On Thursday night, the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks will take on the fifth-ranked Kansas State Wildcats in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Thursday is also a big day for the Ducks -- as well as every other program around the country -- as the recruiting dead period will end when the clock strikes midnight.
Once coaches are able to contact and visit recruits again, expect a flurry of activity from the Ducks' coaching staff. With a few of the Ducks' top remaining offensive targets announcing at various All-American games it seems likely that the first kids they will contact are ATH Tarean Folston (Cocoa, Fla./Cocoa), WR John Ross (Long Beach, Calif./Jordan) and TE-Y Thomas Duarte (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei).
Ross and Duarte -- two of the elite offensive weapons in the West -- both confirmed Monday that they will announce their college choice during the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl on Friday. Both four-stars have the Ducks among their finalists. Both players also have UCLA and Washington in their final group as well, with Duarte also considering Notre Dame.
Ross is expected to pick Washington, where he has strong ties to current and future Huskies. On the other hand, Duarte is a tough one to read. Like Ross, he doesn't spend much time speaking with the media but appears to be down to the Ducks, Huskies, Bruins and Fighting Irish, with Oregon and UCLA as the likely frontrunners for his signature.
Duarte has been on campus in Seattle, Eugene and Westwood, but has not been to South Bend. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder has an official visit scheduled to UCLA on Jan. 11 and a tentative plan to officially visit Notre Dame on Jan. 25. Depending on who he chooses on Friday, those visits might never happen.
Fellow four-star Semper Fidelis All-American, LB Zach Cunningham (Pinson, Ala./Pinson Valley) confirmed on Monday that he will indeed visit Oregon on the weekend of Jan. 18. The late-blooming Cunningham also said he is essentially down to four schools. Three of them are from the SEC, but don't count out the Ducks just yet. In fact, they are in a very strong position with Cunningham.
Along with the Ducks' commits in attendance -- Darren Carrington Jr. (San Diego. Calif./Horizon), Tyrell Robinson (San Diego. Calif./Lincoln), Tyree Robinson (San Diego. Calif./Lincoln) and John Mundt (Modesto, Calif./Central Catholic) -- the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl features Oregon targets Ross, Duarte, Cunningham, OL Thomas Oser (North Hollywood, Calif./Harvard-Westlake), Austin Hooper (Concord, Calif./De La Salle), LB Keishawn Bierria (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) and Alec James (Brookfield, Wisc./Brookfield East)