Ducks one of few who recruit nationally
Chip Kelly brings new attitude to Oregon, plus Joyner's big news and more notes
Oregon is everywhere.
Don't believe it? Check out the top five lists of many of the nation's recruits. Green and yellow is the new black. The Ducks have expanded their recruiting reach to the entire country and can now be considered one of the programs that truly recruit nationally.
There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, Oregon has had much success on the field. The Ducks are 67-33 this decade. The uniforms, facilities and offensive system also have played a factor in Oregon's becoming an attractive option for players.
Take one glance at a recently released two-deep depth chart for the Ducks, and you will find quarterback Darron Thomas (Houston/Aldine), running backs LeGarrette Blount (Perry, Fla./East Mississippi Junior College) and Remene Alston Jr. (Greensboro, N.C./Page) and receiver Garrett Embry (Roswell, Ga./Roswell). Although the roster always will be loaded with players from Oregon, California and the West, more and more players are coming from other parts of the country, especially the Southeast and Texas.
"Those areas are fertile areas for football players," Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said. "We are always going to work inside out. The Northwest is always going to be the body and soul of the Oregon football program, but there are great football players in those areas, particularly a lot of guys with the speed we need.
"There also are so many great football players in those states. For example, in Texas, Texas and Texas A&M and Oklahoma and the rest can't get them all."
That speed is primarily needed to run Kelly's explosive spread offense. During Kelly's first two years at the school as the offensive coordinator under former head coach and current athletics director Mike Bellotti, Oregon averaged 38.2 and 41.9 points per game.
"Any time you can say that you put the ball in your playmakers' hands, that helps," Kelly said. "This is not a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense."
It also helps that Kelly and his staff can get a firsthand look at prospects in the Southeast and Texas because the majority of those high school programs hold spring practices.
"That's one of the big things for our coaches is to get out there and to be able to evaluate them," he said.
Oregon also has poured plenty of money into facilities during the past 15 years or so. The Ducks' locker rooms have been used as examples for other upgrades across the country. Their nice, 100-yard indoor practice facility is the first of its kind on the West Coast, and the school is building a state-of-the-art academic center for student-athletes.
"We will put our facilities up against anybody in the country," Kelly said.
The uniforms, of course, speak for themselves. Loudly, usually. The uniforms, which are undergoing another transformation (their fourth redesign in the past decade), may receive interesting reviews from the critics, but the players can't get enough of them.
In the current recruiting cycle, Oregon has running back Ethan Grant (Coconut Creek, Fla./North Broward) committed and is getting attention from a host of other prospects in the Southeast. In a well-publicized story this month, five players from Northern Guilford High in Greensboro, N.C., showed up for the Ducks' full-contact camp. Athlete Keenan Allen and defensive end Gabe King are among the most heavily recruited prospects in North Carolina, while cornerback James Scales, tight end/linebacker Chris McCain and Class of 2011 receiver Maurice Harris also project on the Division I level.
The Ducks are believed to be the current leader for Scales, and they are factors with the other prospects as well. They also are believed to be the current leaders for Thomas' old teammate, running back Dontae Williams, (Houston/Aldine) and quarterback Munchie Legaux (New Orleans/Edna Karr). A host of prospects have Oregon in their current top five or high on their list.
"They are very, very, very high on my list," Williams said.
Grant is part of Oregon's new push into South Florida. Linebacker/safety Issac Dixon (Miami/Monsignor Pace) is one player from Dade County who has the Ducks high on his list.
"An Oregon visit is a top priority for me," he said. "I will be going there this summer with my father. He likes Oregon a lot."
Oregon isn't the only Pac-10 school not named Southern California working in the Southeast. This recruiting cycle, California has become more active, and Stanford has recruited the Sun Belt region hard under Jim Harbaugh. But the Ducks are one of the most aggressive teams in that region, and it's paying off.
"Everybody from top to bottom is competitive," Kelly said. "I also think that the country is getting a little smaller. I am from the East Coast [he coached New Hampshire before coming to Oregon], and all I have to do is jump on an airplane and I am there in five hours or so, so you aren't really that far from home. I also think players are attracted to the Pac-10 style of football."
There are strong indications that Under Armour All-American Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) could be closing in on a decision. The talented defender is believed to have Ohio State and Florida State at the top of his list. Those two programs have been the strongest for the longest period of time for Joyner, and a decision could come by the weekend.
The hot sell
Tavaris Barnes (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast), wide receiver De'Joshua Johnson (Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee) and cornerback Merrill Noel (Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee). All three players could be difference-makers for the garnet and gold.
Recruiter to watch
And what would this sort of momentum be without a mastermind behind it? Coley is not the recruiter of record for Barnes but is for Johnson, Noel and Joyner. He has done a brilliant job of selling FSU in talent-rich South Florida, and if he beats out the Buckeyes for Joyner, he and the Seminoles will take a giant step toward a monster haul this year.
Future watch Last week, the spotlight was on Class of 2011 Clemson commit running back Marlin Lane (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland). This week, head down the east coast of Florida a bit to Cocoa High and keep an eye on Class of 2011 running back Chevelle Buie. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder had more than 1,700 yards of total offense last season and is already getting looks from ACC and SEC programs.
Michigan commit Ricardo Miller said that he is still living in Florida, but he and his family plan to move to Michigan the first week of August. He played at Dr. Phillips High in Orlando last season. ... Wide receiver Shakim Phillips (Wayne, N.J./De Paul Catholic) plans to narrow his list early next week. He recently visited Pitt, which picked up a huge New Jersey commit in defensive lineman T.J. Clemmings recently. ... Penn State is the most recent offer for defensive end Kareem Martin (Roanoke Rapids, N.C./Roanoke Rapids).
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.