- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
With Oregon and USC being the only two teams to win outright Pac-10 or Pac-12 conference titles since 1999, it would seem likely the two have enjoyed the most recruiting success over the same period. If recruit class rankings are the way to judge them, USC is clearly the head of the class. If it's success on the field in comparison to a program's recruit class rankings, Oregon is among the best programs in the country at developing talent.
The Trojans will almost assuredly have the most talent on paper every year due to their tradition, success and -- perhaps most important -- their location. USC can usually name who it wants in each recruiting class, especially in Southern California. The Ducks, meanwhile, have little-to-no recruiting base and have built their program on finding so-called diamonds in the rough. Oregon has stepped its game up on the recruiting trail in recent years but still sits behind the Trojans and others in terms of recruiting prowess.
Recruit rankings are not an exact science, and the only thing guaranteed with recruiting is that nothing is guaranteed. While the Ducks have taken on some heavyweights for blue-chip prospects in recent years, there have only been a few cases in which the Ducks actually beat the Trojans for a recruit's signature. The promising thing for Oregon fans is that in each of the past two years, the Ducks have swooped in and nabbed the state of California's top recruit -- each of whom were committed to USC for nearly a year -- right out from under the Trojans.
In 2011, the Ducks shocked the recruiting world by getting De'Anthony Thomas-- the top California recruit in 2011 -- to choose the Ducks. The state's top 2012 recruit, Arik Armstead, was basically gifted to the Ducks when an unresolved medical issue with his brother caused the family to pursue other options.
Regardless of how it happened, the Ducks would up with the Trojans top in-state commit two years in a row. What does that mean for the future of recruiting between the two schools? Probably not as much as one might think.
In this year's class, the Ducks' top target was defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes of Auburn (Calif.) Placer. Vanderdoes ís from the same area as Armstead and knows hime very well. Oregon had been considered a favorite up until this summer, when USC decided to offer the No. 35 player in the ESPN 150 a scholarship. After flirting with Oregon, Vanderdoes has remained solid in his commitment to USC.
Vanderdoes wasn't the only player in this year's class to give Oregon fans high hopes before eventually committing to the Trojans. The No. 54 player in the ESPN 150, linebacker Michael Hutchings of Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, had the Ducks right at the top along with USC but pledged to the Trojans in June. Like Hutchings, the No. 37 player overall -- and No. 2 athlete -- Max Redfield, was probably always headed to Southern Cal. Before giving his commitment to the Trojans in mid July, Redfield repeatedly talked about Oregon as if it was right there with USC.
Steven Mitchell of Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany -- the No. 116 player in the ESPN 150 -- has held Oregon in high regard since his freshman year. Before giving the Ducks a shot at persuading him on an official visit, the No. 13 wide receiver in the country gave his commitment to USC in June. The same can be said for Torrodney Prevot of Houston (Texas) Alief-Taylor. Prevot always said the Ducks were among his top schools and wanted to visit Eugene before making any decision on where to play college ball. Despite his 6-foot-3, 210-pound size that makes him a perfect fit for Oregon's slashing and aggressive defense, the No. 247 player in the ESPN 300 committed to the Trojans in late July.
Despite all that, the Ducks did have a nice run while recruiting against the Trojans for players like Thomas, Armstead, Devon Blackmon, Colt Lyerla, Andre Yruretagoyena, Tyler Johnstone and Byron Marshall over the past couple of years. Thomas and Armstead were no-brainers for the Trojans, but the rest of this group were never truly given the full-court press by the Trojans' coaching staff.
It is tough to beat the Trojans for a recruit they really want, especially one from Southern California. But it can be done. Don't be surprised if the Ducks wind up hosting a couple of the Trojans' current commits before signing day. As of now, nearly all of the Trojan commits seem locked into their commitment, but the Ducks have a proven track record of flipping commits from more highly regarded recruiting powers.
The Ducks will continue to do what they do in recruiting, looking high and low for players like John Boyett, Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan, Michael Clay, Terrence Mitchell, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and others who weren't deemed worthy of a scholarship offer by the Trojans.
If you ask the coaches, players and fans of the Ducks, they will take the on-field success over the recruiting hype. Expect the Ducks to challenge the Trojans for some top recruits in the coming years, but if you are an Oregon fan, don't sweat it if USC lands higher on the recruiting charts. After all, the Ducks have proven that the real battles happen on the field. On Saturday, the Ducks will have another chance to prove themselves when the teams square off in Los Angeles.