Oregon football recruiters have ground to make up in the 2015 signing cycle. With five verbal commits in the fold, the Ducks currently check in at No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 51 nationally, according to 247Sports.
The good news? Head coach Mark Helfrich and his staff have almost eight months until national signing day. The bad news? Early into the process, the Ducks have had to readjust their plans after losing prospects.
Blake Barnett, the 4-star dual-threat quarterback from Santiago High School in Corona, California, tweeted his commitment to Alabama on Wednesday.
Barnett is the second quarterback Oregon lost to an SEC program in as many months. Kyler Murray, a 5-star prospect, committed to Texas A&M on May 28.
Conversely, the most highly touted recruit pledged to the Ducks for 2015 is someone they plucked from SEC country. Taj Griffin, a standout from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia, is one of two 247Sports composite 4-stars currently on board. According to 247Sports' own metrics, Griffin is actually a 5-star prospect, and continues the program's run of recruiting top-tier ball-carriers.
The other 4-star is offensive lineman Zach Okun, who will pave the way for Griffin in the years to come.
The Ducks are playing catch-up behind the Pac-12 pace-setters. USC, for example, has as many 4- and 5-star prospects committed as Oregon has total pledges.
Pinning down the majority of the top-rated targets on Oregon's list will be critical to their future success. After losing out on Barnett, the focus is on quarterbacks.
The position may come down to Deondre Francois, s 4-star prospect from Orlando, Florida. Oregon is also a leading contender for 3-star athlete Stephen Johnson, who plays quarterback for San Leandro High School in San Leandro, California. However, according to 247Sports' JC Shurburtt, Johnson would likely play either wide receiver or defensive back at the next level.
Further 4-star reinforcements look promising in offensive lineman Zack Bailey and athlete Donte Jackson. Both reside in the SEC geographic footprint, with Bailey in South Carolina and Jackson in Louisiana.
Bailey could be a cornerstone of what is shaping up to be the strongest area of this class. Along with Okun and committed 3-star lineman Shane Lemieux, the Ducks are in the hunt for 4-star lineman Andre James, as well as 3-stars Cody Creason, Mason Walter and Connor Williams.
Conversely, Oregon's 2015 class is lean on defensive players, even after adding 3-star cornerback Jihree Stewart last week.
The biggest defensive target is 5-star defensive end Byron Cowart. The defensive end from Seffner, Florida, will be in Oregon for The Opening next month.
Fellow The Opening participant and 4-star safety Marvell Tell is also on Oregon's radar.
Solidifying the defensive class is paramount, and likely the difference between the Ducks falling in the middle of the pack among conference counterparts, and rising to the top three.
Oregon faces an uphill climb to break into the top 20 of the national rankings. The coming months will be crucial to shaping this recruiting class.
Recruiting rankings and information culled from 247Sports.com composite scores.
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