and Miami.
At 6'2", 194 lbs, Powell is one of the top 15 linebackers in the nation and would be a dream get for the Ducks, considering the departures of Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay, and the youth at the linebacker position.
By now you've probably all heard the sad story of 4-star defensive end Kylie Fitts. Scheduled to enroll early at USC this month, the Trojans pulled the rug out from under Fitts and told him, oops, they didn't actually have a spot for him until next summer.
Fitts' early life lesson about trust may result in the Ducks picking up a superstar DE. Rivals.com has Fitts as the No. 7 strong-side DE in the nation. He is 6'4", 260 lbs.
Fitts was planning to visit Oregon after his USC decommit, but Chip Kelly's departure changed his mind. He does, however, still have Oregon on his interest list, along with Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington. Oh, and USC is still there too.
The Ducks are a long shot for Fitts, but Helfrich and Nick Aliotti should go all-out on this kid. Throw all the heat you've got at him and then see what happens on Feb. 6, his decision day.
Juwaan Williams took his official visit to Oregon last October and reportedly still has the Ducks high on his list. From Tucker, GA, the 6'1", 180 lbs. athlete had Oregon as his front-runner until Chip Kelly's bombshell; now it's dead even for the 3-star prospect.
Scout.com has reported that Williams is expecting a home visit this week from Helfrich and secondary coach John Neal. Man, I'd love to have Helfrich's frequent flier mileage just for this week alone.
Williams is expected to make his decision on Jan. 28, and to choose between Vanderbilt, Notre Dame and Oregon.
Apparently, 4-star offensive lineman Cameron Hunt's official visit to Oregon last weekend blew him away. According to Scout.com, Hunt—who was visiting when the announcement of Mark Helfrich's promotion to head coach was made—had quite the weekend:
"I had some pretty high expectations going to this visit and it actually surpassed them,” Hunt said. “I don’t even know where to begin. I think the biggest thing that stood out was how the players and coaches interact with each other and how I was treated.
Everyone says it, but it really does feel like a big family at Oregon. The facilities are incredible. I can’t even describe them but everything is so state of the art and advanced, I’ve never seen anything like it. The crazy thing is they’re not done yet and doing even more with the facilities. It’s not just football either, the academic center is amazing too, everything there is just first rate."
At 6'4", 267 lbs., Hunt would fit right in on the Ducks' O-line. There is something about him—perhaps it's his slightly goofy grin and his loquaciousness (look it up)—that reminds me of O-line great Carson York.
Hunt is a longtime commit to California and will visit Berkeley this weekend. He is expected to choose between Cal, Oregon, Michigan and Ohio State.
With the news of backup quarterback Bryan Bennett's transfer to Southeastern Louisiana, expect the Ducks to sign a junior college QB.
Arizona Western's Tanner McEvoy visited Oregon on Jan. 11, and picked up a scholarship offer. That was prior to you-know-who scooting off to the NFL, and it remains to be seen if it will make a difference to McEvoy.
McEvoy is a dual-threat quarterback, and is 6'5", 215 lbs. He is reported to be choosing between Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and he will probably not make his decision until February.
Don't read too much into the fact that the Ducks have offered to a JUCO quarterback. It doesn't necessarily mean that redshirt freshmen Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues aren't capable and ready to back up presumed starter Marcus Mariota—it's simply insurance and shows that the coaching staff either knew or suspected that Bennett was gone.
Yeah, 4-star offensive tackle Nico Falah is committed to USC and, yeah, if he changes his mind at the last minute it will go in Washington's favor.
Falah sent this tweet the day Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles, which happened to be two days after Kelly did an in-home visit with the Falah family:
I'm not mad at Chip he's doing what's best— Nics ✌ (@NicoFalah) January 16, 2013
Sometimes you must keep a kid on your wish list just because it feels right. Nico Falah feels right.
What would a recruiting wish list be without a prediction of a national signing day surprise?
So, here goes. Look for USC "soft verbal" commit Torrodney Prevot to do a last-minute DAT impression and flip from the Trojans to the Ducks.
The 6'3", 201 lbs. weak-side defensive end took an official visit to Oregon on Jan. 18. Now, it must be said that Prevot is also expected to visit Texas A&M and Notre Dame before Feb. 6.
That's an awful lot of last-minute visits for a committed recruit, don't you think? Perhaps the turmoil at USC on the defensive side of things is giving the 4-star pause.
Texas A&M is very hot currently, and the Irish are, well, the Irish. But don't count out the Ducks to pull the big shocker on Prevot. Wonder if Oregon has ever had a player named "Torrodney"?
Nope. If you're an Oregon fan, hope that Prevot is the first because this kid is good.
This is the part where we like to say: "All this information could be different by the time you read this."
There is nothing more fluid in all of sports than the run-up to national signing day. But that's part of what makes it so much fun, right?
Don't be shy about sharing if you hear anything juicy.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.