Oregon Ducks

Beyond the rankings; Oregon football fills needs with historical 2019 recruiting class

Beyond the rankings; Oregon football fills needs with historical 2019 recruiting class

Oregon’s 2019 highest-rated recruiting class didn’t just make history; it filled position needs with top talent that could make an impact as early as next season.

The Ducks' recruiting class is ranked fifth in the country and for the first time ever, holds a firm grip on the Pac-12 Conference's top football recruiting class. As Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said, it’s an “awesome day to be a Duck.”

You knew that though.

[RELATED: Oregon football's best recruiting weapon: Mario Cristobal's authenticity]

It’s incredible that Oregon collected a pool of talent of 22 new Ducks, including the program's highest-rated recruit in program history and 11 four-star athletes, after a predictable 8-4 season. Cristobal expects 12 or 13 to enroll early and be on campus for spring football practices. Most impressively, the 2019 class is full of athletes that are seriously needed when looking at the roster for next season.

NEEDS

Let’s start with the quarterback.

Justin Herbert’s decision to turn professional or not most likely won’t be known until after Oregon’s bowl game. Regardless if Herbert stays for his senior season or not, the Ducks needed to secure a quality 2019 quarterback and Cale Millen was the their answer.

6-foot-4, 200-pound Millen competed in the Elite-11, a quarterback-focused camp held by Nike, and led the state of Washington with 4,260 total yards as a senior. His size and arm should excite Duck fans. He completed 75.9 percent of his passes for 3,807 yards with 51 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior. 

Oregon’s current backup quarterbacks were underwhelming this season. If Herbert forgoes his senior year, then Millen would be part of a three-player position battle starting next fall with Tyler Shough and Braxton Burmeister.

Should Herbert return for his senior year, Millen would be a lock to redshirt in 2019 and then compete to be Oregon’s starting quarterback in 2020.

“I felt that I was needed more at Oregon rather than just kind of being another guy filling a spot,” Millen told the Register Guard. "At other schools it was kind of, ‘Oh, we need a quarterback for the class, let’s take him.’ At Oregon, I felt like it wasn’t just filling a position. It was, ‘We need you here.’"

Receivers

2018 was the Dillon Mitchell show, and the junior wide receiver is considering striking while the iron is hot and declaring for the NFL. Should he choose to declare, Oregon's receiving corps would severely miss Mitchell. UO's second returning receiver, sophomore Jaylon Redd, has less than half of Mitchell's receptions and yards with 368 yards on 31 catches. 

The Ducks needed talented pass catchers in the 2019 class and they signed four, four-star receivers and one underrated three-star athlete. There are at least two commits that could conceivably make an impact as soon as next season. 

Four-star wide receiver Mycah Pittman is the third-highest rated wide receiver to ever sign with the Ducks. 5-foot-11, 200-pound Pittman is the type of talent that could step in from the start. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation. He also could make an impact on special teams. Cristobal called him, "an explosive and strong route runner.”

The lone in-state prospect, four-star tight end Patrick Herbert, also could contribute right away. He is the fourth highest-ranked tight end prospect to ever sign with Oregon and the little brother of quarterback Justin Herbert. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic.

Running back

Speaking of offensive weapons, 2018 saw the emergence of Ducks duo CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who will be excellent for years to come. But beyond those two freshmen, Oregon’s depth is very limited at the running back position.

Enter Sean Dollars. “You name it, he can do it,” Cristobal said.

Dollars, 247Sports’ top ranked all-purpose running back, has an opportunity to make an instant impact. The four-star out of Mater Dei High School is a workhorse, every-down type of back that can also catch the ball out of the backfield. Look for Dollars to enter the rotation as a freshman.

Linemen

“We’re going to keep investing in the trenches,” said Cristobal. And he wasn’t kidding.

The Ducks are set to return all five starters from this year's offensive line for next season, but bolstered their roster with the nation's best junior college offensive lineman, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu. He's the fifth-highest rated offensive lineman to ever sign with Oregon. At 6-foot-7, 345 pounds, Aumavae-Laulu will push competition for a starting position, and at the very least, see minutes in rotation. 

Oregon’s pass rush will lose two leaders in Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks to graduation. But no fear, Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top-rated high school player in the country is here! Thibodeaux will compete for a starting job from day one and should be an immediate impact player. Oregon recruited him to play defensive end. Listed at 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Inside Linebacker

At inside linebacker, Oregon loses senior Kaulana Apelu and possibly junior Troy Dye, if he elects to go to the NFL. The Ducks signed a four-star linebacker that could jump in right away at the rather thin position. 

Mase Funa is the highest-rated linebacker to sign with the Ducks in program history. Cristobal referred to Funa as "hands down the best linebacker out there." Funa’s strength and great instincts could make an impact right away for the Ducks.

Kicker

Oregon did not have a reliable option when it came to field goals last season. Sophomore Adam Stack struggled, finishing 6-of-10 from 40 yards-or-more this season.

Oregon’s first national letter of intent came from three-star place kicker Camden Lewis. Lewis has elite leg strength and performs under pressure. Scouting reports say Lewis is college ready. Cristobal says he will “elevate competition” at kicker. It’s extremely possible that Lewis is Oregon’s answer to its field goal problem. 

AREA OF CONCERN

Safety 

Oregon will need to replace major playmaker senior Ugo Amadi at safety in 2019. Who will step up? This has yet to be determined, but the Ducks signed only one safety during the early signing period. Oregon wanted to sign three prospects but whiffed on Jeremiah Criddell, who switched his commitment from Oregon to Oklahoma, and junior college safety Quandre Mosely, who was considering Oregon, but later signed with Kentucky. 

Between now and February’s Signing Day, Oregon will have to re-evaluate their options at safety for the 2019 class.

BONUS!

Cornerback

Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham were impressive in 2018. The duo returns and will be pushed by the highest-rated cornerback to sign with Oregon in history, Mykael Wright. Wright is extremely physical and excels in open field tackling. Look for the four star to make an impact in the rotation as a freshman.

Which new Duck do you think will make the biggest impact for Oregon next season?

Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos no longer a candidate to be the Colorado head coach?

Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos no longer a candidate to be the Colorado head coach?

Following Mel Tucker leaving Colorado for Michigan State, there was buzz that Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator Andy Avalos was a candidate to take over the program in Boulder.

FOX Sports radio host George Wrighster III said "he'd be willing to bet" that Avalos received a call from Colorado gauging his interest, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg named Avalos an "interesting candidate" for Colorado who was focused on defensive coaches and Sportsline opened Avalos as the candidate with the second-best odds at +400. 

[RELATED: Oregon Ducks DC Andy Avalos a candidate for the Colorado Buffaloes job?]

Well, it appears that Duck fans can relax as Colorado will name a head coach "within 36 hours" with former Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun as the leading candidates. according to Scott Roussel of Football Scoop.

Additionally, Brian Howell of BuffZone reported a list of candidates that did not include Avalos, either. While not definite it hasn't happened, there have not been any reports of Avalos interviewing for the job so it'd be unlikely he's being seriously considered by Colorado. 

It may only be a matter of time before Avalos becomes a head coach somewhere. The Athletic's Bruce Feldman named Avalos a "name to know once the coaching carousel begins in earnest" back in October and a potential candidate for the Fresno State head coaching job in December. Here's what he wrote last season.

Looking for a fast riser? Here’s your guy. Avalos is the latest Boise State product who has blossomed into a big-time coaching product. He’s proved a great addition for Mario Cristobal. The Ducks are nasty on defense now; they haven’t allowed more than seven points in a game since the opener against Auburn. As with Arroyo and a few others on here, there are potential MWC openings that might interest Avalos, a Southern California native.

The Ducks have already lost one coordinator this offseason after OC Marcus Arroyo left for the head coaching job at UNLV. Cristobal hired former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as his replacement.

Defensive backs coach Donte' Williams also left Eugene for USC for the same position and to be their passing game coordinator two weeks ago.

Joe Burrow advised to 'pull an Eli Manning', could Justin Herbert go No. 1?

Joe Burrow advised to 'pull an Eli Manning', could Justin Herbert go No. 1?

For years Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has been a highly coveted draft prospect, but can he go first overall?

It's not likely but never say never. 

The heavy favorite to be selected first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, has recently said he has "leverage" over Cincinnati: “They have their process and I have my process. We haven’t even gotten to the (NFL) combine yet. There’s a lot of things that happen leading up to the draft and a lot of information gathered."

Now, he's receiving advice to force his way away from the Bengals.

At the Davey O'Brien Award event Sunday evening, former No. 1 overall pick Steve Bartkowski said he believes Burrow should "pull an Eli Manning" to avoid being drafted by the Bengals, according to Drew Davison of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram

 If it’s the Bengals, I think I’d pull an Eli Manning on that one. I said, you’ve got a chance to do that. That’s happened. [John] Elway kind of set the tone, then the Mannings delved into it after Eli was picked by San Diego.

The Bengals are considered one of the worst run franchises in the NFL having not won a playoff game since 1990, and Bartkowski doesn't want to see Burrow's career ruined like his was after being selected by another poorly ran franchise at the time: the Atlanta Falcons in 1975.

“I know what it’s like to go to a bottom-feeder team. I’d hate to see that happen to him, to be honest. They beat me up. I spent more time at the hospital recuperating from injuries my first three years than I did throwing touchdowns. It was tough.”

If Burrow would listen to Bartkowski and the Bengals didn't draft Burrow anyways, they may decide to go with Herbert instead. 

To jumpstart the draft process, the Eugene native impressed all week at Senior Bowl practice, including Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

He’s very talented physically. He’s got prototypical size and athletic ability. He has a really, really strong arm. On top of that, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s very conscientious. He gathers information, he can process it and he can call it. He went under center for the first time, probably, in his career and he answered that bell with flying colors. Every day I continue to be impressed with the things we ask him to do and he answers really well.

Herbert was named the MVP of both the Senior Bowl practices and the Senior Bowl itself after passing for 83 yards on 9-of-13 passing and a touchdown.

However, Ducks fans may be rooting for Herbert to go later in the draft to a team more ready to compete, like the Los Angeles Chargers at sixth overall. 

[RELATED: The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?] 

Payton Pritchard named Naismith Men's Player of the Week for the third time this season

Payton Pritchard named Naismith Men's Player of the Week for the third time this season

Payton Pritchard is the best men’s basketball player in America. OK, at least this week. 

The Oregon Ducks star guard was named Naismith Men’s Player of the Week after averaging 20 points, 5.5 rebounds, three assists and two steals as Oregon went 2-0 for the week.

This is his third National Player of the Week nod this season. 

Pritchard helped lead the Ducks to back-to-back wins after consecutive losses to Stanford and Oregon State. Pritchard added a second double-double and another thrilling victory to his resume as the Ducks mounted a second half comeback from 14 points down to top then No. 16 Colorado, 68-60. The victory over the Buffaloes was also his 100th career win in a Ducks uniform

Pritchard had the hot hand again on Sunday, finishing 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-9 from behind the arc for 25 points to help his No. 17 Ducks crush Utah, 80-62. 

“These two games were must-wins for us, obviously, to keep in the hunt for a conference championship,” Pritchard said after Sunday’s win. “We needed to get these and bounce back.”

The win over Utah was also a monumental moment for Pritchard’s career at Oregon. His 25 points gave him 1,810 total points, fifth in school history. He is the only Pac-12 player to have 1800 points, 500 rebounds and 600 assists. 

Oregon remains (20-6, 9-4 Pac-12) a perfect 14-0 at Matthew Knight Arena and is tied with Colorado for top of the Pac-12 standings with five games left in the regular season. The Ducks moved up to No. 14 in this week's AP poll. 

New Oregon Ducks recruiter Cooper Petagna throws shade at Washington

New Oregon Ducks recruiter Cooper Petagna throws shade at Washington

As if the Oregon vs. Washington rivalry wasn’t intense enough, new Oregon football recruiting coach Cooper Petagna added a layer of intrigue.

On Monday, it was announced that head coach Mario Cristobal had hired Petagna away from the Washington Huskiesto join the Oregon recruiting staff.

Later Monday, Petagna changed both his Twitter avatar and header photo. The avatar merely displays the Oregon "O", which is nothing terribly compelling. But, one has to read in-between the lines with the header. A picture is worth a thousands words... 

The photo is of Ducks wide receiver Mycah Pittman running for a touchdown in last season’s game... at Washington.

Coincidence? We think not. 

Undoubtedly, the shade Petanga is throwing is sure to be in good fun. 

Here’s how social media reacted to Petagna’s new profile:

The Ducks will host the Huskies in 2020 on Saturday, October 3 in Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon.

Mario Cristobal adds Cooper Petagna to Oregon football recruiting staff

Mario Cristobal adds Cooper Petagna to Oregon football recruiting staff

Mario Cristobal loves recruiting. Players, coaches, you name it and he's good at it.

With the loss of cornerbacks coach Donte' Williams to USC, one may ponder how this would effect recruiting as Williams was the No. 1 recruiter in the Pac-12 conference. Well, not only did Cristobal go out and hire away Rod Chance from Minnesota, but he also added another weapon in recruiting on Oregon's coaching staff, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg:

Petagna comes down five hours south on I-5 highway from the University of Washington, where he served as Director of Player Personnel at UW. He has a taste of west coast football and knows how to recruit which is advantageous for the Ducks after losing Williams to USC, another Pac-12 school.

According to Rittenberg, Petagna has experience recruiting at LSU, Michigan and Alabama, three big power-5 schools with lots of football talent. So if you add Petagna's recruiting skills plus Oregon brand and its national relevance plus the recent success of the program and this seems like a good recipe for the future of the Oregon program.

Oregon Ducks men's basketball moves up in latest AP Poll

Oregon Ducks men's basketball moves up in latest AP Poll

The Oregon Ducks men's basketball team picked up two clutch wins over the weekend to remain at the top in a tight race for the Pac-12 crown.

In the latest AP Poll rankings, Oregon has moved up three spots from No. 17 to No. 14 this week.

It started with a huge comeback victory over then No. 16 Colorado on Thursday night. With Bill Walton, Dave Pasch and guest announcer Mark Jackson calling the game, the Ducks came from behind in a 14-point deficit to defeat the Buffs 68-60 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene. 

[RELATED]: Payton Pritchard gets his 100th career win in an Oregon uniform

On Sunday, the Ducks handled the visiting Utah Utes led by the sharp-shooting of sophomore Will Richardson, who finished a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range, and senior Payton Pritchard, who led all Oregon scores with 25 points and sinking five three-pointers in the first half. The Ducks built a 10+ point lead in the first half shooting 66.7% as a team from behind the arc and used the cushion the rest of the way.

Coming up next for Oregon is a road trip this upcoming weekend in the desert followed by three home games against unranked opponents: Oregon State (5-8 in Pac-12); Cal (4-8 Pac-12); and Stanford (5-7 Pac-12).

Oregon's Ruthy Hebard awarded Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

Oregon's Ruthy Hebard awarded Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

The No. 3 Oregon Ducks (24-2, 13-1) are riding a 12-game win streak heading into the final four games of Pac-12 conference play.

After a dominant weekend in Los Angeles, led by two double-double performances from senior forward Ruthy Hebard, the senior received Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

Over the weekend, Hebard averaged a double-double: 26.0 points and 13.5 rebounds. She was a mismatch down low in both games against UCLA and USC. The Bruins and Trojans had no answer for the 6-foot-4 senior down low. She put up 30 points and pulled down 17 rebounds against then-No. 7 UCLA, a difficult task against one of the better rebounding teams in the conference. 

Hebard is averaging 17.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season.

Up next, the Ducks remain on the road, for what seems like an eternity now, for a weekend in the Bay Area starting with unranked Cal (2-12 in Pac-12) on Friday night followed by a top-5 showdown at No. 4 Stanford (12-2 in Pac-12) on Monday night.

In their first meeting, Hebard was limited to 16 points and 6 boards against Cal and 11 points and five rebounds against Stanford. Yes, the Ducks defeated Cal 105-55 and then a 32-point victory over Stanford 87-55, but this time around the Ducks are the visiting team and Hebard will be looking for more of an impact.

Oregon women's basketball receives a first-place vote in latest AP Poll

Oregon women's basketball receives a first-place vote in latest AP Poll

Keep ascending. 

Oregon women's basketball (24-2, 13-1 Pac-12) may not have moved up in the rankings, remaining at No. 3 in the latest AP Poll, but they received a first-place vote for the first time since Week 1, when they were ranked second in the country.

South Carolina (24-1) remained the top-ranked team in the nation with 27 first-place votes and No. 2 Baylor got two first-place votes.

Other ranked Pac-12 teams include No. 4 Stanford (23-3), No. 8 UCLA (21-3), No. 11 Arizona (21-4), No. 15 Oregon State (19-6) and No. 21 Arizona State (18-8).

Let's recap the weekend for the Ducks.

@ then-No. 7 UCLA, WIN 80-66

Seniors Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard got started early and it was enough to hold off a fourth-quarter rally from the Bruins. Ionescu surpassed 1,000 career assists and finished with 18 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Hebard added 30 points and 17 rebounds for her 51st career double-double.

For the second-consecutive game, the Ducks held their opponent to single-digits in the first quarter, only allowing eight UCLA points. 

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: Ionescu, Hebard take over in No. 3 Oregon’s huge win over No. 7 UCLA]

@USC, WIN 93-67

In Minyon Moore's homecoming, she shared the love by dishing out 11 assists, however, USC did not welcome her back with open arms. The graduate transfer, who left USC to play at Oregon with the blessing of her head coach, was called a traitor by the Trojan student section. Ducks coach Kelly Graves was not having it.

As far as the game was concerned, the Ducks took care of business: Ionescu had 12 points and 13 rebounds, Hebard recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds, Satou Sabally ended with 18 points and Erin Boley hit seven three-pointers finishing with 25 points. 

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: ‘Boley Buckets’ heats up in L.A. as No. 3 Oregon cruises past USC]

UP NEXT: The Ducks will travel to the Bay area to play Cal on Friday before playing in Palo Alton against No. 4 Stanford on Monday. 

Oregon Senate passes bill which could soon pay student athletes

Oregon Senate passes bill which could soon pay student athletes

Student-athletes in Oregon are one step closer to being compensated for their name, image and likeness.

Per AJ McCord of KOIN, the Oregon State Senate passed a bill Monday that would give student-athletes the right to be paid, secure representation and receive endorsements. It would also enable them to maintain ownership of their name, image and likeness. 

Similar to legislation passed in California, Senate Bill 1501 is designed to let college athletes profit from their participation in amateur sports. 

The NCAA’s amateurism rules currently prohibit college athletes from entering endorsements from brands like Nike or being paid to host summer camps to teach their sport. Under the current model, players are not allowed to participate in NCAA games if they receive payments.

Under this bill, Oregon softball outfielder Haley Cruse or Ducks football signee Dontae Manning could profit from their success as viral sensations on TikTok. 

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. If approved by the house, Governor Kate Brown will be next to sign off on the legislation.