A pair of multi-dimensional quarterbacks, two contrasting running backs and a couple of junior college defensive linemen highlighted the University of Oregon�s 2008 football recruiting class unveiled by head coach Mike Bellotti, who expects this year's group to favorably compare with the 2007 collection that was considered among the best in school history.
Four junior college signees as well as 16 high school recruits were announced to be joining the Ducks, with Bellotti emphasizing that as many as six of the 20 newcomers could be in place this spring when Oregon opens spring practice April 1.
Recent high school graduates John Boyett (Napa, CA) and Darron Thomas (Houston, TX), along with Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, offensive lineman Carson York -- a 2007 signee who delayed his enrollment into the university until the winter term -- have been going to school and getting a jump on their new surroundings since January. Bellotti said that JC running back LeGarrette Blount, defensive lineman Blake Ferras and prep quarterback Chris Harper are expected to be enrolled in school for the spring term.
Among the anticipated additions are three defensive backs, three linebackers, three offensive linemen, three wide receivers, two defensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two running backs, one tight end as well as one long snapper.
Blount ranks as the top junior college running back recruit in the country, according to Rivals.com, after the Florida native rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his two seasons at East Mississippi Community College. Harper was rated as the second-best overall prospect in Kansas as the Wichita (Northwest HS) standout completed 73 percent of his passes while throwing for 950 yards, running for 600 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns.
"LeGarrette Blount is a powerful, big running back," Bellotti said. "He reminds me a lot of Reuben Droughns (Oregon running back from 1998-99 who played for Super Bowl winning New York Giants) and has a lot of similarities in their style and their physique. Harper is one of the top athletes in the United States. He has all the physical attributes to be successful in our system."
Bellotti said that it was no coincidence that the skills of both Harper and Thomas resembled those of former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, who guided the Ducks to as high as second in the country before a knee injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
"When I saw Darron Thomas on film, I thought he looked like Dennis Dixon," Bellotti added. " I thought that was one of the best compliments I could pay him. He is a tremendous runner, an accurate passer and a great leader. He will get a leg up on the competition by being here early."
In addition, the Ducks' head coach added that the combination of LeGarrette and freshman running back LaMichael James could be reminiscent of the skills of All-American Jonathan Stewart, who rushed for a single-season school record 1,722 yards, and Jeremiah Johnson, who averaged 73.7 all-purpose yards per game before a knee injury forced him to miss the rest of the season after six games.
Overall, Oregon's class features three All-America honorees (S John Boyett, QB Chris Harper, WR Dion Jordan), one five-star recruit (DL Justin Thompson), six four-star recipients (S John Boyett, QB Chris Harper, RB LaMichael James, WR Dion Jordan, LB Dewitt Stuckey, QB Darron Thomas), and a trio of first-team all-state standouts (S John Boyett, CA; WR Blake Cantu, TX; QB Chris Harper, KS).
Although the Ducks again relied on their recruiting hot-bed of talent in the state of California, with nine of the 20 signees reigning from the Golden State, Bellotti credited the broadening of his recruiting base to the success Oregon has enjoyed on the field as well as its reputation for appealing to recruits beyond the West Coast.
Oregon signed four players from the state of Texas, one from Arizona, one from Florida, one from Georgia, and one from Kansas, in addition to one commitment from Oregon and Washington.
"Branching out to other recruiting areas was a combination of several things," Bellotti admitted. "We had success and our success was on a national basis, because of who we played, our games on television, Dennis Dixon involved in the Heisman, Jonathan's success, our defense's success -- those things get people's attention very quickly. There has always been interest (from athletes in other parts of the country), we have to follow up and make sure we want the same things that they want. It's always difficult and you don't want to stretch yourself too thin but we're now probably going to recruit nationally on a regular basis. But you can ever forget the Pacific Northwest or the West Coast."
BASKETBALL - M
BASKETBALL - W
GOLF - M
GOLF - W
TENNIS - M
TENNIS - W
TRACK & FIELD
Sat, Aug 30
Football 7:30 PM
vs. South Dakota
Sat, Sep 06
Football 3:30 PM
vs. Michigan State
Sat, Sep 13
Football 11:00 AM
Sat, Sep 20
at Washington State