- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
There are many differences between the Oregon Ducks current approach under Chip Kelly when compared to former head coach Mike Bellotti. Many of them are glaring, but the one that goes largely unnoticed is the fact that Kelly is keeping the emerging local talent home.
Kelly and the Ducks have benefited from a rise in high school All-Americans from with the Oregon borders, but keeping that talent in state hasn't always been easy for the Ducks.
Needless to say, Oregon is far removed from football-dominated states such as Georgia, Texas, California, Ohio and Florida.
While the talent level among high school football players is still in the lower third nationally in terms of Division I prospects, the state is usually good for a handful of BCS level prospects a year. And under Kelly the rate at which the Ducks have signed the top players from the state is much higher.
Under Bellotti, the Ducks didn't have a lot to choose from within the state. The two biggest players Bellotti failed to sign from the state are two of the top players in the NFL. Troy Polamalu and Ndamukong Suh went to USC and Nebraska, respectively. The Ducks also missed out on defensive lineman Ethan Johnson, who signed with Notre Dame.
In total, the Ducks only signed one out of four in-state prospects named to the US Army All-American game under Bellotti. The one player they did sign, Myles Wade, never made it into school after signing with the Ducks out of both high school and junior college.
Under Kelly, the Ducks have missed out on some top in-state talent as well, but have signed the majority of the local talent.
Elite recruits like Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Brennan Scarlett and Isaac Seumalo have gone on to other Pac-12 programs. Due in large part to his father being on the staff, Seumalo signed with Oregon State in 2012. Scarlett and Odighizuwa are the two biggest in-state misses of the Kelly era, as they were both at positions of need in the front seven.
What Kelly has done is manage to keep the growing number of high school All-Americans at home. In 2010, the Ducks signed US Army All-Americans Curtis White and Keanon Lowe. In 2011 and 2012, the Ducks signed two of the three US Army All-Americans from the state in Colt Lyerla and Alex Balducci.
For the class of 2013, the Ducks have verbal commitments from the state's top two players in US Army All-American running back Thomas Tyner (Aloha, Ore./Aloha) and Under Armour All-American offensive lineman Evan Voeller (West Linn, Ore./West Linn)
Coleman headed to Oregon out of Lake Oswego High School, just south of Portland. The significance of him choosing the Ducks is that Lake Oswego is coached by a former Oregon State player and has been known as an Oregon State feeder school.
Most elite programs around the country have the benefit of corralling 10-15 players within a few hours' drive of their campus. The Ducks are the the best program in the country that has just a few local players to choose from each year.
In all, the Ducks' recent success has played a big role in keeping almost all of the top in-state talent to themselves. More prospects seem to pop up each year from a state better known for its elite track and field athletes.
If Kelly can maintain his rate of signing 75 percent of the top in-state players, it will continue to be a big boost for the Ducks program.
The numbers aren't high, but like the Ducks' success on the field, the in-state talent seems to get better each year. No matter how many players it nets, putting a figurative fence around the home state is an important step in recruiting and building a successful program.
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