It’s been a long drop for Oregon recruiting over the last couple of months. At the time of Willie Taggart’s departure, the team had the number six recruiting class in the country, according to 247sports. Two months later, the Ducks ended National Signing Day ranked No. 16. That was a wake-up call for a team that had aspirations of contending with the nation’s top programs for recruits.
Oregon’s signing day turned out to be a lot like the last couple of months — disappointing. Three of the four top remaining players projected to go to Oregon chose to go elsewhere. This includes 5-star athlete Devon Williams, who elected to go to USC. Two formerly committed four-stars in Miles Battle and Michael Ezeike chose Ole Miss and UCLA, respectively.
But perhaps the biggest stings of the last week was that four-star linebacker Eli’jah Winston flipped to USC on Tuesday. Winston had been committed to the Ducks since November, but changed his mind after taking a final visit to Southern Cal. The decision was made official on Wednesday when Winston signed on to be a Trojan next year.
Winston’s last-minute flip is also frustrating because he was another top recruit from the state of Oregon to go elsewhere. Of the seven four-star players in the state, only one of them chose to come to Eugene in 2018. Oregon isn’t by any means a talent pool, but when those diamonds in the rough do come around, the program has to capitalize.
There was some upside for the Ducks on National Signing Day, however. All but one of the unsigned commits were locked in on Wednesday, and the program managed to land three new players, one of whom could become the best of the class.
Sewell was the lone top recruit projected to go to Oregon who actually ended up there. The 350-pound offensive lineman out of Utah committed to Oregon over Alabama, USC and Utah during an announcement at his high school. Sewell is one of the top linemen in the country, so he will be welcomed in a program that has never been widely known for elite protection.
As a top-100 recruit, Sewell is the top-ranked player in Oregon’s 2018 class. Still, due to the nature of his position, it will likely be a year or two before we see Sewell reach his full potential. It seems as though he’s found a great place to grow at Oregon.
Sewell has arguably found the head coach of his dreams in Mario Cristobal. Before taking over as the Ducks’ head coach, Cristobal coached the offensive lines of Oregon and Alabama, the latter of which he helped lead to a national championship. If there’s anything Cristobal knows, it’s the offensive line, so he will be perfect for developing Sewell.
The only defensive player to sign with the Ducks on Wednesday was cornerback Kahlef Hailassie. He was a relatively under-the-radar prospect, also being targeted by Washington State, Utah State and Florida Atlantic.
Hailassie was formerly committed to Pac-12 rival Colorado before decommitting in early December. He is the third cornerback to sign with the Ducks for 2018. All of them are three-star players, but Oregon will take whatever they can get at the position. Oregon’s secondary has been weak over the years but is on the rise, and defensive-coordinator Jim Leavitt is committed to lead it.
Oregon added another piece to its 2018 wide-receiver class in J.J. Tucker. He was another overlooked prospect, ranked close to 200 among receivers. The three-star player was targeted by smaller schools such as Wyoming, Hawaii and Tulane. Oregon was easily the biggest name of all of his suitors, which gave the school an advantage. The Ducks have had a relatively thin class for receivers, so Tucker will have an opportunity to make a name for himself.
Oregon still has one scholarship available with most of the big names off the board, so it essentially has its entire 2018 class in place. Despite some unforeseen setbacks, the Ducks will still go into next season with a recruiting class just outside the top-15. This may be a little lower than what was anticipated two months ago, but Oregon will still be in great position to compete in 2018. A full year under Cristobal will hopefully ease any doubts from this year’s recruits. The 2018 recruiting cycle may be over, but Oregon still has the potential to be among the top teams in 2019.