Oregon Ducks football had a major setback at the end of the season, but it still ended up with one of the best recruiting classes in program history for 2018. The coaching staff is arguably the most talented Oregon has ever had in terms of recruiting, so it’s not too surprising that they had so much success. One place that the Ducks had trouble, however, is the in-state recruits.
Missing out on recruits from the state of Oregon is normally not a huge loss. The state is not necessarily known for growing top-tier athletes. The state usually only has one or two four-star players every year. Only on rare occasions does Oregon have a five-star prospect playing under the Friday night lights. But 2018 was one of the worst recruiting classes for Oregon to drop the ball in-state.
For once, the state had six four-star recruits. The top fifteen players in the state were also viable Power 5 prospects. The top prospect in the state, Talanoa Hufanga, was the number one athlete in the country. If there was any year that Oregon would need to recruit heavy in-state, it was 2018.
The Ducks started off recruiting extremely well, landing three of Oregon’s six four-star recruits. The top two, however, Hufanga and Chase Cota, remained undecided. After the Willie Taggart fiasco, Oregon lost a commitment from Braden Lenzy, who eventually committed to Notre Dame.
Things got even worse for Oregon when, a day before National Signing Day, Eli’jah Winston out of Portland-based Central Catholic flipped from the Ducks to USC. Hufanga and Cota eventually committed to USC and UCLA respectively. The team went into December with hopes of potentially landing five of the state’s top six recruits, but in February, it only walked away with one.
2019 in-state recruits
2018 was an unusual year for talent in the state of Oregon. The Ducks would’ve had a good chance of winning over their fair share of top-tier players, but bad timing for the coaching staff was a major deal-breaker for a lot of recruits. Sadly for the Ducks, the state isn’t nearly as talented this time around. Oregon only has two four-star recruits for 2019, and real Power 5 talent ends around the top ten. It will be slim pickings for the Ducks in-state, but the team has a great chance at landing the top two.
The first one has been previously mentioned on Armchair as one of Oregon’s top targets: Michael Johnson Jr. The top-five dual-threat quarterback in the country is currently playing high school ball at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon. What gives the Ducks the best chance is that his father, Michael Johnson, is the wide-receivers coach for the team.
The younger Johnson could have dreams of making a name for himself elsewhere, and with all of the offers he’s received no one blames him for looking at other options, but it seems like Oregon is the obvious frontrunner at this point in time. If Oregon is unable to close the deal with Johnson Jr., it could end up being as big of recruiting failure as Tua Tagovailoa for the class of 2017.
Oregon also has a good chance of landing the number two recruit in the state in Patrick Herbert. The 6-foot-5, 225 pound tight-end is a teammate of Johnson Jr.’s at Sheldon, with both receiving nation-wide interest. Herbert has received offers from other PAC-12 schools such as California and Oregon State, but also from other elite schools like Nebraska and Florida.
Herbert also has familial ties to the Oregon football program. He is the younger brother of current starting quarterback, Justin Herbert. With the success that Justin has had with the Ducks through two seasons, the fact that his younger brother is more highly-sought after should excite Oregon fans. Obviously, the fact that his older brother plays at Oregon is not a clear indicator that Patrick will ultimately choose to play there. However, it’s easy for Oregon fans to daydream about a Herbert-to-Herbert combo downfield.
Those two players are currently the only ones who are ranked even relatively close to the top 300. There always could be an eventual star who’s fallen beneath the cracks this year, but time will tell. Oregon should be focusing its attention to the top two players it’s considered to be frontrunners for. If Oregon starts to fail with players it should be considered shoe-ins to land, it’d be tough to legitimize itself as a true player in national recruiting. This year will be a big one for Mario Cristobal and staff, we’ll see if they can get it right.