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Oregon Football Recruiting

Recruiting Comparison: Oregon vs. UCLA

November 19, 2020

As with most Oregon opponents, the Ducks outpoint UCLA on the talent scale. However, when the Ducks welcome the Bruins to Autzen Stadium on Saturday, there will be recruiting similarities as well. 

With Oregon having such a heavy presence in Southern California, both players and the coaches will see some very familiar faces across the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t too long ago that the Oregon coaches were in the living rooms of some of those players, trying to sell Mom on why Eugene was the best choice for her son to play college ball. 

Let’s start with the class of 2018, the group most likely to be represented on the field this weekend. 

Oregon 2018 class: Ranked No. 13 nationally, No. 2 in the Pac-12 (behind USC); average commit rating 0.8918; top commit: 4-star OT Penei Sewell; enrolled 24. 

UCLA 2018 class: Ranked No. 19 nationally, No. 4 in the Pac-12; average commit rating 0.8732; top commit: 4-star QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson; enrolled 27. 

Oregon redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Addison is the biggest connection between these two programs. The 6-5 wideout was committed to Chip Kelly and the Bruins but was ruled academically ineligible in summer 2018. Cristobal and his staff wasted no time pursuing the Gardena, Calif., native, and before long the Ducks secured the year’s No. 3 athlete.  

On the UCLA roster, the Ducks were heavily involved with wide receiver Chase Cota. A native Oregonian from Medford, Cota was raised on Duck football. His father, Chad, was an Oregon legend who played safety for the Ducks before an eight-year career in the NFL.  

The Oregon staff pushed hard for the 6-3 cousin of Brady Breeze, who made a name for himself as one of the fastest preps in the country. Cota narrowed his recruitment to seven in the summer preceding his senior season, with Alabama, Cal, Georgia, Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA and USC all making the cut.  

Time will tell if Cota goes down as one of the biggest native what-ifs to spurn the Ducks. Whatever the reason for his decision, the loss of an Oregon legacy served as a reminder that the staff must work hard even to coral high-profile local players. 

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson also was recruited to Oregon. It was reported that there was mutual interest, and many thought his dual-threat skill set would thrive in the historically explosive Ducks’ offense. Instead, Oregon would go on to sign Saturday’s starter: Tyler Shough. 

Safety Stephan Blaylock was pursued heavily by the Ducks, but his recruitment may have been one with writing on the wall. UCLA offered the former St. John Bosco standout in the fall of his junior year, and as the hometown favorite it would receive multiple visits. The 4-star recruit also drew interest from the likes of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington before opting to play his college ball near home. 

One last player to include is tight end Michael Ezieke, who looked like all but a sure thing to head to Eugene, before electing to stay closer to home at UCLA.

Oregon 2019 class: Ranked No. 7 nationally, No. 1 in the Pac-12; average commit rating: 0.9060; top commit 5-star DE Kayvon Thibodeaux; enrolled 26. 

UCLA 2019 class: Ranked No. 40 nationally, No. 6 in the Pac-12; average commit rating 0.8569; top commit 4-star guard Sean Rhyan; enrolled 21 total. 

The highest rated commit in the Bruins’ 2019 class, Rhyan was an Adidas All-American out of high school in San Capistrano (Calif.). The 4-star (0.9671 on 247Sports Composite) drew interest from schools across the country, including such big names as Alabama, Notre Dame and Oregon.   

Schools throughout the Pac-12, including Arizona State and Stanford, were also involved with Rhyan, but he opted to stay in L.A. Last season, Pro Football Focus named him a first-team freshman all-American.  

Staying on offense, Oregon was the first Power 5 program to offer tight end Michael Martinez

Prior to becoming a Bruin, Martinez made a name for himself in the high-powered offense at Mater Dei, where he was incredibly difficult to bring down. In high school, he caught passes from big names JT Daniels (Georgia) and Bryce Young (Alabama). 

The Ducks were in the running until the very end, battling not only UCLA but also blue bloods like Alabama, Michigan -- and a late-offering USC. Martinez is a very athletic big body, and Oregon defenders will need to mark him closely in the red zone. 

After missing on Martinez, Mario Cristobal and his staff would end up staying local and sign four-star Sheldon product Patrick Herbert.  

The third player with Oregon ties is wide receiver Colson Yankoff. He’s a receiver now, but he was a quarterback in high school and his name is likely a name known to Oregon fans. 

While Yankoff ended up signing with Washington, the all-American from Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) was actually the first player to commit to Willie Taggart’s 2018 class.  

Yankoff, a four-star, ranked in the top 100 players nationally and was recruited by a number of big-time programs. 

Yankoff would finish with 22 total offers, chief among them were Tennessee, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington. Former Oregon wide receivers Coach Matt Lubick was instrumental in his recruitment, as he had pursued Yankoff during his coaching stops at Oregon, Baylor, and eventually Washington.  

Oregon 2020 class: Ranked No. 11 nationally, No. 1 in the Pac-12; average commit rating 0.9019; top commit: 5-star LB Justin Flowe (reportedly out for season); enrolled 21. 

UCLA 2020 class: Ranked No. 33 nationally, No. 6 in the Pac-12; average commit rating 0.8694; top commit 4-star OLB Damian Sellers, enrolled 20. 

Linebacker Damian Sellers drew national interest, landing offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Michigan. With enticing options like that, it’d be an understatement to say it was a big deal that Kelly was able to land him. 

Oregon had Sellers high on its big board, too. In fact, I spoke with Sellers during his recruitment, when the Ducks were viewed as the favorite. 

Sellers was incredibly busy on the recruiting trail, taking trips to Alabama, Arizona State, Oregon, USC and, of course, UCLA. Sellers went to an Alabama camp, but ultimately the UCLA staff won him over. Westwood turned out to be his only official visit prior to his commitment.   

Wide receiver Logan Loya was, in my eyes, a Ducks lean at one point. Playing at powerhouse St. John Bosco, he reeled in 13 total offers. 

In the end, it came down to Oregon, Vanderbilt, USC and UCLA. The L.A. schools always focus on Bosco, so that wasn’t too surprising. What was eye-catching is that Vanderbilt was the only school other than UCLA to receive an official visit in June 2019.  

Loya hasn’t recorded a catch this season, and it appears he’s low on the Bruins’ totem pole. Depending on how this game plays out, it’s possible we see him on the field come Saturday. 

Defensive back John Humphrey is another name Cristobal sought heavily in 2020; in fact; Oregon was the first school to offer. A longer DB at 6-2, Humphrey has great speed and the potential to develop into a regular contributor for UCLA.  

Despite an offer from Oklahoma, Humphrey’s recruitment turned into an all-Pac-12 battle. Arizona, Cal and Oregon were in hot pursuit. While he took official visits only to Oregon and UCLA, he did attend a camp at USC.  

During his commitment, Humphrey called UCLA a dream school. I imagine the UCLA staff was able to sell him on playing in the Rose Bowl, with the idea of his family being able to attend games. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Oregon was after Honolulu native, wide receiver Matt Sykes. With strong ties to St. Louis School, which brought Ducks like Marcus Mariota and Isaac Slade-Matautia to Eugene, Oregon hoped to use a strong relationship to its advantage.

The Ducks offered in April 2019, but it appears UCLA was the offer he coveted, as he pledged to the Bruins less than a month after being offered, showing that Kelly’s name still carries weight on the recruiting trail.

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