The Oregon Duck’s 2013 season wasn’t one for the books after such heavy expectations going into the year. Like every other college football team the quest for a national championship begins with recruiting, and the Duck’s have recently signed a class that will help them compete for their first national championship.
Between the NFL Draft and graduation Oregon lost key contributors on both side of the ball. Leading receiver Josh Huff, dynamic scat-back De’Anthony Thomas and interception leader Terrence Mitchell will all be missed in Eugene in 2014. But not to worry as coach Mark Helfrich’s first complete draft class after his promotion to head coach looks to be a winner.
Oregon’s 2014 draft class is ranked 22 by Scout.com and fourth in the Pac-12. Still the ranking doesn’t tell the whole story about this recruiting class. Only three schools ranked ahead of Oregon that recruited as many or fewer players than the Ducks’ 20 recruits.
Highlighted by 5-star running back Royce Freeman the Ducks added quality at every position of concern. Freeman, who Scout.com ranks as the number eight RB in the country, is joined by fellow top 10 by position players, wide receiver Jalen Brown and cornerback Arrion Springs. Of the 20 player class, eight are rated at 4-star or above by Scout.com.
Freeman brings elite running back size with him. Although some scouting services debate if he is a 5-star or a high end 4-star. Freeman will find a nice niche in the Oregon backfield as a true freshman. He brings a running style that hasn’t been seen since LeGarrette Blount crushed defenders for the Ducks five years ago.
At receiver Brown looks to join a steady young receiving group led by redshirt-junior B.J. Kelley and redshirt-senior Keanon Lowe at the top of the depth chart. Brown should see limited playing time in 2014. He’s a great route runner with decent size and exceptional speed. As a sophomore he may be playing in one of the starting receiving roles.
Helfrich may not have pulled in the largest haul of talent in the Pac-12 (USC, Stanford and UCLA all had classes rated higher than Oregon’s), but he fills the Duck’s needs and future needs. Duck fans shouldn’t panic though. Chip Kelly never pulled in a top-10 recruiting class in his four year tenure with Oregon, and he had the most successful run in the school’s history.
Four-star quarterback Morgan Mahalak looks to be a key combatant in the looming quarterback battle of 2015 for the Ducks. The Californian has a strong accurate arm with deceptive speed. He looks to be formative competition to then-juniors Jake Rodriguez and Jeff Lockie next spring. Mahalak is all but a lock to be redshirted.
On defense the Ducks signed 4-star linebacker Jimmie Swain to be the future of their linebacker corps. Swain is a great athlete, who posed a 4.53 40-yard dash, who may even see action as a true freshman patrolling the middle of the field and pass rushing for the Ducks. His biggest drawback is his block shedding ability, but like a former Ducks pass rusher, he may be able to his speed to wreck havoc in the backfield.
The 2014 Oregon recruiting class may not produce All-American freshmen at every position, but it is a solid foundation for Helfrich’s first full recruiting cycle. Future recruiting classes may be more talented, but look for the 2014 class to be the genesis for future national championship runs.