- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Ducks have closed the books on the 2014 recruiting class and are well on their way for the 2015 class. The 2014 class finished as the No. 27 class in the country, marking the fifth consecutive year Oregon has inked a top-30 class.
Obviously, rankings aren’t everything, and each class and individual brings something different to the Ducks. So as we continue to prepare for Oregon’s spring season, we’re going to take a walk down memory lane and count down the top five Oregon recruiting classes.
No. 3: 1998 class
There has to be a first for every school. Earlier this week, we outlined the first recruiting class that really reached outside of typical Oregon recruiting territory (2010) to find talent. But even before the Ducks could get to that point, they needed to reach a high point in college football. Though most of the success of Oregon football has come recently, the 1998 class was a crucial class in the history of Ducks football.
The 1998 class led Oregon to its first outright Pac-10 conference title in the Mike Bellotti era. It was just the second time ever that the Ducks won the conference title outright (including Pac-8, AAWU, Pacific Coast Conference). The only other time up to that point was in Rich Brooks’ final season, 1994. Since that point, the Ducks have won the Pac-12 outright twice and shared a piece of the title three times.
So the 1998 class was one that really put the Ducks on the board during its senior season (2001). The previous season that class had won 10 games and a share of the title, gaining some national recognition with a Holiday Bowl win. But in 2001, they upped that by winning the conference outright, notching 11 wins and taking it to Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.
This was the class that signed quarterback Joey Harrington, cornerback Steve Smith and running back Maurice Morris, all of whom had huge performances in their final game for the Ducks. Harrington threw for four touchdowns and 350 yards in that game, while Smith recorded a Fiesta Bowl-record three interceptions. Morris is known for his famous 49-yard run, which gave Oregon a 28-7 lead during the second half.
Though the signing-day process was much different and less elevated in the 1990s than it is today, this class was one that the Ducks need to be thankful they inked. (However, like today, they did use a fax machine in the '90s. The fact that it is still used today is either incredibly nostalgic or antiquated. Or both.) The 1998 class was one that produced names that not only Ducks fans recognized, but fans outside of the conference grew to admire. It was an early sign that national prominence and success could not only be reached, but also duplicated, in Eugene, Ore. Certainly, the 2000s have seen that success duplicated time and time again.
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