By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
For some Oregon fans, a great bunch of outcomes and a top 10 recruiting class fires them up as they prepare for the future. For others, it serves as small consolation on the heels of a season in which Washington beat the Ducks twice to make the College Football Playoff.
I am in the latter group of people.
That doesn’t mean Dan Lanning didn’t once again show the recruiting prowess he brought from the SEC to Eugene. He surpassed my expectations.
I think the most impressive part of Wednesday’s national signing day is that not a single player that was verbally committed to the Ducks “flipped” as is sometimes the case. All 23 signed their NLI and will begin their careers with Oregon.
This recruiting class, like any other, is going to have its hits and misses. It’s almost impossible to tell ahead of time who becomes a major player for the Ducks and who bolts after one season to a different school. If you think I’m wrong, hop in your mental time machine for a moment. Now go back to 2020 and tell any Duck fan that former 5-star LB Justin Flowe is going to struggle to see the field. There are other examples, but I think you see my point.
The Ducks’ highest-rated recruiting class of all time came in 2021 under Mario Cristobal. 2 of the headline recruits were OT Kingsley Suamataia and QB Ty Thompson, neither of whom ever made a single start in their careers as a Duck. However, the other side of recruiting (the more positive side) is very real as well.
There are plenty of college football arguments that bug me down to my core. Few make me roll my eyes like the “stars don’t matter” crowd who think that recruiting is mostly nonsense and doesn’t actually matter. You can show them as many data points as you’d like and then they’ll bring up Texas A&M. Maybe that will be the focus of my next article.
That 2021 class had a bevy of players who have gone on to have, and are currently having, tremendous careers for the Ducks. Jackson Powers-Johnson just won the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s best center. Jeffrey Bassa was a 2nd-Team All-Conference selection this year. I think Terrance Ferguson has a future catching passes on Sundays.
Each of those guys were 4-star recruits in that 2021 class. There were plenty of other guys who were similarly rated that never saw meaningful playing time for Oregon. Who will those guys be from this class? Roll the dice and find out. Recruiting isn’t an exact science, nor is talent evaluation in the NFL.
Every coaching staff should be trying to do what Dan Lanning and co. have been accomplishing over the last two recruiting cycles. Bring in as much talent as you possibly can, understand not every kid is going to reach his full potential/star rating, develop the talent that sticks around, and fill the rest of the roster with capable transfers.
I could easily come here and say that player X or Y is going to be the best player from this 2024 recruiting class for Oregon. It’s hard to do, though, when you have a top 10 class with this much talent. So perhaps it is best to wait and see who pops and who’s in the portal next year.
Speaking of the portal, that is where Oregon landed a notable name on Wednesday. Kansas State transfer safety Kobe Savage is going to be the “Evan Williams of 2024” for the Ducks. A plug-and-play starter who will produce right away. Savage was a 2x all-conference selection with the Wildcats in 2023 and 2022, and he comes in to fill a position of need.
Recruiting isn’t everything. It never has been–but it’s always been a helpful first step to building a contender. For the second straight year, Dan Lanning has landed a top 10 class that gives the Ducks plenty of ammunition to compete in the Big 10 next year and for the Playoff.
As we navigate the offseason, think about this question:
If Texas A&M is proof positive that recruiting is overrated, why do Alabama and Georgia keep taking it so seriously?
It matters. And Oregon has a coach and a staff that are very good at it.
Spencer McLaughlin is an Oregon Ducks football contributor to 750 The Game. He also hosts the “Locked On Oregon Ducks” and “Locked On Pac-12” podcasts and has work featured throughout the season here.