Oregon Football: Power Ranking the Ducks' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era

Brandon OliverContributor IJanuary 31, 2014

Oregon Football: Power Ranking the Ducks' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    The Oregon Ducks elevated their program from an up-and-coming program to one of the elite in college football during the BCS era and look to continue to build as the playoff era has finally arrived.

    Most programs sustain their success by recruiting elite athletes year in and year out. The Oregon program went from being unable to keep the top players from inside its own borders to stay home to landing elite athletes from Ohio, Texas and Florida.

    While the location and weather will likely keep Oregon from ever being a recruiting powerhouse, the Ducks have used their flashy style and their state-of-the-art facilities to make a name for themselves on the recruiting trail. Of course, winning 56 games since the 2008 season doesn't hurt their recruiting efforts either.

    The Ducks have steadily risen in the recruiting charts through the years, and here we look back on the best recruiting hauls for Oregon during the BCS era.

    Without further delay, here are the best of those classes...

    Note: Criteria for ranking these classes are based primarily on the individual's contribution to the team's success, individual performance while in college and, to a lesser extent, his career as a professional.

No. 5: 2004 Class

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    WILY LOW/Associated Press

    How they ranked

    247Sports.com had Oregon as the No. 13 class in the country, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10.

    Scout.com had Oregon signing the No. 15 class nationally, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10.

    Rivals.com had Oregon ranked as the No. 17 class overall, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10. 

     

    On paper, this class was easily the best that Oregon had ever pieced together at the time. They landed the highly touted quartet from powerhouse De LaSalle High School from Concord (Calif.), which included a 5-star and three 4-stars. They also landed a fifth player from De LaSalle who, as a walk-on, went on to become the best of the bunch.

    The Hits

    Safety Patrick Chung and center Max Unger were afterthoughts when the Ducks finalized their class. Chung has started in a Super Bowl, while Unger will do so this weekend.

    Offensive linemen Jeff Kendall, Geoff Schwartz and Mark Lewis all helped solidify the Oregon offensive line as it became a run-dominant program. Defensive linemen Ra'Shon Harris and Cole Linehan both played significant roles on a number of Oregon teams.

    T.J. Ward, the fifth player from De LaSalle, was a walk-on but turned into a top-40 pick in the NFL draft and continues to start at safety for the Cleveland Browns.

    Other significant contributors in the class, including CB Willie Glasper and safeties-turned-linebackers Kwame Agyeman and Jerome Boyd, all started for more than one season for Oregon.



    The Misses

    WR Cameron Colvin, OL Aaron Klovas, RB Terrell Jackson, LB Ryan Phipps

    Colvin was highly touted and showed flashes of his potential at random times during his Oregon career, but injuries never allowed him to build off the positives.

    Jackson and Phipps both transferred out of the program after one year. It wasn't their production or talent that was missed as much as the opportunity to build a pipeline to Southern California powerhouse Corona (Calif.) Centennial.

    The departure of both players left the relationship between the Oregon program and the Centennial coaches strained. That strain has since been repaired, but the Ducks missed their shot at players like Taylor Martinez, Vontaze Burfict, Will Sutton and many more.

    CB Jackie Bates, from De LaSalle, was dismissed from the program and went on to success at Hampton University.


    Overall

    The class was the best Oregon had ever signed at the time and proved to have some talented players. Many of the players ended their careers as a part of Oregon's 2007 team, which made a run at the BCS title before injuries completely derailed them.

     

     

No 4: 2005 Class

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    How they ranked

    247Sports.com had Oregon as the No. 29 class in the country, good for No. 4 in the Pac-10.

    Scout.com had Oregon signing the No. 9 class nationally, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10.

    Rivals.com had Oregon ranked as the No. 11 class overall, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10. 

     

    The Hits

    RB Jonathan Stewart had an injury-plagued career, which has continued in the NFL. His backup for two years, Jeremiah Johnson, went on to star for the Ducks before spending a few years in the NFL.

    DE Nick Reed lived up to the hype as he quickly ascended the Oregon and Pac-10 charts for career sacks. After a slow start, which included a switch to defensive end, TE Ed Dickson emerged as a star for the Ducks and became a Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

    Defensive backs Walter Thurmond III and Jairus Byrd both came in lightly regarded before becoming All-Pac-10 players who were later drafted in the NFL. 

    Other significant contributors in this class were linebacker Blair Phillips, defensive tackle Simi Toeaina and OL Palauni Ma Sun.

     

    The Misses

    LB Kevin Garrett showed flashes as a sophomore before being booted from the program. WR James Finley was not exactly a miss, but never emerged as the star Oregon thought he would.

    WR Derrick Jones left USC on bad terms and was allowed to transfer to Oregon. He showed flashes, but couldn't stay out of trouble, which led to his dismissal from the Oregon program.



    Overall

    The Ducks had a nice mix of high school and junior college talent, which helped the Ducks transition to a spread offense. With Dickson a Super Bowl winner, Thurmond about to play in the Super Bowl and Byrd becoming a regular NFL Pro Bowl selection, this class has produced a large amount of NFL success. If Stewart could stay healthy, the 2005 class would have an even greater presence at the next level.

     

     

No. 3: 2011 Class

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    QB Marcus Mariota was overshadowed by the big names in the class, but has proven to be the best of the bunch.
    QB Marcus Mariota was overshadowed by the big names in the class, but has proven to be the best of the bunch.Associated Press

    How they ranked

    247Sports.com had Oregon as the No. 12 class in the country and No. 2 in the Pac-12.

    Scout.com had Oregon signing the No. 13 class nationally and No. 2 in the Pac-12.

    Rivals.com had Oregon ranked as the No. 9 class overall and No. 2 in the Pac-12. 

     

    The 2011 class was considered by many to be the Ducks' best recruiting haul ever. On paper, it probably is. What has happened since the class signed leaves its legacy up for debate.

    Convincing longtime USC commit and Los Angeles legend De'Anthony Thomas to choose Oregon on the last weekend of the recruiting period will go down as one of the greatest recruiting coups of all-time.

    Thomas certainly left his mark on the program, but it was an unsung recruit from Hawaii with much less fanfare who turned into the jewel of the class.

    Any class with Marcus Mariota in it deserves a spot on this list. He is that good.

    The Hits

    Mariota, Thomas, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, OT Tyler Johnstone and OT Jake Fisher.  

    Mariota and Thomas were both thought of as legitimate Heisman candidates at the start of the 2013 season. Ekpre-Olomu is one of the top cornerbacks in college football.

    Johnstone and Fisher have become All-Pac 12 performers on the line.

    Other significant contributors in this class include linebackers Rodney Hardrick and Tyson Coleman.

     

    The Misses

    The class had the potential to be so much more, but high-profile recruits like WR's Devon Blackmon and Tacoi Sumler, LB Anthony Wallace and RB Tra Carson all transferred out of the program.

    TE Colt Lyerla proved to be worthy of his lofty ranking out of high school, but was unable to keep his nose clean and eventually left the program in the middle of the 2013 season.

    OT Andre Yruretagoyena was a 4-star, Under Armour All-American, but has been unable to break into the starting lineup.

    Overall

    With all the attrition, it would be fair to label the class a disappointment, if not for the elite talent at the top of the class. Mariota and Ekpre-Olomu could go down as the best to ever play their respective positions at Oregon by the time they are done in Eugene.

     

No. 2: 2007 Class

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    Dion Jordan was a big name in recruiting as a WR, but found success on defense during his career in Eugene.
    Dion Jordan was a big name in recruiting as a WR, but found success on defense during his career in Eugene.Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    How they ranked

    247Sports.com had Oregon as the No. 29 class in the country, good for No. 3 in the Pac-10.

    Scout.com had Oregon signing the No. 9 class nationally, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10.

    Rivals.com had Oregon ranked as the No. 11 class overall, good for No. 2 in the Pac-10. 

     

    The 2007 class really got things started for the Ducks, as they continued their ascent towards the upper echelon of college football.

    Well-thought-of recruits like offensive lineman Carson York, wide receiver Drew Davis, defensive end Kenny Rowe and cornerback Anthony Gildon were all high-level recruits and went on to start for the Ducks in the 2011 BCS Championship game. They weren't the only ones from the class to do so.

     

    The Hits

    York, Gildon, Rowe and Davis all justified their recruiting hype, but a handful of more lightly recruited players also started for the memorable 2010 team, which will go down as one of the best in program history, regardless of what happens in the future.

    CB Talmadge Jackson, WR Jeff Maehl, safety Eddie Pleasant, OL Mark Asper, tight end David Paulson and linebacker Casey Matthews all started that season and went on to at least sign with NFL teams.

    Other key contributors from the class were DE's Terrell Turner and JUCO transfer Will Tukuafu.

     

    The Misses

    There weren't many in this class who simply didn't pan out. In fact, TE Malachi Lewis is the only high-level recruit to never meet the expectations placed upon him.

    The Ducks did suffer some attrition however. DL Tonio Celotto left the team for personal reasons and WR Rishard Matthews transferred to Nevada and became an NFL player.

    It was the failure to qualify by two U.S. Army All-American defensive tackles that hurt the Ducks the most. Simi Fili and Myles Wade were unable to gain admittance into the university, leaving the Ducks in a bind at a major position of need.

    Overall

    The class built the foundation for the next level in Oregon's rise to the elite. Some of the most popular players in school history were a part of the class, which nearly brought the program its first national title.

    Had the Ducks been able to keep the entire class together, it could have been even better. But what more can be expected?

    At the time of their graduation, the 2007 class was the most successful class in school history.

     

No. 1: 2008 Class

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    LaMichael James was one of the key pieces to the Ducks' 2008 recruiting class.
    LaMichael James was one of the key pieces to the Ducks' 2008 recruiting class.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    How they ranked

    247Sports.com had Oregon as the No. 21 class in the country and No. 5 in the Pac-10.

    Scout.com had Oregon signing the No. 23 class nationally and No. 5 in the Pac-10.

    Rivals.com had Oregon ranked as the No. 19 class overall and No. 3 in the Pac-10. 

     

    When you combine the fact that the Ducks made a major splash by heading east to sign talented athletes outside of their normal recruiting grounds with the usual sleepers that have helped build the Oregon program from the ground up, this class is as good as it gets.

    The Ducks reached across the country to flip LeGarrette Blount from Florida State and convinced RB LaMichael James, QB Darron Thomas and highly regarded Chris Harper to pass on playing close to home in order to join the rising program in Eugene.

    Add all the wins, the newfound recruiting prowess and the overall team and individual success together, and this looks to be the Ducks' most important class to date.

    The Hits

    Thomas broke a number of school records, James won the Doak Walker Award, Kenjon Barner was a Heisman Trophy candidate as a senior and Blount has been a success in the NFL.

    John Boyett stepped in as an injury replacement during his freshman season and didn't give up his spot. LB Josh Kaddu came in lightly regarded but turned into an NFL player.

    Dion Jordan signed with the Ducks as a wide receiver, switched to tight end and ultimately switched to OLB/DE, where he would become the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

    LB Kiko Alonso got off to a slow start but finished very strong, earning a Rose Bowl MVP Award. Alonso was recently awarded the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award by the Pro Football Writers of America.

    Other significant contributors in this class were QB Jeremiah Masoli, DT Blake Ferras, LB Dewitt Stuckey and OL Nick Cody.


    The Misses

    The only misses in this class came by way of transfer or dismissal. QB-turned-WR Chris Harper transferred to Kansas State and TE Mychal Rivera transferred to Tennessee. Masoli and WR Garrett Embry were both dismissed from the team after legal issues. 



    Overall

    While it wasn't perfect and there were some regrettable mistakes on and off the field, the 2008 recruiting class proved to be the best class for the Ducks in the BCS era.

    Masoli led them to the first Rose Bowl in 15 years, Thomas stepped in and led them to a berth in the national championship game, then followed it up by leading the Ducks over Russell Wilson and Wisconsin to earn their first Rose Bowl win since 1917.

    James, Barner and Blount were all in the NFL playoffs this season. Jordan became the No. 3 pick in the draft and Alonso was the top rookie in the NFL in 2013.

    It is hard to argue the success that this class had in college, and the list of post-college accomplishments looks as if it will continue to grow.

    With so much talent and so much success, the 2008 class rates as Oregon's best in the BCS era and probably its best ever.