The two top players in the state of Oregon, Talanoa Hufanga and Chase Cota, do not plan on officially visiting the Oregon Ducks during their recruitment. Oregon is not out of the running, but the two are instead using their official visits to check out schools not in their home state.
Playing for the Ducks is the dream of many players in the state of Oregon. Recent history has seen the program grow into one of college football’s elite. Oregon’s rise to national prominence came through a mostly homegrown coaching staff, giving a sense of pride to the program. The firing of head coach Mark Helfrich in 2016 signaled the end of Oregon’s longtime coaching staff, and the beginning of a new era under Willie Taggart.
Taggart has already proven that he and his new staff can flat-out recruit. Oregon is on track to having the best recruiting class in program history in Taggart’s first year. The Ducks are already reaching new heights in recruiting, but does Taggart and his staff’s lack of Oregon roots have the potential to drive away local recruits?
Admittedly, this could be an overreaction to the fact that Hufanga and Cota won’t be officially visiting Eugene. Either one, or both, could still end up committing to Oregon. At the same time, official visits are much more likely to sway a recruit’s final decision than any unofficial ones. This can end up hurting Oregon’s chances of landing top recruits from its own state.
Traditionally, the state of Oregon isn’t known for pumping out top recruits. The state typically puts out one or two 4-star players each year, and a 5-star every few years. When these rare players turn up, Oregon has usually been able to land them through lifelong fandom.
In 2016, the Ducks ended with four of the top five recruits in the state. In 2013, Oregon landed the only two in-state players who were ranked above 3-stars. One of these players was 5-star running-back Thomas Tyner, who at the time was the 20th ranked player in the nation.
This recruiting cycle is an unusual one for the state of Oregon. There are six 4-star recruits for 2018, more than any other year in recent memory. Oregon has already landed two of them, Braden Lenzy and Dawson Jaramillo, but the top two have still yet to commit. If Taggart could land one of either Hufanga or Cota it would be huge from a fan perspective, as local Oregonians have a tendency to hold a grudge when a top player doesn’t stay in Oregon (i.e. Kevin Love in 2007).
Hufanga and Cota are two of the most sought-after recruits in the country for 2018. They have each received offers from around the country, and are using their official visits to explore these options. This doesn’t mean that Oregon is out of the running for these recruits, but it has the potential to hurt their chances come decision-time. Taggart and staff will now have to persuade the two without the luxury of an official visit, but that might not matter. The Ducks will always be a destination for some of the top players in the state, but Taggart’s pitches to Hufanga and Cota could be a true sign that he can keep Oregon’s best recruits at home.
Recruiting stats courtesy of 247sports.