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Oregon Football Recruiting

Movin' on Up: Oregon's Recruiting Classes

March 24, 2021
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College football recruiting is fluid; it's difficult to succeed year in and year out. But the best programs continually attract top talent – and develop them into stars.

Of course, even the best recruiters can be snake-bit, defeated by such unforeseen circumstances as transfers, academic casualties and injuries. Still, Oregon has reached the championship doorstep twice in the last 10 years, and under two different head coaches.

How have the last dozen Duck classes stacked up, and how has Mario Cristobal pushed the envelope? Here's my honest opinion of how I think each class graded out overall.

A separate analysis will look at Oregon in the early years of the decade.

2014

Head coach: Mark Helfrich

National Rank: 21

Offensive headliner: Royce Freeman

Offensive grade: C-

Defensive headliner: Arrion Springs

Defensive grade: C-

2015

Head coach: Mark Helfrich

National rank: 16

Offensive headliner: Taj Griffin

Offensive grade: C-

Defensive headliner: Canton Kaumatule

Defensive grade: D+

2016

Head coach: Mark Helfrich

National rank: 27

Offensive headliner: Dillon Mitchell

Offensive grade: C+

Defensive headliner: Bryson Young

Defensive grade: C

2017

Head coaches: Willie Taggart/Mario Cristobal

National Rank: 19

Offensive headliner: Braxton Burmeister

Offensive grade: C-

Defensive headliner: Deommodore Lenoir

Defensive grade: B-

2018

Head coach: Mario Cristobal

National rank: 13

Offensive headliner: Penei Sewell

Offensive grade: B

Defensive headliner: Steve Stephens

Defensive Grade: C

2019

Head coach: Mario Cristobal

National Rank: 7

Offensive headliner: Jonah Tauanu’u

Offensive grade: B-

Defensive headliner: Kayvon Thibodeaux

Defensive grade: A

2020

Head coach: Mario Cristobal

National rank: 11

Offensive headliner: Jay Butterfield

Offensive grade (preliminary): A

Defensive headliner: Justin Flowe

Defensive grade (preliminary): A

2021

Head coach: Mario Cristobal

National rank: 6

Offensive headliner: Kingsley Suamataia

Offensive grade (preliminary): A

Defensive headliner: Keith Brown

Defensive grade (preliminary): A

Summary

As you can see, issues date back to the 2014 class.

Some of the Helfrich classes looked decent on paper, but they didn't live up to the hype. The 2016 class was the last under Helfrich because he did not meet expectations, and the result was a 4-win season.

Taggart got off to a blazing start on the trail, at one point having the nation's No. 1-ranked class, but a lot of skill players – following Taggart's lead – bolted in December. Still, the defensive haul was impressive with four-year starters Lenoir, Thomas Graham, Jordon Scott, etc.

In 2018, Cristobal demonstrated what can happen when a coach can sell the product on the field instead of just a dream. The progress continued in 2019, although we didn't get to see the strength of the 2018 class and 2019 classes in the 2020 season due to many early departures.

Both the 2020 and 2021 classes look great – so far. It will be interesting to see if those players can transcend and help elevate the program.

Clearly, Cristobal's trending upward. No wonder many fans think he is the guy who can upgrade Oregon football from bridesmaid to bride in the College Football Playoffs.

 
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