With national signing day officially in the rear view mirror, it is never too soon to take a look at the University of Oregon recruiting class. While the Oregon football team has been recruiting well in recent years, the 2014 class looks like it could outshine the others in terms of talent on paper. Head coach Mark Helfrich looks to continue the Oregon recruiting success in his first full year on the recruiting trail.
Oregon is a fast-paced, run-first team, so running back depth is always a need, and the Ducks have had good fortune with recruiting running backs as of late. Key prior signings include De’Anthony Thomas (2011), Byron Marshall (2012) and Thomas Tyner (2013), all who contributed heavily their freshman season.
This year seems to follow that trend. Oregon landed two running backs in the top 15 nationally according to ESPN.com in Royce Freeman (#10 RB) and Tony James (#14 RB). Both will likely compete for the number three running back position next season. Freeman is a big back, standing 6-foot and weighing 227 pounds, and will likely be a force running between the tackles. James, on the other hand, is much smaller, standing 5-foot-9 and weighing only 175 pounds; however he has many people talking about his speed ability in space – much like De’Anthony Thomas.
Rounding out the big offensive signings, the Ducks added Jalen Brown (#40 WR) who will look to contribute right away and help add depth to a group that lost their number one receiver last season in Josh Huff.
Defense is the side of the ball where the Ducks seem to need the most help. While the current players are solid, depth and additional playmakers are needed. Head coach Mark Helfrich addressed that need by signing four players who could help out immediately. First, is the top recruit for the Ducks, according to ESPN.com, in Aaron Springs (#6 CB). Springs seems to play the corner position much like current Oregon first-team All-Pac-12 selection Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Springs has the size and strength to play press coverage, and also has the speed to run with receivers at the college level. The Ducks have a fairly deep secondary, but Springs will likely have a chance to play early as many members of the Oregon secondary have before him.
Next up is signing day steal Mattrell McGraw, who chose Oregon over Texas A&M. McGraw (#13 S) seems to be an ideal fit for the Ducks due to his versatility. He can play both over the top and up in the box, and is a surprisingly good tackler despite weighing only 180 pounds. McGraw will look to fill the position of former Duck Avery Patterson and could see increased playing time early.
Jimmie Swain IV could be a key player for the Oregon defense for the next few years. Swain IV (#27 OLB) definitely looks like a linebacker. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 230 pounds, Swain IV has the size to play either inside or outside at the collegiate level. The Ducks have a decent set of young linebackers already, but Swain IV will most likely see playing time early as many Oregon defensive players usually do. If he makes a few plays, which he certainly appears capable of on tape, he might find his way in the starting role come seasons end.
Rounding out the key contributors of the 2014 recruiting class so far is junior college transfer Tui Talia. Talia (#1 DE) is considered the best defensive end at the junior college level and will almost certainly see heavy amounts of playing time this upcoming season. Talia is an athletic and strong outside rusher capable of getting to the quarterback in a hurry. Look for Tui Talia to see plenty of playing time on a defensive line that lost starters and depth to graduation from last year.
Overall the 2014 Oregon Ducks recruiting class has both top talent capable of starting right away, and key reserve players who can contribute if called upon. Now it is only February and there is a lot between now and the start of the season, but this recruiting class has fans in Eugene excited to chase a Pac-12 title and a shot at a national championship berth in 2014.