3. Oregon has upgraded its talent in a huge way
The guts of the Oregon teams that ripped through the Pac-10 and later the Pac-12 in the late 2000s and early-to-mid-2010s – and played for the national title in 2010 and 2014 – were built on solid recruiting base. Oregon’s classes weren’t among the elite of the elite, but they were more than good enough.
The good talent – with classes usually ranking around the mid-teens, but always in the top 25 – combined with the system that no one could seem to figure out turned the program into one of the powerhouses of college football.
And it’s not like things slipped all that far. The recruiting classes stayed at roughly the same level once the wins weren’t there like they were in the heyday, but the overall formula didn’t work.
Enter Willie Taggart, a builder of programs who never won a bowl game or a conference championship, but was known as the guy who could bring in the talent. He cranked up the recruiting during his short time at Oregon, left to be the rebuilder of Florida State – and, arguably, didn’t get enough time to really show what he could put together – and Mario Cristobal took over the reigns.
Now, Oregon isn’t just putting together nice recruiting classes, it’s coming up with whoppers as good as any in America.
Last year, landing DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and CB Mykael Wright set a tone that the program was going to be a player when it came to grabbing every and any superstar prospect from the West Coast. Players who were usually a lock for USC, or possibly UCLA or Washington, were suddenly giving Eugene a harder look.
Oregon isn’t getting everyone – losing QB DJ Uiagalelei to Clemson hurt – but now the classes that used to be very, very good, are very, very good with a few five-star types helping take the classes to great.
It helps a bit to be in the Pac-12.
This year’s class is fantastic, but it’s not quite as strong as Georgia’s, or Florida’s, or LSU’s, or Alabama’s – it’s a holding-serve class for the SEC. In the Pac-12, in a year when USC just didn’t do much of anything after it’s outstanding 2019 class – and when Chip Kelly is recruiting to a type at UCLA, and with Washington going through a coaching change – this latest class cements Oregon as the star of stars for the next few years.
A great recruiting class doesn’t mean everything – just ask Tennessee, Michigan and Texas – but landing the linebacking 1-2 punch of Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe, taking CB Dontae Manning out of Missouri, and locking in star prospect after star prospect showed off Oregon’s recruiting staying power.
NEXT: The one difference-making position