The inexact science of recruiting

I’ve tried, but I just can’t do it.

Can’t bring myself to jump up and down for joy. Or chime in on message boards. Or pore over reports and statistics and highlight reels.

It’s recruiting.

I know a lot of fans really get into this stuff, but try as I might, I just can’t. You do realize how much of a crapshoot this whole thing is, don’t you?

Oregon coach Chip Kelly and his staff have put together Oregon's highest-ranked recruiting class. (Photo courtesy of

We’re talking about high school kids, who aren’t yet done with high school, signing pieces of paper saying where they’re going to college.

There are so many variables, it’s not even funny.

Will they actually show up on campus in the fall? Will they be anywhere near as good in college as they were in high school? Will the skills they had in high school translate to Division I? How will they adjust? Will they adjust at all? Will they stay in school? If they do, will they make grades? Will they still have their heads in the game after a redshirt season? After going from top dog in high school to scout team in college? After dealing with all the other challenges of the college transition?

When I talked to running backs coach Gary Campbell in November, I asked him about recruiting players for Oregon’s up-tempo offense. I figured that finding high school kids who can compete at that level, with the conditioning necessary to play at Oregon’s pace, was probably a tough task. Turns out it is, so much so that Campbell doesn’t spend much time focusing on it.

“Players that I look at, to plug into our offense, I don’t look at their conditioning, because none of them are going to be in the condition that our team is in,” he said. “I look at their dedication, and I want to know from their coaches, are they dedicated, are they going to put in the work? Because if he’s a guy who’s not going to put in the work, he’s not going to play this offense, because he’ll give up.

“But I think most players will come in and see what the other guys are doing, and most football players that are able to get to this level have a lot of pride, they want to be good and do whatever it takes. And I think anybody who’s interested in coming to Oregon has probably seen us play, they know the pace we play at, and either they want to do that or they don’t.”

The coaches do the best they can to bring in guys who have a chance to be successful, but it is, Campbell will admit, an inexact science at best.

The Oregon football team’s current recruiting class is being called the best in school history; not exactly a surprise, considering what the Ducks have been doing on the field the past two seasons.

The Rose Bowl. The BCS National Championship game. Widespread pop-culture appeal that’s stretched from ESPN College GameDay to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

So it only seems logical that more elite high school football stars want to come to Eugene, and I’m assuming as the full effect of this past season’s success takes hold, more top recruits will be headed to Oregon 12 months from now.

Some of them might even end up being top-flight Oregon football players some day. But as the current Ducks can tell you, that road — the one that goes from high school stardom to playing time at Autzen Stadium — can be long and tedious. There are no guarantees, despite all the promises and high hopes that pop up along the recruiting trail.

Some players transfer. Some just don’t pan out. Some can’t stay out of trouble and get kicked off the team. Some never actually show up in the first place.

I don’t mean to begrudge other fans their excitement. If you enjoy all this recruiting stuff, more power to you. And I admit to keeping an eye on the whole process, if only to get a feel for what the “experts” think about my team’s recruiting class.

Right now, most of ‘em think the Ducks are doing pretty dang well. As of Wednesday afternoon, had Oregon with the 11th-best recruiting class in the nation and second-best in the Pac-12 Conference, with the Ducks still waiting on the decision of star running back/cornerback De’Anthony Thomas, who was apparently wavering between USC and Oregon. First in the conference rankings was USC, which was sitting fourth nationally, behind Alabama, Florida State and Texas.

It’s great to see Oregon listed among the nation’s perennial powerhouses when it comes to recruiting.

But I can’t help but think about all the success the Ducks have had in recent years. And they did it without a top 10 recruiting class. So does this high ranking even matter?

Maybe it does. I just have a hard time getting excited about any of it, that’s all.

Too many variables. Wake me up when they start playing.
Editor’s Note: De’Anthony Thomas announced Wednesday evening that he would, indeed, be going to Oregon. The chart below has been updated to reflect the addition of Thomas.

Oregon Football Signing Day, February 2, 2011

High School Recruits

PlayerPositionHt.Wt.HometownPvs. School
Devon BlackmonWR6-1177Fontana, CAFontana HS
Tra CarsonRB6-0227Texarkana, TXLiberty-Eylau HS
Rahim CassellLB6-0205Lakewood, CA Lakewood HS
Tyson ColemanLB6-1203Lake Oswego, ORLake Oswego HS
Ifo Ekpre-OlomuCB5-10182Chino Hills, CAChino Hills HS
James EuscherOL6-7275Beaverton, ORAloha HS
Jake FisherOL6-6270Traverse City, MITraverse City West HS
Christian FrenchTE6-5236Cedar Rapids, IAKennedy HS
Carlyle GarrickLB6-2204Castro Valley, CACastro Valley HS
Rodney HardrickLB6-1225Colton, CAColton HS
Tyler JohnstoneOL6-6250Chandler, AZHamilton HS
Lake Koa-Ka’aiDL6-4245Honolulu, HIKapalama HS
Sam KampDL6-4247Mesa, AZMountain View HS
B.J. KelleyWR6-2175Fresno, CACentral HS
Colt LyerlaWR6-5225Hillsboro, ORHillsboro HS
Marcus MariotaQB6-4194Honolulu, HISt. Louis HS
Jamal PraterOL6-4290Etiwanda, CAEtiwanda HS
Tacoi SumlerWR5-9166Miami, FLColumbus HS
De'Anthony ThomasRB5-9160Los Angeles, CACrenshaw HS
Anthony WallaceLB6-0221Dallas, TXSkyline HS
Andre YruretagoyenaOL6-5260Scottsdale, AZChaparral HS

Junior College Recruits

PlayerPositionHt.Wt.HometownPvs. School
Jared EbertDL6-5285Iowa City, IAIowa Western Community College
Rahsaan VaughnWR6-2192Freemont, CACollege of San Mateo

1 Comment

  1. Excellent!

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