On Monday evening, Mase Funa, the highest-rated linebacker in program history, indicated he is torn between the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans.
So, as one might expect, it’s a nervous time for Oregon fans, who are experiencing a bad case of deja vu.
One month before the early signing period last year, the Oregon Ducks had the nation’s No. 1 football recruiting class and appeared poised to be spending not just Friday, but every day of the week during the offseason flexing its Aaron Feld-sized recruiting muscles against the likes of Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC and others.
But after using Pat Kilkenny’s private jet on a recruiting trip only to make a pitstop to interview for the Florida State job, Willie Taggart jumped ship and could be seen Tomahawk Chopping his way through Oregon’s once fertile recruiting ground, swiping away four-star prospects Tre’Shaun Harrison, Warren Thompson, Malcolm Lamar and Isaiah Bolden.
Then on the first day of the early signing period – college football’s unofficial holiday, presented by The Ghost of Bowl Game Future – came USC’s Grinch-like theft of a few of Oregon’s top remaining targets.
In the past three recruiting cycles, Oregon has seemingly finished just behind USC for the likes of Michael Pittman, Vavae Malepeai, Marlon Tuipulotu (third, behind Washington), Greg Johnson, Josh Falo, Eli’Jah Winston, Talanoa Hufanga, Devon Williams and more.
It all added up to an impressive recruiting class that ranked No. 13 in the country on Rivals – no history made, no first-ever top-10 finish.
Good job. Good effort.
But this year felt different.
A month before the early signing period, Oregon had the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – behind only the Alabama Crimson Tide – and had secured historic commitments from the highest-rated cornerback, safety and linebacker in program history.
Not only that, but Mario Cristobal and his coaching staff were viewed as the favorites to land consensus five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, ESPN’s top-rated recruit nationally.
So, what happened?
A pair of decommitments started the ball rolling, followed by Funa’s USC trip and Jonah Tauanu’u’s sudden interest in the Trojans, sounding the alarms across social media platforms and recruiting message boards.
And now a nervous Oregon fanbase is waiting for the other shoe to drop.
However, it might be time for a little perspective.
But Oregon’s class remains a strong one.
The Ducks currently have the nation’s No. 5 collection of talent, an unprecedented recruiting class highlighted by 14 four-star commitments – still five more than Washington (9) and more than double that of either USC (6) or Stanford (5).
And Cristobal and his staff still appear to be the favorites to land Thibodeaux, who would be the highest-rated pledge in program history.
As far as decommitments go, Oregon has actually gone relatively unscathed in the 2019 recruiting cycle, particularly for a program that secured the majority of its commitments in the spring and summer.
Prior to the decommitments of Casey and Criddell, the Ducks had just three departures from its class – and none since June.
While both of the previous years were hampered by coaching changes, it should also shed some light on the situation for panicky Duck fans.
This is normal.
And in just the second year of the early signing period, a late November-December re-shuffling of the deck may become all the more commonplace.
It’d be foolish to say the rest of Oregon’s class is safe, or that the program won’t end up taking at least a few three-star prospects a little further down the big board.
Funa is admittedly torn between Oregon and USC and decommitments, particularly among high-level recruits, are a normal part of the ebb and flow of a recruiting class.
With 14 bluechip prospects in the fold, college football coaching staffs are likely spending a good deal of time trying to pluck away Oregon’s talent.
None of that even takes into account the rumors that Jim Leavitt is a candidate for head coaching jobs, particularly the one he appears to covet most at Kansas State.
But Oregon has a coaching staff built to recruit, assembled specifically to close out the next several weeks, headlined by Cristobal, a former national recruiter of the year.
Thibodeaux may be less than two weeks away from announcing he’ll be taking his talents to Eugene and Oregon still gets Funa’s last visit.
No one knows what the future holds for the rest of the 2019 recruiting cycle, but for Duck fans there’s still a lot to be excited about in the sprint to the finish.