- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
Since Chip Kelly arrived in Eugene, Oregon's recruiting philosophy has been an impossible riddle to solve. From ignoring elite West Coast prospects that desired attention from the Ducks to offering elite players from the other side of the country -- after long commitments to power programs closer to home -- it hasn't always made sense to recruiting followers.
What has made sense is the way they have pieced together recruiting classes that are consistently producing at an elite level on the field. With just 10 commitments and only two months until national signing day, questions abound as to why the Ducks -- with four straight BCS appearances -- seem stagnant in recruiting its 2013 class. After the past week's events, it is likely that many new questions will arise.
Last week the Ducks told long-time Michigan commit, CB Gareon Conley (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) -- No. 62 in the ESPN 150 -- that they would not be offering him despite his public acknowledgment that he would likely jump all over an Oregon offer. The Ducks were waiting on him to decommit from Michigan before tripping him in for an official visit. He finally decommitted last week, only to have the Ducks tell him they would not be offering him a scholarship.
Per Conley, one of the reasons that Oregon was not going to offer was that it had a safety that it really wanted. Whether that's the true reason is up for debate. What isn't up for debate is that the Ducks just offered USC cornerback commit and ESPN 150 member Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood, Tenn./Brentwood Academy). The Ducks also have renewed their interest with fellow USC CB commit -- and ESPN 150 member -- Chris Hawkins (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga). Ramsey and Hawkins are ranked No. 48 and No. 72 overall, respectively.
Both Ramsey and Hawkins remain committed to the Trojans, but Ramsey has visited Florida and Mississippi State officially. He has scheduled visits to USC, Washington and Alabama in the next six weeks. Hawkins has visited Washington, Cal and Notre Dame to date. Like Ramsey, Hawkins will be at USC this weekend and is also expected to further solidify his commitment.
If the Ducks planned on Conley playing defense, they clearly have other targets in mind. To drop an elite prospect -- the No. 62 player in the ESPN 150 -- that is extremely high on their program because of a lack of room at his position is one thing. Turning around and pursuing two other prospects for the same position leaves some questions.
In an even more shocking development, the Ducks have told ATH Max Redfield (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo) that they were no longer pursuing him and would not be hosting him on an official visit. The Ducks believe -- for good reason -- that the No. 36 player in the ESPN 150 is a lock to either go to Notre Dame or jump back on board with USC, whom he decommitted from in October.
While it is very likely that he will end up at Notre Dame or USC, Redfield has always had a genuine interest in the Ducks and a good visit would have put them in strong contention for his signature in February. Redfield has USC, Notre Dame, Washington, and now Ohio State, among his finalists.
With two of the nations best athletes -- both of whom were very serious about the Ducks -- being dropped, the Oregon coaches must have a plan in place. The Ducks feel good about their chances with ATH Juwaan Williams (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) and they recently hosted ATH Devon Allen (Phoenix, Ariz./Brophy Prep) on a visit. Williams is down to Florida State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Vanderbilt. The Ducks have yet to offer Allen a football scholarship, but he does have an offer for the Oregon track and field program. If Allen does get a football offer from the Ducks, they could become his top choice. In addition to Oregon, Allen has visited Arkansas and UCLA.
The Ducks like their chances with both Williams and Allen, which at this point seems like the most logical explanation for dropping Redfield and Conley. Whatever the case may be, the Ducks will have a lot of questions lobbed their way should they miss on the recruits that led to these decisions.
The Ducks have made finishing strong one of their biggest assets since Chip Kelly arrived in Eugene. One of the program's slogans is "Fast. Hard. Finish." For Ducks fans everywhere, they can only hope that there is a method to the madness.
That's how it is on the field and that has been the recent history of Oregon recruiting. There always seems to be a method to Kelly's madness. Those outside the program just find out later than those on the inside. It can be hard to follow and frustrating to watch, but in the end -- to cite another program slogan -- it's "The Oregon Way."