Make no mistake about it, Oregon had an outstanding National Signing Day. The Ducks had their biggest question mark answered early when the Robinson twins re-affirmed their commitment to Oregon. That was followed by four star offensive lineman Cameron Hunt announcing for the Ducks, then one of the biggest shocks of the day as four star defensive end Torrodney Prevot switched his commitment from USC to Oregon.
Nationally, all of the story-lines will focus on the top 10 classes, especially Alabama, who finished with the #1 class on the heels of winning its third national championship in four years. Alabama's recruiting class is impressive and positions them to continue their winning ways. but by the same token, Oregon is following the same recipe for success that has made them the best team outside of the SEC in each of the last three years. Here's why:
Athleticism and Versatility
Just as they have for the past four years, the Ducks recruited tons of athleticism in the 2013 class. Half of their recruits played multiple positions in high school and could fit in multiple places at Oregon. The Robinson twins could play anywhere but the line on defense; Juwaan Williams could be a receiver or defensive back; Thomas Tyner and Devon Allen are legitimate track stars. Everything Oregon does is about speed and giving opposing teams different looks. With the versatility in their 2013 class they'll be able to continue that trend.
Player Development and Coaching
At this point the coaching staff is owed a lot of deference for how they evaluate and develop talent. If they are excited about this class (and trust me, they are), then that tells you everything you need to know. While top players like Bryce Brown and Terrelle Pryor have spurned Oregon on NSD in the past and chosen to go to "higher profile" schools and underachieve (or disappear), this Oregon coaching staff has taken a 3* cornerback and turned him into an All-American running back; taken a 2* QB from Hawaii and turned him into one of the most exciting players in college football as a redshirt freshman; put multiple 2 and 3* players in the NFL in the last decade, players who have gone on to play in Pro Bowls, make key contributions in the playoffs, and help their teams win Super Bowls. Now that coaching staff is working with a program that has recruited four straight top 20 classes. What do you think is going to come of that?
Perception is Not Reality
Class rankings are fun for fans but they aren't the greatest predictors of success on the football field. Scroll through one of the major recruiting sites' class rankings from years past and you will see teams that excelled at recruiting only to disappear when football season rolled around. Examples from the past few years include Miami, Texas, USC, Tennessee, Auburn, even Florida State, who remains underwhelming despite the top 10 (or top 5) classes that they routinely sign. Meanwhile, Oregon just capped off the most successful four-year recruiting run in school history. Add that to the current roster and coaching staff and the Ducks are well positioned to continue their run of success.
Ultimately this recruiting cycle was about the transition from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich. That's a big transition and there's no telling how the team will perform on the field in Helfrich's first year. But the new head coach has so far made all the right moves. Watch his post-signing press conference: this guy knows WAY more about his recruits than anyone else out there. And notice how much he thinks the players have in common. These guys fit the Oregon football culture.
Helfrich has kept together an excellent recruiting class, one that boasts 10 All-Americans. He's hired two outstanding coordinators in Matt Lubick and Ron Aiken. And he enters the fall with a team worthy of all the hyperbole. The engine is still running in the Oregon machine.