Oregon Ducks: Ricky Heimuli

An issue that seems to arise every year in recruiting is which players Oregon chooses to pursue and sign on the defensive line. It always seems to be a source of worry for fans and recruiting pundits alike.

While Haloti Ngata isn't walking through the tunnel at Autzen Stadium anymore, the Ducks have equipped themselves nicely with a patchwork defensive line over the past few years.

With the loss of Taylor Hart, Wake Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli after the 2013 season, reloading the defensive line is one of the Ducks' primary objectives in the next 10 months. The Ducks landed a standout group of defensive linemen in the Class of 2012 and all of them should be heavily involved in 2013. With three or four spots in the 2014 recruiting class likely to be filled by defensive line prospects, the Ducks are eyeing a large group of targets.

Here are a few names to keep an eye on throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle:

DE Lorenzo Featherston (Greensboro, N.C ./Page): The 6-foot-7, 215-pound ESPN Watch List member has high interest in the Ducks and fits the profile of what Oregon has looked for in defensive lineman in the past few years. Of course, Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro are gone, but Featherstone maintains the athleticism and range that would make him an ideal fit for the Ducks' drop-end position. Featherstone hopes to get a visit from the Oregon staff during the spring evaluation period. An impressive spring could lead to Featherstone receiving an offer from one of his favorite programs. Michigan, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Tennessee have all offered and are the main programs in pursuit.

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Oregon is done with the 2013 class and is in early pursuit of the Class of 2014. Like they did under Chip Kelly, the Ducks are going to take their time and do their due diligence in evaluating recruits with Mark Helfrich at the helm.

The Ducks will still make the same in-depth inquiries about recruits with the potential to earn an offer, but it appears the 2013 recruiting cycle taught them once and for all, that waiting until it's too late can cost a program in a big way. A number of recruits have the Ducks near the top of their lists, and with 2014 being an important class, expect them to be more aggressive than usual in their attempt to replace players they could lose after 2013.


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Oregon signing day surprises 

February, 6, 2013
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After losing long-time commit Dontre Wilson (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) to Ohio State on Monday, the Oregon Ducks enter signing day looking for a couple of surprises to go their way. Fortunately the Ducks have gotten the better end of the deal with signing day surprises in recent years.


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Haloti NgataG Fiume/Getty ImagesHaloti Ngata lived up to his five-star hype at Oregon and brought that success to the NFL.

For those Oregon fans who worry about how many commitments the Ducks have at this point in the recruiting cycle, all they need to do is take a look back over the past decade or so, starting with the 2002 recruiting class, when the Ducks landed some guy named Haloti Ngata on signing day.

With a handful of spots to fill in the class of 2013, DuckNation decided to take a look back at who the Ducks have added in the final weeks of the recruiting cycle in each year since 2003.


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Oregon has never been able to load up on elite local players who grew up dreaming of playing for the them. The Ducks have always recruited California as well as they can be expected to. In recent years, they have done a great job of going into states not known for producing talent to secure commitments from some players that were mostly overlooked throughout their high school careers. To continue the series of Oregon's recruiting by state, DuckNation examines the success -- or lack thereof -- the Ducks have experienced when recruiting Colorado and Utah over the past decade.

2004
OL Jeff Kendall (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Kendall signed with the Ducks and became a four-year letter winner for the Ducks. His versatility allowed the Ducks to move him around on some of their most successful offensive lines ever.

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What we learned in the Pac-12: Week 11

November, 11, 2012
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What did we learn in Week 11? Read on.

Hogan was the right choice for Stanford: It seemed like odd timing that Stanford coach David Shaw switched starting quarterbacks as his team headed into its biggest game of the year, but freshman Kevin Hogan made his coach look smart, though it wasn't always pretty. Hogan completed 22 of 29 passes for 254 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 27-23 victory over Oregon State. He also rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries. His biggest pass was a 13-yard strike to tight end Zach Ertz for the winning points. Hogan was effective with his feet and his arm, and he didn't wilt when things didn't go his way through most of the second and third quarters. Now he faces a bigger test: Oregon at Autzen Stadium.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Ed Szczepanski/US PresswireKevin Hogan kept an even keel in Stanford's comeback victory over Oregon State.
USC shows some grit: USC held Arizona State to only 250 yards and three second-half points in a 38-17 win. The Trojans trailed 17-14 early in the third, and it looked as though they might pack it in for the season. But with senior center Khaled Holmes exhorting his teammates on the sidelines, USC showed some grit, particularly on defense. The same defense that got ripped by Arizona and Oregon's spread offenses shut down the Sun Devils, recording six sacks and forcing four turnovers. It was far from perfect. On the day quarterback Matt Barkley set the Pac-12 career passing yardage record (12,026 yards), surpassing the previous mark held by Carson Palmer, he threw three interceptions. Still, the Trojans play archrival UCLA next weekend for the Pac-12 South Division title.

Ducks are banged up with Stanford coming to town, but will that matter? Oregon arrived at California with major injury issues, particularly with its defensive front, and things only got worse as the game went on. The Ducks, however, pulled themselves together and dominated the Bears in the second half, winning 59-17. Still, Stanford, which visits Autzen Stadium on Saturday, is a much better team that Cal, particularly on the offensive line. Will the Ducks get some guys back, such as defensive linemen Ricky Heimuli, Dion Jordan and Isaac Remington? The Ducks don't talk about injuries, but injuries will be something lots of folks are talking about this week. Or speculating on.

UCLA gets its big shot at vulnerable USC: While UCLA let up in the second half at Washington State -- the Bruins were outscored 29-7 and won only 44-36 -- that doesn't change the big possibilities that lie ahead. Now 8-2, the Bruins can win the Pac-12 South Division if they beat archrival USC in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. That would mean stomping on the Trojans' once-hyped season, which would inspire plenty of consternation in Heritage Hall. UCLA fans would love to do that. And it would mean the Bruins could end up in the Rose Bowl, either as the Pac-12 champions or as an at-large selection. So big stakes are at hand.

Huskies step up, Utes step back: Utah and Washington squared off as teams that weathered midseason adversity and had won two in a row. But only one could maintain positive momentum. The Huskies' decisive 35-14 victory boosted their record to 6-4, earning them bowl eligibility. They can continue to climb the pecking order if they can beat Colorado and Washington State over the next two weekends, though both games are on the road. The Utes' offensive surge came to an end, with only 55 yards passing. They need to win their next two games, at home to Arizona and at Colorado.

Picking two first-team All-Pac-12 running backs won't be easy: Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey rushed for 366 yards -- a new Pac-12 single-game record -- and five touchdowns in Arizona's 56-31 win over Colorado. He will take over the Pac-12 rushing lead, as Oregon's Kenjon Barner (65 yards) and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin (66 yards) had subpar games. The final two weeks probably will decide the two guys who end up first-team All-Pac-12.
Carl WinstonOtto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesSan Jose, Calif., native Michael Clay was a crucial recruiting win for the Ducks over California in the Class of 2009.
After the Ducks program began to take off in the mid-1990s, California hired former Ducks' offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford in 2002. As the Ducks' upward climb reached a standstill, Cal stepped up and looked like it might be the next in line to challenge USC.

The Golden Bears did win four of five games with the Ducks between 2004 and 2008, including a game for the ages in 2007. After they walked out of Autzen Stadium with a 31-24 win over the No. 5 Ducks, things began to change between the two schools. Cal did win the following season in Berkeley, as the Ducks fumbled gave away a game they dominated. Starting in the class of 2008, the Bears responded by going on an unprecedented run of recruiting success. The Ducks began to dominate the series on the field with a 42-3 win over the Bears in 2009. Despite the dominant performance over the then-No. 6 Bears, Cal beat the Ducks head-to-head for a number of elite recruits from 2008 to 2012.

Whether it was location, academics, Cal's plans for facilities upgrades -- which are now complete -- or former Cal assistant -- and current Washington assistant -- Tosh Lupoi, the Bears won the majority of the recruiting battles between the two schools. Similar to the recent history with USC, the Ducks don't care about recruiting rankings as much as they do the on-field results.

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Since 2000, the Pac-12 has been all Oregon and USC. Other schools have snuck in to share a conference crown, but only the Ducks and Trojans have won the title outright.

Arik Armstead
Tony Avelar for ESPNHSCalifornia's top player in the Class of 2012, Arik Armstead originally committed to USC before flipping to Oregon.
For most of the decade, the Trojans were the team to beat. Since Chip Kelly took over the Oregon head coaching job in 2009, the Ducks have been nearly unstoppable. The Ducks won the head-to-head battles on the field with USC in 2007, 2009 and 2010. USC topped the Ducks in 2008 and 2011.

The Ducks have begun to take over as the best program in the conference under Kelly's leadership. Passing USC on the field is one thing. Doing the same in recruiting, where USC has maintained its dominance in the face of NCAA sanctions, is a lot harder.

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Oregon Ducks weekly mailbag 

August, 31, 2012
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It has been an interesting week for the Oregon Ducks. From naming a starting quarterback, potentially getting a transfer, official visits being set up by top recruits and the season opener against Arkansas State, it's fair to say that things are heating up in Eugene.

With a flurry of activity surrounding the program, it is now time to open up the mailbag and answer your questions.

[+] EnlargeBryan Bennett
Jim Z. Rider/US PresswireOregon sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett passed for 369 yards and six touchdowns and ran for 200 yards on 23 carries last year when he stepped in for an injured Darron Thomas.
Mike L. (Portland, Ore.): With Marcus Mariota being named the starter, it leaves Bryan Bennett with three years left as a backup. Like Mariota, freshman Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie both have four years left. Bennett has said he's staying, but I could see him or one of the freshmen leaving this season. Should the Ducks turn their quarterback recruiting up a notch for 2013?

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Josh HuffSteve Conner/Icon SMIJosh Huff has shown flashes of greatness in his two seasons at Oregon and the Ducks are hoping that he continues to progress.
Oregon Ducks fans have been witness to one of the greatest rises in college football history over the past two decades. The Ducks have risen from cellar dwellers to one of the hottest names in all of college football. The facilities, the uniforms and the Nike connection have all played a big role in the Ducks' rise to the top of the Pac-12.

Along with the success and the increased exposure nationally, has come a major boost in recruiting elite athletes to come to Eugene. It isn't always the high school All-Americans that turn into college stars. Oregon has made a living finding "diamonds in the rough" that have helped build a powerhouse.

There have been some big names in the recruiting world who chose to play their college ball in Eugene, but how many of them have lived up to the hype?

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DucksMatthew Emmons/US PresswireRicky Heimuli (front), a highly touted defensive tackle in the 2010 class, is expected to take a big step up on Oregon's defensive line this season.
After a nice run of NFL talent along the defensive front from 2002-05, the Oregon Ducks took a number of hits with recruits failing to qualify or not showing up on campus for a variety of reasons. When new defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro arrived in 2009, things began to change in Eugene. While the talent has been building in recent years, the defensive line was the one glaring weakness when comparing Oregon to the likes of SEC powers Auburn, LSU and Alabama.

The Ducks have excelled at nearly every position outside of DL in recent years. The linebackers have been key in helping the Ducks to high sack totals, but 2012 looks like the season it all comes together up front for the Ducks. The depth, size and talent are at an all-time high in Eugene, as key returners are back for another go around and a number of impact newcomers will be entering the fold.

After losing Kenny Rowe, Brandon Bair and Zac Clark from the 2010 BCS runner-ups, the defensive line stepped up last year and kept the Ducks among the elite. Now that they have another year under their belts, look for Oregon's front line to make a big impact in 2012.

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Chip KellyChristian Petersen/Getty ImagesChip Kelly has done a good job of keeping continuity on his coaching staff since taking over as Oregon's head man in 2009, which is a big reason behind the Ducks' sustained success.
When thinking about the Oregon football program, most tend to think of the flashy uniforms, the facilities and the ties to Nike as being the big reasons for the rise of the Ducks. Those things have played a huge part in Oregon's success, but the most commonly overlooked part of the equation is the continuity of the coaching staff in Eugene.

Sure, head coach Chip Kelly has only been in Eugene since 2007 and is entering his fourth season as the face of the program, but for the most part Oregon's staff has been together longer than most. In an era where coaches use schools as stepping stones and successful coaching staffs rarely have more than a couple of years together, the Ducks have a level of chemistry among the coaching staff that has helped fuel their meteoric rise to the top.

Head coach: Chip Kelly is entering his sixth season at Oregon and his fourth as head coach. While his name is tied to nearly every job that comes open, Kelly turned down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job this past offseason. Kelly has been a part of the greatest streak in Oregon history. His record as head coach is 34-6 and the overall record of the Oregon program since his arrival is 53-13.

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Mark Helfrich talks about handling expectations heading into his second season as Oregon's coach and looks ahead to the upcoming season for the Ducks.
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