Oregon Football: Mark Helfrich Proves He Can Recruit With Big Boys

Kay JenningsContributor IIIFebruary 6, 2013

Oregon Football: Mark Helfrich Proves He Can Recruit With Big Boys

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    It's a long time until mornin', but you have to like how new Oregon football head coach Mark Helfrich's first national signing day is going. It's early, but Helfrich is proving he can keep pace recruiting with the big boys.

    Most Oregon fans were just hoping to get through today without losing any further commits. Dontre Wilson's flip to Ohio State was certainly painful-but-survivable, as long as 5-star running back Thomas Tyner does the expected later today and signs with the Ducks.

    Now, it looks as if the Ducks had at least one very, very pleasant surprise up their sleeve—more on that in a slide coming your way soon.

    It has to be said that even though it's only three hours into national signing day, Helfrich's day is already a huge success.

    Let's look at the odds against the new head coach, and how Helfrich is bucking them.

Odds Against Helfrich

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    This seems like a good time to share a favorite quote with you:

    Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.
    Orison Swett Marden

    Mark Helfrich had much opposition in his way as he headed into his first national signing day without Chip Kelly. First, Kelly's departure was not the best timing. In fact, it was just about the worst possible timing and cost the Ducks Dontre Wilson, by his own statements.

    Oregon handled Kelly's departure swiftly and efficiently and appointed Helfrich within days. After all, it wasn't like AD Rob Mullens didn't have a Plan B—probably as early as last year when Kelly flirted with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    But losing their head coach just weeks before national signing day was, while critical, not the only opposition Helfrich had to overcome.

    Read on.

NCAA Investigation

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    There is also this little matter of the ongoing NCAA investigation. What could Helfrich say when a recruit's mother asked him if the Ducks would be facing sanctions?

    While most Oregon fans believe that the Ducks will get off lightly in the Willie Lyles' recruiting services affair, appearing before the NCAA committee on infractions (COI) is a reality. At the earliest, that hearing will happen in April, and it could be delayed until later in 2013.

    Maybe the COI just wants to hear testimony from Oregon on this gray, confusing area of recruiting to assist them in clarification of the rules. Or, maybe they want to bring down another elite program.

    The point is that Helfrich and his assistants had to recruit with this issue hanging over their heads. It couldn't have been easy to answer mom's question.


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    It's not as if Oregon is the only top program from which to choose for the country's juiciest prospects. The competition includes the undisputed track record of the SEC schools, coaches with solid winning reputations and hungry programs all over the place.

    Coaches like Ohio State's Urban Meyer, USC's Lane Kiffin and Washington's Steve Sarkisian picked up the phone within minutes of Chip Kelly's announcement that he was leaving Oregon for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

    You just know what their message to Oregon's commits was, don't you?

    Put yourself in the recruit's shoes; he's just had the rug pulled out from under him with Kelly's move, and now Urban Meyer is on the phone. Chip "King of the Living Room" Kelly is long gone, and what does he really know about Mark Helfrich?

    Frankly, with the quality of head coach poachers out there, it's nothing short of amazing that the Ducks appear to be holding onto all but one verbal commit.

Yet Another Surprise

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    It seems like just yesterday when the Oregon Ducks snatched another mega-star USC recruit from right under the Trojans' nose—De'Anthony Thomas, 5-star athlete from USC's backyard.

    Don't look now, but it's happened again. Not the backyard part, but the mega-star USC recruit.

    Torrodney Prevot, 4-star defensive end from Houston, TX, surprised many by choosing the Ducks today. Prevot committed to USC in July, 2012, but had recently taken visits to Texas A&M and Oregon, and all three schools were on his list.

    You may recall that last year the Ducks snatched wide receiver Bralon Addison from Texas A&M at the last minute. Oops, they did it again.

    Prevot was just the surprise depressed Oregon fans needed. At 6'3", 201 pounds, is Prevot destined to become the new Dion Jordan?

    This surprise signing—and the maneuvering it must have taken to get there—has almost single-handedly vaulted Helfrich into the recruiting big leagues.

    (Watch this space for more on Prevot later today.)

    Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.