Friday, February 4, 11:15 a.m. PT
Statistically speaking, Wednesday's Oregon football recruiting class ranked higher than any in program history. The two most established recruiting services, Rivals.com and Scout.com, ranked the announced haul No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, while newcomer 247Sports.com (SI.com's recruiting arm) pegged UO No. 12. ESPN, which produced at least one head scratcher in its analysis (see Colt Lyerla as a three-star prospect while the other three sites ranked him among the top five athletes in the nation), ranked the Ducks' class 14th.
The truth is, we probably won't know if those rankings are accurate or not for at least three years - maybe four. That's not to discount the coaches recruiting efforts or the rise of the Ducks as a major player nationally, but it's the typical grace period when determining the true success of a class.
I went back through Oregon's past six classes and it's easy to see the further away the class is, the more intelligently we can form an opinion on the worthiness of its rankings.
Here's some of the data:
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 28/No. 30
Eventual Starters: 8 - Palauni Ma Sun (JC), Blair Phillips (JC), Jairus Byrd, Ed Dickson, Jeremiah Johnson, Nick Reed, Jonathan Stewart, Walter Thurmond III
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 49/No. 52 (last in the Pac-10)
Eventual Starters: 7 - Matthew Harper (JC), Fenuki Tupou (JC), Brandon Bair, Jordan Holmes, C.E. Kaiser, Spencer Paysinger, Bo Thran
*includes one non-JC transfer
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 11/No. 9
Eventual Starters: 15 - Terence Scott (JC), Mark Asper, Will Tukuafu (JC), D.J. Davis, Talmadge Jackson III, Jeff Maehl, Casey Matthews, David Paulson, Eddie Pleasant, Kenny Rowe, Terrell Turner, Darrion Weems, Carson York, Josh Syria, Javes Lewis
Players still at UO: 8
Drew "D.J." Davis (left) and Terence Scott were part of UO's stellar 2007 recruiting class.
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 19/No. 23
Eventual Starters: 5 - Blake Ferras (JC), John Boyett, LaMichael James, Josh Kaddu, Darron Thomas
Players still at UO: 11
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 32/No. 26
Eventual Starters: 4 - Zac Clark (JC), Lavasier Tuinei (JC), Cliff Harris, Jackson Rice
Players still at UO: 17
Rivals/Scout Rankings: No. 13/No. 13
Eventual Starters: NA
Players still at UO: 23
After a quick glance, it's pretty easy to see that the 2007 group lived up to its rankings as 50 percent of the class became starters for at least one season. It's also a class that should continue to be a factor with six of its members projected to be starters again in 2011.
On the other hand, the "experts" clearly missed in 2005 and '06. The '05 class may have had just eight out of 23 recruits become starters, but seven of those players went on to wear an NFL uniform. The next year's crew may have lacked sizzle, but look at the substance. The lowest ranked class in the conference produced five players who would play key starting roles on two Pac-10 championship teams that advanced to the Rose Bowl and BCS National Championship game, respectively.
Based on Darron Thomas and LaMichael James alone, it's hard to argue that the 2008 recruiting class wasn't underrated, even if less than half of the players still remain on the current roster. In addition to the guys who have become starters, '08 brought us major contributors Kenjon Barner and LeGarrette Blount, and there are still a handful of other players that remain who could see significant playing time going forward.
As for 2009 and '10, we'll begin to get a better sense of how they stack up over the next couple of seasons. This core group represents nearly half of Oregon's scholarship allotment.
TRIO HEADED TO NFL COMBINE
Brandon Bair, Jeff Maehl and Casey Matthews each received invitations to attend the annual NFL Scouting Combine Feb. 23 through March 1 in Indianapolis. The threesome represents UO's top prospects for selection in the 2011 NFL Draft April 28-30. There is a chance additional players could be added to the combine list, but if not they will have an opportunity to workout in front of pro scouts at Oregon 's Pro Day in March.
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