Let me preface this article by being the first to admit I know next to nothing about college football recruiting. I understand the importance behind it, but I simply don't have time to keep up with it.
That being said, I have noticed Oregon’s recruiting lately, or lack thereof. On Saturday, four-star cornerback Elijah Molden committed to Washington over Oregon. This was a move that surprised many, considering that Molden’s father, Alex, was a key part of Oregon’s 1994 Rose Bowl team.
This certainly won't be the last time that the Huskies march into Oregon and snatch away a talented local recruit. In recent years, Oregon could stand by their winning seasons, flashy uniforms and state of the art facilities to local kids, just assuming that would be enough.
Now, the Ducks are sitting at 3-7. It will be their first losing season since 2004 (also the last time they missed a bowl game). If they lose both games, it will be their worst season since 1982 when they went 2-8-1 under Rich Brooks.
Those flashy uniforms? Most people think they’re simply trying too hard now. And the facilities with jacuzzis, two story locker rooms and flat screens as far as the eye can see? Yeah, everyone else has those now, too.
In the past, when Washington was fighting every year for a winning record, they were at least able to pitch living in Seattle to recruits instead of some cute little college town. Sure, you could go win football games in Eugene. But you’re still in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. When they pitch the fact that it’s only 2 hours to Portland, an hour to the mountains and an hour to the coast, that’s a really nice way of saying that it is in the middle of nowhere.
Trust me, as someone who once lived two miles away from the UW campus, I can confirm how big of a draw Seattle is. Eugene will always have my heart, but from the perspective of things to do, Seattle will win over any small college town in the conference.
Recruits also want stability. They come to a school partly because of the coaching staff, sometimes mainly for that reason. Now imagine on one hand, you have people murmuring about firing the head coach (and probably a decent number of coordinators). Compare that to a coach who everyone is praising. You'll always take the coaching staff that will still be there to see you graduate.
Helfrich’s hot seat is proving to be a huge distraction. I refuse to believe it’s about talent on the field. There’s no way a team goes from playing for a national championship to winning 3-5 games in a two year swing. Mark Helfrich always says “That’s on me” in his press conferences. Well, if it’s truly on you, recruits aren't going to want to play for you or your staff.
We’re beginning to see a shift of power in the Pac-12. Seemingly overnight, the Apple Cup will probably become the game of the year in the conference each year rather than Oregon vs. Stanford or Oregon vs. USC like it has been in recent years. Schools are wining the edge in recruiting, and the Ducks are standing still.
I may not follow recruiting, but I understand there’s no other way to succeed in college football. You can't go and pluck free agents from other schools, so you better be out-recruiting every school in the conference. Otherwise, say goodbye to your chances at ever being competitive when the games are played.
What about you? What do you see that needs to change with Oregon recruiting?
PS: No, just because I said Seattle is more desirable college location than Eugene to most people, that doesn't mean I’m secretly a Husky. Because I know you’re all thinking it.