New Class Of Football Recruits Is Oregon's Highest-Rated Ever
If the foundation of an elite program is elite talent, then the Oregon football program under Mario Cristobal is on solid ground.
The Ducks are on track for the best recruiting class in school history after adding 20 players Wednesday, the first day of college football's recently implemented early signing period. Two years after signing the first consensus top-10 class ever at Oregon, Cristobal and his staff are on track to raise the bar with a class that some consider among the top five in the country.
The end goal is to compete for national championships with the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. That means competing for talent at the same level as those programs, which the Ducks are doing the last three years under Cristobal.
"We're getting closer to where the roster needs to look like," Cristobal said. "I think we're approaching there."
Headlined by top-100 recruits including quarterback Ty Thompson and offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, Oregon's class was rated No. 5 nationally by Rivals as of Wednesday evening, and No. 6 according to ESPN and 247Sports. There's the chance for movement in the coming weeks, as the Ducks look to augment this class with a few more signees during the traditional signing period in February.
Either way, this is on track to be the most highly rated recruiting class in UO history. That's remarkable in its own right, but particularly so given that it was assembled during a global pandemic.
That forced the Ducks to conduct much of their recruiting efforts virtually the last several months, but it also had them appreciating some fortuitous timing. Their junior day, when players including Thompson and tight end Moliki Matavao visited campus, was held just before the pandemic brought the country to a halt in March.
"Having the opportunity to have them here, and have them watch us practice and the way we operate, to me is almost more important than having them here for a game, when it's all the bell and whistles, and the fun stuff, and the crowd," Cristobal said.
The class had some obvious positional priorities, including the offensive line, where the Ducks signed Suamataia along with Jackson Light, Jonah Miller and Bram Walden. There are also three receivers — Isaiah Brevard, Troy Franklin and Dont'e Thornton — who all stand at least 6-foot-2 and are considered top-100 players in the country by at least one scouting service.
"We want to be a big, fast, physical football team, at every position," Cristobal said. "This certainly fits that criteria. These (receivers) are physical guys. They're explosive guys that can make you miss. They have unbelievable ball skills.
"They're mismatch nightmares, is what they are."
The quarterback who will throw to those wideouts — and also big, athletic tight ends Matavao and Terrance Ferguson — is Thompson. The No. 1 rated recruit from the state of Arizona, Thompson was a five-star prospect according to Rivals.
"He can do it all," Cristobal said. "And he has the makeup to match. … Inside and out, he's just a true champion."
Thompson was one of four recruits from Arizona signed by the Ducks on Wednesday. According to 247Sports, Oregon signed players rated No. 1 (Thompson), No. 2 (Walden) and No. 5 (Miller) from that state in this recruiting cycle, along with outside linebacker Brandon Buckner.
"The state of Arizona has awesome football, incredible football," Cristobal said. "High-level coaching, high-level teaching and development. You're looking at a place that we feel we have to recruit extremely well, extremely hard, because of the caliber of talent, the caliber of coaching."
Thompson also was one of six players signed by Oregon rated No. 1 in their respective home states this year, according to 247Sports. The Ducks also signed the top-rated players from Utah (Suamataia), Nevada (Matavao), Colorado (Ferguson), New York (all-purpose back Seven McGee) and of course the top-rated in-state prospect, linebacker Keith Brown of Lebanon.
That's on the heels of classes the previous two years that included Noah Sewell, the top-rated player from Utah in 2020, and edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top recruit from California in 2019. They'll be joined in next year's front seven at Oregon with 2021 recruits such as Buckner, defensive lineman Keanu Williams and linebacker Jabril McNeill.
Brown not only represented his home state in this year's UO recruiting class, he was also essential in helping build it, Cristobal said. Light, considered the top prospect in the country at center by 247Sports, also worked hard on social media and behind the scenes to help recruit future teammates.
"They got together and they really started generating these unbelievable friendships and ties and bonds," said Cristobal, who mentioned that 15 or 16 players from this class could enroll for the upcoming winter and/or spring quarters at the university.
Before they ever got to campus, the recruiting class of 2021 has been building up a championship culture together. Soon enough, they'll be looking to become champions together on the field, as well.