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Friday, April 5, 2013
Oregon recruiting mailbag: Visits, more

By Brandon P. Oliver

It appears that not much has changed early in the Mark Helfrich era. Spring practices remain closed to both the public and the media, but there will be plenty of eyes watching the Ducks this spring.

The Ducks are expected to host a several recruits throughout the spring. The Ducks don't have a traditional junior day the way several other schools do these days. In this week's mailbag, we discuss the fact that despite not having a typical junior day, the Ducks seem to be making an effort to get more kids on campus for visits earlier in the process.

Michael S. (Oakland, Calif.): That's great that Morgan Mahalak (Novato, Calif./Marin Catholic) visited this week because I hear he is a very good athlete, but are the Ducks really recruiting him as a quarterback? It seems odd to recruit a player at a position as important as that, to a program like Oregon, without knowing how he plays at the position during an actual game. [Jared] Goff was the man for them [Marin Catholic], so I guess I just don't understand it. This is by no means a knock on the kid, as the coaches have forgotten much more than I'll ever know. Just curious if you had any insight.

DN: It is an interesting question because it is a fairly rare situation, especially at quarterback. The Ducks obviously see something in him or offensive coordinator Scott Frost and head coach Mark Helfrich wouldn't have been pursuing him over the last 12 months. It is true that Mahalak has very limited game experience at quarterback.  After graduating early, Goff is squarely in the mix for the two-deep at Cal after spring practice.

By the time Mahalak got into the game under center for Marin Catholic, the games were well out of reach. His stats would have been much more impressive if not for his playing time coming in late-game, blowout situations. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Mahalak averaged more than 15 yards-per-catch at wide receiver and has the size, speed, brains and arm to be groomed as the Ducks' quarterback of the future.

It sounds as if the visit to Eugene went very well this week and while no offer was issued, the are clearly making Mahalak one of their prime targets for an offer down the line. Mahalak isn't as fast as Mariota, but when you compare everything else between the two, it becomes pretty easy to see why the Ducks feel good about their pursuit of him. Their size, athleticism and high school experience -- both spent high school playing for elite programs that had talented Division I quarterbacks ahead of them -- are very similar. No one knows how Mahalak will perform with the lights on, but he certainly has the potential.

Arnold F. (Phoenix): With guys like Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), Tyrell Crosby (Henderson, Nev./Green Valley), Morgan Mahalak (Novato, Calif./Marin Catholic), Dalton Schultz (South Jordan, Utah/Bingham) and others visiting the Ducks unofficially over the next few weeks, do you see any of them giving the Ducks a commitment? If they pay their own way to check us out in the offseason, that has to be a good indication that they are seriously considering the Ducks, right?

DN: Yes and no. Anytime a kid and his family pay for a visit out of pocket, it has to be viewed as a good indication of their interest. For the Ducks, it is very important to try and get their targets on campus in the spring because they don't have the local talent that 90 percent of other top programs have.

In this day and age, a large percentage of kids are committing before they are even allowed to officially visit. The earlier a program makes a push for them, the better. Under Helfrich, the Ducks seem to be putting an emphasis on getting kids on campus before the fall.

As far as any looming commitments, it is too early to tell. Mahalak and Schultz are waiting on offers, and McGraw has several visits lined up and says he plans to wait until later on down the line to make a decision after evaluating all of his options after taking his visits. Crosby is the one to keep an eye on when he visits next weekend. If he was impressed by what Utah had to offer -- which he was -- he will likely be blown away by what he sees in Eugene. A big issue is that he has strong family ties to the Salt Lake City area. The Ducks were his first BCS offer and have always been at the top for his signature, so a great visit to Eugene could help the Ducks overcome the family angle that Utah has.