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Oregon Ducks 2016 National Signing Day Primer

Saturday, January 30, 2016

 

While recruiting rankings are hardly an exact science, talent (and, thus, recruiting) is the lifeblood of a program. And, that makes National Signing Day one of the sneaky most important days of the year for college football fans.

While die-hard fans have latched on to the recruiting craze in recent years, most fans see National Signing Day as but a small footnote during the vast offseason.  Part of that is because it typically takes a few years before the names you see on signing day start popping up in games. The other part is the decided lack of actual football involved.

But, like pro drafts, recruiting day success almost always paves the way to on-field success down the road. It’s no coincidence that you routinely see recent National Champions Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State in the top 5 of recruiting each year. At the end of the day, talent wins, and the only way to get talent in college football is recruiting.

The Oregon Ducks started this recruiting cycle uncharacteristically fast, securing 18 commits before the calendar flipped to 2016, and things were shaping up to be a banner year on the recruiting trail. But, with the early January decommitments of top recruit, CB Jared Mayden, and surefire All Name Team member, WR Eddie McDoom, the Ducks seem to be limping to the finish line a bit.

Of course, it’s worth noting that we’re talking about the whims of 18- and 19-year old football players, so expect at least a few surprises when all the cards (or hats) are out on the table. And, while important, recruiting is an inexact science, shown perfectly by the two Ducks starting in this year’s Super Bowl: 5-star RB Jonathan Stewart, and 0-star S TJ Ward. And, that’s exactly why recruiting is so important, from the top guy on your board to the supposed “backup plan”, you never quite know where the next star will come from, just that he’s likely on that list of signees somewhere.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at where the Oregon Ducks stand with just under a week to go before Signing Day 2016, next Wednesday, February 3. Specifically, let’s look at the top players currently committed (both incoming freshman and transfers), as well as some of the prospects they are efforting in the final days.

Top Commits - Freshmen

Tristen Wallace (#9 ATH) – Wallace, a 6-3, 225 lb “athlete” from Texas, is the Ducks highest rated commit (so far). Originally committed to Ohio State to play quarterback, the Ducks have recruited Wallace to play receiver in Eugene. Assuming he stays at receiver, Wallace has a chance to be a big time playmaker on the outside, with the kind of NFL size and speed the Ducks haven’t had at the position since the enigmatic Jaison Willams almost a decade ago. And, if he can have even a portion of the impact as the Ducks last QB-turned-WR from Texas, Bralon Addison, Duck fans will be very, very happy.

Dillon Mitchell (#26 WR) – Mitchell is “only” ranked as the 26th best WR in the nation, but, a quick look at his highlight reel and his senior year stats (1,447 rec yds, 902 rush yds, 42 TDs, in 12 games), and it’s obvious to see that he has the kind of transcendent talent to become a star. While the Ducks are ridiculously deep at the receiver position, don’t be surprised to see Mitchell get on the field as a true freshman, particularly on special teams where he earned 1st Team All-Tennessee honors at both KR and PR (as well as WR). It should also be noted that Mitchell scored 6 TDs in a game not once, but, twice this season. Not too shabby!

LaMarr Winston (#10 OLB) – Winston, the local Portland (Central Catholic) product is the prototypical OLB prospect, bringing a devastating combo of size (6-3, 210) and speed (4.56 in the 40). Typically, linebackers are prime candidates to redshirt, but, given the team’s struggles at the position last season mixed with losing all four starters to graduation, Winston will get every opportunity to get on the field early and often and provide the Ducks something they haven’t had many of in recent years: a home grown star.

Top Commits -Transfers

Dakota Prukop (QB – Montana State) – For the second year in a row, Oregon finds themselves in need of a read-made quarterback transfer. And, for the second year in a row, the Ducks have turned to a 1st Team FCS All-American QB out of the Big Sky Conference who put up eye-popping stats during his Junior year. The Ducks withstood a last minute pitch from Nick Saban and Alabama (if that tells you anything) to secure the transfer of the duel-threat star, who threw for over 3000 yards and 28 TDs, and added another 800 and 11 TDs on the ground. Expect to see him under center in the shotgun when the team kicks off the season next September.

AJ Hotchkins (ILB – Riverside CC) – Hotchkins is another local product making his way to Eugene by way of Riverside CC, after getting overlooked by D-1 programs coming out of Tigard High School. Currently rated as the #3 inside linebacker prospect coming out of the JC ranks, Hotchkins is known as an aggressive player and hard hitter who should, like Winston, challenge for early playing time in what was the Ducks weakest unit last season.

Top Prospects – Reasonable Edition

Keith Simms (#20 OLB – Considering: Oregon, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, North Carolina) – Simms is another athletic linebacker (see a pattern here?) and special teams stud who the Ducks have recently made some solid inroads with. The Maryland product is also strongly considering “local” schools Virginia Tech and North Carolina, but after a recent visit to Eugene, some consider the Ducks the favorite to land the 4-star prospect. Simms is tentatively expected to make his decision this Sunday. If the Ducks could choose just one guy to lock up going forward, Simms just may be that guy.

Wayne Kirby (#58 DT – Considering: Oregon, Utah, Washington St, BYU) With the recent hire of DC Brady Hoke the Ducks will be making the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense, and with that will need to find some more beef for the interior of their defensive line. So, it’s not surprise that immediately following Hoke’s hire the Ducks were rumored to be going hard after a handful of defensive tackles. Kirby has emerged as the most likely signee, as the 6-3, 300 lb behemoth from Pocatello, ID is getting some late love from the Pac-12 after recently decommitting from BYU. In order to secure his commitment, the Ducks will have to fend off slightly more “local” schools of Utah and Washington State. Kirby is set to announce his choice this coming Monday, February 1.

Top Prospects – Longshot Edition

Caleb Kelly (#2 OLB – Considering: Oregon, Oklahoma, Notre Dame) – Kelly is (once again) an elite linebacker prospect that the Ducks are pushing hard for. While they have officially made his top 3, most in-the-know think that this one will come down to Oklahoma or Notre Dame. That being said, the Ducks (for once) have the distance factor in their favor for the Fresno product, as well as a wide open path to early playing time. I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath on this one, but, crazier things have happened in the volatile world of recruiting, and the Ducks have always faired pretty well in SoCal. Keep one eye on Kelly when he announces his decision on signing day.

Nigel Knott (#17 CB – Considering: Oregon, Alabama, Mississippi, Mississippi St) – Knott is one of the top defensive backs still uncommitted at this stage in the process, and he is high on the Ducks list of wants as they put the finishing touches on their 2016 class. Once the clear favorite for Knott, thanks in large part to the fact that Knott’s father David played for Ducks defensive backs coach John Neal at Ole Miss back in the mid-90’s (god, that makes me feel old!), it now seems like a bit of a longshot that he ends up in Eugene. That’s because the Mississippi native is considered a strong candidate to end up at one of the in-state schools, and is also being efforted by some small program in Tuscaloosa right next door. He is expected to make his decision sometime next week, with the Mississippi schools the leaders in the clubhouse… but could the Ducks spring the surprise?

Connor Murphy (#27 DE – Considering: Oregon, Michigan, USC, Arizona St, Alabama) – Murphy, the monstrous 6-7, 250 lb brother of former Stanford star Trent Murphy is one of the most physically imposing ends in this year’s class. His workouts are also the stuff of legend, and show why he’s been near the top of the Ducks recruiting board all season long. That being said, all signs currently point to Murphy joining his brother’s former head coach in Ann Arbor. It would likely take a herculean effort to for the Ducks to snag Murphy at this point, but, according to Murphy the Ducks are still in the mix heading into his signing day decision. We’ll see if that rings true on Wednesday. If they can somehow bring Murphy to Eugene, he would be the perfect building block for their new 4-3 defensive front.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Top Pac-12 College Football Players

Here are some of the Oregon players who have managed to make it into the 2014 Top Pac-12 Players List.

Prev Next

#22 Byron Marshall

College: University of Oregon

Position: Running Back

In 2013 he had 168 carries, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and 1,038 rushing yards.  It’s no wonder he makes it as #22 on this list.  Not only do these stats make him a player to watch, but also a player with a lot of potential to climb the rankings.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#19 Isaac Seumalo

College: Oregon State University

Position: Offensive Lineman

This Offensive Lineman managed to block QB Sean Mannion who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.  With his abilities to block in the manner of which he did makes him a prime candidate to possibly win the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy, and/or Rotary Lombardi Award.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#10 Hroniss Grasu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Center

As a junior in 2013 he became one of three Oregon native players to be named All-Pac-12 two seasons in a row.  He has managed to lead the offensive line to the conference’s number 1 rushing attack.  Entering his final year at U of O, Grasu has started all 40 games of his career at UO making him one of the Duck’s greatest players.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#6 Sean Mannion

College: Oregon State University

Position: Quarterback

Ranking here for breaking the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards thrown, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, this is a player the NFL is watching closely. Already sitting at #10 on the conference’s all-time passing list, it’s going to be a breeze for him to pass Matt Barkley’s record of 12,327 yards thrown.

 

Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Cornerback

In 2013 he was the second Ducks player to have 84 tackles with 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defended.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  It has been unanimous that he is to be the 2014 Preseason All-American.  It’s also been hinted that he may not last too long in the 2015 NFL draft.

 

Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#1 Marcus Mariota

College: University of Oregon

Position: Quarterback

With stats such as completing 63.5% of his passes with 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, rushing a total of 715 yards with 9 touchdowns, this makes him a hot candidate for the NFL.  He has managed to make U of O one of the Pac-12 favorite college teams as well as a national title contender.  He has also set a U of O single-season record throwing 4,380 total yards and set a Pac-12 record by attempting to throw 353 consecutive passes without interception.  He is also in the running to win the Heisman Trophy as a 1A option.

 

Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

 
 

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