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Insider

Oregon rethinking recruiting philosophy?

8/15/2012

Oregon has been on a recruiting tear in recent years. The recent success of the Ducks has produced the golden age of Oregon football.

The Ducks have always done a masterful job of finding diamonds in the rough and developing talent that was overlooked coming out of high school. In recent years the Ducks have been able to stockpile high-level recruits and develop them the same way they would an obscure walk-on.

A lot was made of Oregon's shift in recruiting philosophy when Chip Kelly took over for Mike Bellotti in 2009. Bellotti built the program up from where longtime coach Rich Brooks had left it. Kelly has taken it to a whole new level.

Bellotti was a West Coast guy who used his connections and familiarity with the region to find recruits that wanted a chance to prove themselves. Oregon built the program on underrated recruits.

Once Kelly took over in 2009, the Ducks immediately took a more national approach, as Kelly had spent his entire career in the Northeast before heading west.

With no knowledge of the recruiting landscape on the West Coast, Kelly took a shot. He went east and made a push for many top recruits. His philosophy was to swing for the fences and use his connections back home. Kelly has always been of the belief that to compete for the national championship at a school like Oregon, you need to go national for certain types of players.

The Ducks did land Brian Jackson (Hoover, Ala./Hoover)in 2009. Issac Dixon (Opa Locka, Fla./Monsignor Pace), James Scales (Greensboro, NC/Northern Guilford), Eric Dungy (Tampa, Fla./Plant) and Dior Mathis (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) all signed with the Ducks in 2010, Kelly's first full recruiting cycle as head coach. Of the group, only Mathis had offers from programs that could compare to Oregon.

The Ducks were beginning to become a legitimate option for some kids, but they never landed any of the elite guys they went after.

There were some close calls as the Ducks were among the finalists for the likes of Terrelle Pryor, Dominique Easley, Keenan Allen and more.

The one new place Oregon has been able to forge solid relationships and establish itself as a recruiting threat is the most unlikely of all, as Oregon and Texas couldn't be further apart in terms of lifestyle, weather and most importantly, football.

The Ducks have been able to be successful by signing a number of recruits out of the football-dominated state.

LaMichael James (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau) was a mid-level recruit that signed with Oregon over Arkansas, Nebraska and Minnesota. He wasn't the highest-rated recruit, but his success at Oregon opened the flood gates, as the Ducks felt confident going into Texas to battle local powers for area recruits.

In addition to James, the Ducks signed quarterback Darron Thomas (Houston,Texas/Aldine) in the Class of 2008. Thomas now resides with James in the Oregon record books after a standout career.

The same year, the Ducks signed another highly touted quarterback prospect, Chris Harper, (Wichita, Kan./Northwest). Harper came in with high hopes but never fit into what Oregon wanted.

Harper was the among the first of a handful of recruits that signed with Oregon from east of the Rockies before transferring out of the program. The same year, fellow quarterback Justin Roper, who signed with the Ducks out of Georgia, transferred as well.

In 2010, the Ducks signed two Texas running backs that were among the top prospects in the country. Lache Seastrunk (Temple,Texas/Temple) and Dontae Williams (Houston, Texas/Aldine) came to Oregon with high hopes, but neither player lasted a year with the Ducks.

In 2011, the Ducks signed yet another Texas running back in Tra Carson (Texarkana, Texas/Liberty-Eylau). Like Seastrunk and Williams, Carson lasted just one year with the Ducks.

The latest departure came from one of the more impressive recruiting coups the Ducks have pulled off. The Ducks beat schools like Florida State and Auburn when they signed wide receiver Tacoi Sumler (Miami, Fla./Christopher Columbus) in 2011. After just one year in the program, Sumler transferred.

The Ducks missed on some high-level West Coast recruits while swinging for the fences with prospects back east. Focusing too much on prospects that were likely never that serious about Oregon, the Ducks missed on recruits closer to home.

There are always exceptions and 2012 was no different as the Ducks signed Dwayne Stanford and Pharaoh Brown out of Ohio.

The Ducks have reigned things in a bit, with Texas being the only regular destination east of the Rockies they frequent. They have yet another Texas running back, Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) committed for 2013.

Wilson aside, the Ducks have two in-state commits, two from Southern California, two from Northern California and one from North Carolina.

While they still shoot for the stars no matter where they hail from, the Ducks seem to have taken a step back in order to prioritize their recruiting targets. They seem to be taking into account the likelihood that they will be able to sign and keep the recruits on campus once they arrive.

The Ducks know they have the appeal to compete with anyone from west of Texas. Being more selective offers shows they are doing their research before offering recruits from east of the Rockies.