De'Anthony Thomas broke the five-star ice, right? Three years ago the Ducks snuck into the Trojan's bedroom for this fantastic five-star California athlete, cutting last-minute hay in what was Lane Kiffen Land. Added to the local five-star Colt Lyerla, Oregon had the first multiple-five-star recruiting year since defensive linemen Ngata and Solomana committed a decade prior. Recruiting was on the rise, and over the next two years an unmatched consecutive BCS bowl run and a meteoric increase in national tv exposure would propel Oregon past the "sneak approach" to boldly earn a top-program share of five-star recruits
Well, darn it, we're still waiting for that.
Even though the Ducks have worked into the top twenty recruiting classes each year they've done it by signing deep classes of quality three-stars with a sprinkle of fours. The highest-ranked individual recruits in the Pac-12 have still gone to USC and Stanford; now UCLA’s Mora and Arizona State’s Graham have made recruiting inroads with records well below the Ducks.
No one can question that Oregon has the bankroll to play in the big-league recruiting game. Our uniforms have gripped a generation of young stars. Uncle Phil and company molded the football Taj Mahal after roofing over a cutting-edge practice facility. Coach Kelly won national honors while his teams piled up records for explosion plays and rushing yards. Superbly skilled high school juniors listed Oregon as "on their final list" of schools to consider.
Unfortunately, making their list hasn't transmogrified into more five-star recruits. And it's not just a "lose them to the top SEC teams" syndrome; Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Miami, Texas A&M, Florida State and even lowly Virginia have signed multiple five-star classes recently.
Oregon has developed outstanding players for college stardom and the pros, never more evident than this year’s NFL highlights. With players such as Ward, Byrd, Unger, Alonso, Ngata, James, Stewart and others earning big paychecks, other schools can’t tell five-stars that going to Oregon is giving up your professional future.
There are many lists of other recruiting challenges facing Oregon, and each has an effect on our success. But every other university recruiting program faces challenges, even Alabama.
This is not questioning our approach to recruiting or the Oregon model for recruiting targets. We've enjoyed amazing success with the young men who have chosen to join the Ducks.
Budda Baker’s recent switch to Washington may have been a surprise, but it illuminates this gap in Oregon’s recruiting history. It raises the question, what more can Oregon, as a program, do that we haven’t already done? Are we at our recruiting peak now, depending on our skill to ferret out under-the-radar three-stars in the Marcus Mariota-vein to maintain a top-level program?