Oregon Football Recruiting: Everything You Need to Know for National Signing Day
The Oregon Ducks have never been known as a recruiting powerhouse, but in recent years they have become more than just a thorn in the side of power programs. They have become a force on the recruiting trail.
This year's group will be the first full recruiting class for Mark Helfrich as the Ducks' head coach. Thus far, it appears the Ducks are sticking to the recruiting plan they successfully utilized under former coach Chip Kelly.
Led by four U.S. Army All-Americans, three Semper Fidelis All-Americans and two Under Armour All-Americans, the Ducks currently have the No. 15 class in the country, according to the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings.
Without the built-in geographical advantages many other elite programs enjoy, Oregon has been forced to follow the recruiting trail to all corners of the country. The talent pool the Ducks have within a six-hour drive of the Eugene campus is among the least fertile recruiting areas in the country.
Oregon has signed a number of players from outside its usual target areas during the last seven recruiting cycles. The Ducks have signed players from Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, New Jersey, Kansas, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Illinois, Utah, Nebraska, Colorado, American Samoa and Canada.
With eight commits from California and two commits each from the states of Texas and Arizona, the Ducks continue to show that they can go into recruiting hotbeds and compete with the in-state programs.
With the recruiting season heating up, it's time to shift gears and focus on the future. Here is everything you need to know about Oregon for national signing day.
All recruiting info and star ratings courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Top Remaining Targets
Trey Lealaimatafao, 3-star defensive tackle
Vitals: 6'0," 301 pounds
High School: Warren (San Antonio)
Notable Rankings: No. 36 DT, No. 52 player in Texas
The Ducks need defensive tackles more than anything in this class, and they have been making moves to fulfill that need in recent weeks. The top target at the position is the former Texas commit, who will visit Eugene on Jan. 17.
Lealaimatafao had been committed to Texas until he officially decommitted last week. After an offer from LSU, Lealaimatafao now considers Oregon, LSU, USC, UCLA and Oklahoma to be his top five schools. The Ducks have the biggest need and will get his last official visit.
The Ducks feel good about their chances, and landing the U.S. Army All-American would fill a huge need in the class.
Courtney Garnett, 3-star defensive tackle
Vitals: 6'2", 280 pounds
High School: St. Augustine (New Orleans)
Notable Rankings: No. 63 DT, No. 50 player in Louisiana
Like Lealaimatafao, Garnett was committed to Texas for months until decommitting on Jan. 7. He tweeted that Oklahoma and Tennessee were his finalists and set up visits to each school for the weekends of Jan. 17 and Jan 24.
A couple days after decommitting from the Longhorns, Oregon extended an offer, and apparently it made an impact as it now looks as if Garnett will visit Oregon on Jan. 31, the final weekend before signing day.
Oklahoma could be the biggest competition for the Ducks in this battle, but as of now, the Ducks will get the final official visit for both defensive tackles.
If Lealaimatafao decides to reschedule his official visit to Jan. 31 alongside Garnett, it could mean big things for the Ducks, who have pulled a few important late flips in recent years.
John "JuJu" Smith, 5-star athlete
Vitals: 6'1", 200 pounds
High School: Poly (Long Beach)
Notable Rankings: No. 2 ATH, No. 2 player in California, No. 13 in the country
Smith's versatility and star potential at safety and wide receiver make him the ideal target for the Ducks. He officially visited Oregon and has also officially visited Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama.
Oregon should feel good about its chances for the nation's No. 2 athlete, but the closer it gets to signing day, the pressure to stay home increases. Smith will officially visit USC on Jan. 17, and that could wind up sealing the deal for the Trojans, who used to be considered a lock to sign local stars like Smith.
Mattrell McGraw, 3-star safety
Vitals: 6'0", 183 pounds
High School: John Curtis (River Ridge, La.)
Notable Rankings: No. 29 safety, No. 17 player in Louisiana
McGraw has long considered Oregon as one of his top schools and has had them on top since the Ducks extended an offer last spring.
Texas A&M is much closer to home and has been making a big push for the Semper Fidelis All-American, but it could be too late. McGraw has a great relationship (subscription required) with Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal and fits the mold of what Neal likes from his safeties.
McGraw was set to announce last summer but decided to wait until signing day. Wide receiver Malachi Dupre is a teammate and close friend, who is also seriously considering the Bruins. If the Bruins can get Dupre away from LSU, McGraw might follow suit to Los Angeles.
Early Enrollees (* indicates junior college transfer, ** indicates early enrollee from HS)
* Haniteli Louisi, 6'5", 295 pounds, College of San Mateo (Calif.)
* Dominique Harrison, CB, 6'0", 185 pounds, Contra Costa College (San Pablo, Calif.)
* Tui Talia, DE, 6'5", 265 pounds, Diablo Valley College (Pleasant Hill, Calif.)
|Royce Freeman||Imperial (Calif.)||5'11.5"/215||RB||****/No. 4|
|Arrion Springs||Roosevelt (San Antonio)||5'11"/192||CB||****/No. 3|
|Bishard "Budda" Baker||Bellevue (Wash.)||5'9"/174||ATH||****/No. 6|
|Morgan Mahalak||Marin Catholic (Kentfield, Calif.)||6'3"/190||QB-Dual||****/No. 5|
|Jimmy Swain||North (Olathe, Kan.)||6'2.5"/229||OLB||****/No. 32|
|Tyrell Crosby||Green Valley (Henderson, Nev.)||6'5"/290||OT||***/No. 41|
|Glen Ihenacho||Junipero Serra (Gardena, Calif.)||6'0"/185||Safety||***/No. 79|
|Jalen Jelks||Desert Vista (Phoenix, Ariz.)||6'7"/253||DT||***/No. 69|
|Tony James||Gainesville (Fla.)||5'10"/170||APB||***/No. 12|
|Henry Mondeaux||Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)||6'4"/255||TE||***/No. 29|
|Braden Eggert||Napa (Calif.)||6'7"/305||OT||***/No. 40|
|Justin Hollins||Martin (Arlington, Texas)||6'5"/207||WDE||***/No. 41|
|Tanner Carew||Damien (La Verne, Calif.)||6'2"/215||LS||**/No. 1|
Players Who Could Contribute as Freshmen
Oregon lost its leading receiver and one of its starting cornerbacks, which can make things difficult on both sides of the ball. Fortunately, Oregon has one of the best high school players in the country at each of those positions coming in to compete for the open spots.
With the somewhat unexpected loss of cornerback Terrance Mitchell to the NFL, CB Arrion Springs could see immediate playing time as a freshman. The 5-star corner is smart, fast and physical, making him a prime candidate to take over for Mitchell opposite All-Pac 12 cornerback, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
Josh Huff had a breakout year as a senior, but Bralon Addison is everything Huff was and more. What the Ducks need is a big, physical receiver who can contribute in the run game as a downfield blocker and go up to make the tough catches in the red zone.
That is exactly what they got in WR Jalen Brown, who graduated from high school early and has already enrolled at Oregon. Brown helped lead his team to an undefeated year that ended with an Arizona state championship.
He is the total package at receiver, and while he might not have the elite speed that Oregon prefers, he is probably the most polished receiver the Ducks have signed in years and should be an immediate contributor.
The Ducks bring back two all-league-caliber running backs, but that might not be enough to keep Royce Freeman off the field. The 5-star back had three touchdowns in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and has an NFL body as a high school senior.
Freeman committed to the Ducks over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wisconsin, USC, UCLA and many more. Any player who is pursued by elite programs from all corners of the country will be in the conversation for playing time as a freshman.
Storylines to Watch
DP to DC?
With the retirement of longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, the usually stable Oregon coaching staff has one major change to manage this offseason.
Longtime Oregon assistant coach Don Pellum, known as "DP" is rumored to have the job, according to a report by Andrew Greif of The Oregonian, which would help keep the Ducks' class together, since Pellum also serves as the program's recruiting coordinator,
By keeping him on board and giving him a more visible role, it could help the Ducks with certain prospects, especially if they fill his former position of linebackers' coach with a strong recruiter.
As of Monday nothing is finalized, but it should be very soon. The sooner, the better, because the Ducks are still targeting a couple of key defensive prospects.
Longhorns' loss, Ducks' gain?
It seems the subject of Oregon's lack of defensive tackles comes up during every season and, even more so, every recruiting cycle. The position most lacking in recent years seems to be the least heavily recruited by the staff each year.
In fairness, the West Coast is not exactly prime defensive-tackle territory, but the Ducks always seem to get in too late or not at all with the recruits who should be on top of their recruiting board.
They have made offers to four defensive tackles since the end of the season and have a good shot at landing a big-time prospect in the middle. Former Texas commit Trey Lealaimatafao recently earned an Oregon offer and is the primary defensive tackle target for the Ducks.
At 6'0", 300 pounds, the U.S. Army All-American is the opposite of the long, lean defensive tackles Oregon has pursued in recent years. He is quick off the ball, has strong hands and has the ability to play the run and the pass equally well.
Keep an eye on him as he is set to officially visit Eugene on Jan. 24, giving the Ducks the chance to make the last big impression before signing day.
Another former Texas commit at defensive tackle, Courtney Garnett, received an Oregon offer in early January and has made the Ducks one of his three finalists, according to A.J. Jacobson of Duck Sports Authority. Garnett will likely visit after taking trips to his other finalists, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
- Oregon's 17 commits hail from eight states.
- Even with longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's retirement, Oregon can boast a rare level of stability among its coaching staff to parents, coaches and recruits alike. Four of the Oregon coaches have been with the program for more than 20 years, while two others are in their second decade with the Ducks.
- If Arrion Springs or Justin Hollins honors his commitment and signs with the Ducks, it will be the sixth time in seven years in which the Ducks have signed a player from the Lone Star State.
- Bellevue's Budda Baker never lost a high school game, winning the state championship in the state of Washington four times. Bellevue has won the 3A state title six consecutive years.
- WR Jalen Brown joined Baker as the only other commit to finish his high school career with a state championship.
- Quarterback commit Morgan Mahalak had never started a high school game when he received an offer from the Ducks. He was also chosen to participate in the Elite 11 finals and Nike's "The Opening," before ever starting a game.
- Starting in 2007, the Ducks' recruiting classes have each ranked in the top 30, according to the 247Sports Team Rankings. The Ducks' class finished ranked No. 29 in 2007, No. 21 in 2008, No. 28 in 2009, No. 13 in 2010, No. 12 in 2011, No. 13 in 2012 and No. 19 in 2013.
- The run of top-30 finishes in recruiting has come after the Ducks' 2006 class was ranked outside of the top 50 nationally and last in the Pac-10.