Would-be Ducks flock to spring game
Many of the 27,317 fans who showed up for Oregon’s spring game on Saturday were also waiting for offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo to signal the arrival of another recruit.
For the second consecutive year, the final day of spring football for the Ducks was as much about recruiting as it was the scrimmage at Autzen Stadium.
Mario Cristobal followed the game plan Willie Taggart installed last year to bundle many of Oregon’s top recruiting targets onto campus at the same time, albeit on a smaller scale that led to fewer players committing to the Ducks.
Taggart secured seven commitments in 72 hours last April when he invited more than 100 recruits to town for the spring game. The Ducks were more selective this season while ending up with four verbal commitments so far from the weekend.
“Last year, the majority of recruits for the spring game did not have Oregon offers or get offers, they were just there because they were friends of a big-name prospect or guys who were in the area,” DuckTerritory.com writer Matt Prehm explained. “This time around, a majority of guys had Oregon offers.”
Prehm confirmed 42 recruits prior to the weekend who planned to visit Oregon for the spring game, including more with offers to play at Oregon than any recruiting weekend he could remember since he started covering the team in 2009. A.J. Jacobson, publisher of DuckSports Authority.com, counted 62 recruits at Autzen on Saturday.
“That was more than we were told was going to be there,” Jacobson said. “I think they focused on trying to get families here at the same time, which is different than just getting guys here. Almost every player I talked to had his mom or dad or mentor with him and that is what separates last year from this year. Last year a lot of them were stag, but this year it was family groups. Willie used to talk about family, but I think seeing what Cristobal is doing here, I think it is in his heart that he thinks it is important for recruits to have their family on board for the visit.”
Three prep players committed to the Ducks on Saturday — each announcement signaled by Arroyo on Twitter — before tight end Elkanah Dillon, a graduate transfer from South Florida, gave his pledge to Oregon on Sunday.
Four-star linebacker Mase Funa was the headliner of the weekend when he committed to the Ducks on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder from Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei is ranked as a top-five linebacker in the 2019 class by multiple recruiting sites.
“He is the highest-rated linebacker we’ve got in our records that committed to Oregon,” Prehm said. “Last year, he would have been the second-highest rated player to sign with Oregon behind (offensive lineman) Penei Sewell. The year before, he would have been the highest.”
Funa is ranked as the 37th-best overall prospect in his class by 247Sports.com and No. 61 by Rivals.com.
“He’s a guy who comes in here almost ready-made in terms of physicality from what I have seen out of him against other players,” Jacobson said.
Three-star safety Cameron Williams of Bakersfield, Calif., and three-star athlete Jayvaun Wilson of Valencia, Calif., also gave their pledge to the Ducks. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Wilson could play running back or linebacker depending on Oregon’s needs in two seasons.
“Wilson could get on the field fast by being willing to play on either side of the ball,” Jacobson said.
Some of the other recruits who left Oregon this weekend — including top-ranked running back Sean Dollars and athlete Jaren Mangham of Detroit — hinted that they could make a college decision soon.
“I think Oregon’s goal was to get three or four guys during the weekend and it could have grown to six or seven if things went out of the park,” Prehm said. “A couple more guys could end up committing in the next few days to lump with it, but I think they got what they expected.”
Many of the recruits posted photos wearing an Oregon uniform on social media.
“This was a very good weekend for the Ducks,” Jacobson said. “There was a great deal of excitement, which is natural, but I think it was genuine. They had a photo shoot for each of these guys and every one of them that I talk to mentions that as a highlight.”
Oregon’s recruiting class is up to five players, including defensive lineman Keyon Ware-Hudson of Mater Dei and cornerback Marques Campbell of Alvin, Texas.
“That’s about normal for Oregon and probably better than most years if you go over a 20-year span,” Prehm said. “Before Mark Helfrich, they usually had one or two guys at this point, normally an in-state guy and one from California. They already have a kid from Texas and the rest from California.”
Two of the Californians are from Mater Dei where Oregon also signed defensive end Austin Faoliu in 2017 before adding his brother, Andrew, for next season. The Ducks are also recruiting the Monarchs for Dollars, cornerback Jeremiah Criddell, wide receiver Bru McCoy and Myles Murao, a guard ranked among the top prospects in 2020.
“Mater Dei was always a feeder school for USC before Taggart got Austin Faoliu and Cristobal got his brother and now they got Keyon and Mase,” Prehm said.
Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt tweeted Monday that he is off recruiting the next 18 days in Hawaii, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. Coaches can continue to evaluate players through May 31 before a quiet period begins in June.
“I think five commits at this point is about the trajectory of what you expect for Oregon in this day and age,” Jacobson said. “In two weeks, it may be up to six or seven because things are happening on the recruiting front. I think Oregon will have another huge summer event, too, and they will be bringing in kids every week during times they can visit.”
Oregon also has two graduate transfers slated to arrive in the fall after Dillon committed one week after cornerback Tim Hough announced he would join the Ducks from UNLV. The 6-5, 256-pounder, who played two seasons for Taggart at USF, had 11 catches for 119 yards last season and 28 for 504 and four touchdowns in three seasons.