- Brandon P. Oliver, Reporter, DuckNation
In an effort to extend holiday gift-giving for a little bit longer, DuckNation has decided to take a look back at the best recruiting gifts the Oregon Ducks have received during the Chip Kelly era. There have been almost too many to count, but we have narrowed it down to five of the most noteworthy gifts that have exceeded expectations over the past few years.
The culture that Chip Kelly has created around the program has attracted some elite players, but the Ducks have built their program by going out and find the best hidden gems on the market. Some of the best recruiting gifts over the years have come in the form of players that no one else seemed to want.
We all get a gift or two that initially doesn't do much for us, but turns out to be quite valuable. It was tough to narrow this list to just five, but the first one should come as no surprise.
1. Marcus Mariota chooses Oregon over...Memphis???
Bitter rival Washington made a late push for Mariota, but Memphis was the Ducks' biggest competition for most of the recruiting cycle because they were his only offer before Oregon. People were more excited about the other gifts under the 2011 recruiting tree, but in the end, Mariota will be the one remembered forever.
2. Ducks find a big tree in the woods of Michigan
Traverse City, Mich., offensive lineman Jake Fisher decommitted from the in-state Wolverines and signed with the Ducks two years ago. Fisher was considered the third best OL in the Ducks' 2011 haul, but he has started almost every game since stepping on campus. With two seasons left at Oregon, Fisher is on his way to becoming the gift that keeps on giving. His strength and athleticism have surprised many thus far. Combined with the No. 3 entry on this list, Fisher will anchor the Ducks' front line for at least one more season.
3. Unheralded Grasu turns out to be the perfect fit
Hroniss Grasu had only played three years of football before signing with the Ducks in 2010. It was unknown if he would play defensive end or offensive line for the Ducks. After a redshirt season, Grasu beat out Karrington Armstrong and Hamani Stevens for the starting center spot. He hasn't let go of his grip on the spot and could end up starting more games in his career than any player in program history.
4. LaVasier Tuinei has Oregon fans thinking "who-inei?"
Originally from Indiana, the junior-college transfer with the exotic name -- from the most unexotic of places -- turned out to be an unexpected treasure for the Ducks. His long, lanky frame was a great weapon for the Ducks. His sneaky ability to hold blocks downfield and his fantastic hands made him one of the best finds on the past few years. He graduated and left the program after the 2011 season, but not before he claimed the offensive MVP in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
5. Scott Frost was the thing you wanted every year but never got.
The Ducks' coaching staff has an average tenure at the school of 17 years. This fact is generally considered to be a good thing, but injecting some youth into the recruiting rotation was a necessary action that Kelly had to take.
After suffering through some lean years at wide receiver, the Ducks went in search of young, up-and-coming talent to coach up that position. What they found was a former option quarterback turned NFL safety. The Ducks hired Frost away from FCS Northern Iowa before other programs could unwrap the rising star. While the position is still a work in progress, the talent level and playmakers are there thanks to the former Nebraska QB. The Ducks are loaded with talent at wide receiver and Frost is a big reason why.
In an effort to extend holiday gift-giving for a little bit longer, DuckNation has decided to take a look back at the best recruiting gifts the Oregon Ducks have received during the Chip Kelly era.