West Linn High School senior offensive tackle Alex Forsyth committed to Oregon in June hoping to play for coach Mark Helfrich and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood.
However, the developments over the past two weeks changed those plans. Helfrich was fired on Nov. 29 after a 4-8 season. Nine days later, the Ducks introduced Willie Taggart as the new head coach.
Forsyth said the program's rapid change of direction surprised him but never made him flinch on his commitment to the Ducks.
A lifelong UO fan, Forsyth would likely still play in Eugene if The Oregon Duck mascot became head coach. That said, Forsyth is pleased that his disappointment over Helfrich's firing has been lessened by the excitement surrounding Taggart.
“I think they hired someone who is very good and very qualified," Forsyth said of Taggart, who rebuilt programs at South Florida and Western Kentucky. “I just really liked his energy and the way he talked about having 'a great day if you want to.' He just seems like a great guy and a great recruiter. Great coach."
Taggart certainly lit up the room during his introductory press conference last Thursday at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. He comes to Oregon with loads of potential but is unproven in a Power Five conference.
Forsyth (6-foot-5 290-pounds) said that numerous reports about Helfrich's potential demise lessened the shock of the news when it happened. Still, he was surprised given all that Oregon had accomplished under Helfrich, and that the 2016 team experienced a lot of bad luck, including numerous injuries to key players and several close losses.
“There was a lot of things that were very, very unfortunate that happened,” he said.
Taggart is in the process of putting together his coaching staff and said that he would reach out to current assistants to see if they fit his future plans. Forsyth said he hopes to see Greatwood stick around.
“It is a little disappointing knowing that he might not be there," Forsyth said of Greatwood. "I hope they keep him. But if they don’t it won't affect my commitment."
Forsyth, a four-star recruit and the top-rated player in the state according to Rivals.com, anchored West Linn's offensive line that helped lead the Lions to a 62-7 victory over Central Catholic in the 6A championship game on Dec. 3. Also on that team was four-star defensive back Elijah Molden, whose father Alex Molden played for Oregon in the 1990s.
It was widely assumed Elijah Molden would follow in his father's foot steps, until he didn't. Molden on Nov. 12 committed to Washington, a development that reflected poorly on Helfrich and Oregon. Forsyth said his good friend's decision surprised him a bit but he understands Molden's reasoning.
"It was a hard decision for him," Forsyth said. "He just saw a lot in all of the schools. I know it was a close decision for him....He wanted to blaze his own trail. Carve his own path.”
When Helfrich got fired, a few recruits decommitted from Oregon, knocking the team's class ranking from No. 23 to No. 43. It's now No. 42.
"Some I could see coming," Forsyth said of the decommitts. "They really wanted to play for Helfrich."
Taggart will have his chance to bulk up the 2017 class. He has already flipped one recruit, athlete Darrian McNeal out of Florida. He had been committed to Arizona.
Other UO commits, Forsyth has spoken with, have remained on board and are pumped up to play for Taggart. So is Forsyth, who believes the Ducks will rise again very soon.
“I see that there’s going to be a turnaround," Forsyth said, "which is reassuring."