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?

Ducks drop in AP Poll after a series split in Washington

Ducks drop in AP Poll after a series split in Washington

The Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team had an interesting weekend north in Washington with each game falling on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

First, the Ducks dropped a conference loss to unranked Washington State  72-61 in Pullman, WA. 

[RELATED]: Oregon has no answer for CJ Elleby in Washington State’s first top-10 win since 2007

Looking to bounce back at Washington, senior guard Payton Pritchard lead the Ducks recording 22 points off 6-of-12 from three-point range. Two of his three-pointers came in the clutch: one to force overtime, and one to win it all.

[RELATED]: Payton Pritchard's three-point dagger in OT seals Ducks' comeback win over Washington

After the wild weekend, Oregon has dropped in this week’s AP Poll from No. 8 to No. 12.

Joined by the Ducks (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) in the AP Poll is No. 22 Arizona and No. 23 Colorado.

UP NEXT: The Ducks host the Los Angeles schools starting with the leader of the Pac-12 USC Trojans (15-3, 4-1 Pac-12) on Thursday night followed by UCLA (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) on Sunday. 

Oregon climbs in AP Poll, Ionescu earns Pac-12 honors

Oregon climbs in AP Poll, Ionescu earns Pac-12 honors

The Oregon Ducks women’s basketball squad outscored their opponents 192-110 over the weekend. 

A 32-point victory over then No. 3 Stanford and a 50-point win over unranked Cal.

After such a dominating weekend, the Ducks have moved up in the AP Poll Top-25 rankings from No. 6 up to No. 4.

Other Pac-12 nods include No. 6 Stanford, No. 7 Oregon State, No. 10 UCLA, No. 16 Arizona State, and No. 18 Arizona.

Against Stanford, the G.O.A.T Sabrina Ionescu was three rebounds shy of recording yet another triple-double: 37 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. 

The Ducks and Cardinal were back-and-forth throughout the first half with Oregon taking a 36-30 lead at halftime. But the third quarter is where everything changed for Oregon.

Second quarter, we started to establish who we are and how we wanted to play the game and then I thought the third quarter is when we put the hammer down. That was as good as a defensive quarter as we’ve played this year. — Head Coach Kelly Graves

Not only did Oregon candidly take care of Stanford, but Ionescu became Oregon’s all-time leading scorer.

It starts with Sabrina. She was magical tonight in lots of different ways. — Graves

Two days later, the Ducks dismantled the Cal Golden Bears putting up a triple-digit score (105) on one end and limiting Cal to only 55 points on the other. This time, it was junior Satou Sabally who lead all scores with 31 points and junior Erin Boley who dropped 22 points hitting 6-of-8 from three-point range.

After the historic weekend, Ionescu earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.

UP NEXT: Welcome to Civil War weekend. The No. 4 Oregon Ducks will first host rival No. 7 Oregon State on Friday at 7 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena before making the 45-minute trip north to Corvallis for part two on Sunday, tip-off at 1 p.m (PT).

'Recruitment is shut down:' Four-star OL Josh Simmons commits to Oregon

screen_shot_2020-01-20_at_9.59.58_am.png
USA Today Images

'Recruitment is shut down:' Four-star OL Josh Simmons commits to Oregon

"10000% locked in."

That was the message four-star OL Josh Simmons had on Monday morning when he announced his commitment to join the Oregon football program. 

The news comes less than a month after Coach Mario Cristobal and his coaching staff offered Simmons a full ride scholarship and opportunity to play with the Ducks. He has yet to visit Eugene. 

"Family is everything to me. I know I would not have been able to get to this point in my life without the love and support of my Mother and Sister." Simmons said. "Through everything I know I have been able to lean on them. I also want to give thanks to everyone from the Helix community, my Coaches, Teachers at Madison and everyone who has had an impact on my academic and athletic career up to this point. Lastly I want to thank all the Coaches that believed in me and gave me an opportunity to further my studies while continuing to play the game I love. With that being said I would like to announce that I am Committing to the University of Oregon. Recruitment is Shut Down. 10000% Locked in #CaliFlock #ScoDucks #Duckforlife."

Simmons committed to Oregon over offers from UCLA, USC, Colorado, Duke and Washington State. He is Cristobal's sixth verbal commit of the 2021 class and the second offensive line commit with Simmons joining Jackson Light, the nation's No. 6 center. 

Matt Coombs leaves Oregon to become defensive coordinator for UC Davis

Matt Coombs leaves Oregon to become defensive coordinator for UC Davis

Oregon is losing a defensive analyst.

According to Matt Coombs' Twitter account (and his newly changed Twitter handle), the Oregon defensive analyst is headed to UC Davis, where he will join Dan Hawkins' staff as defensive coordinator. 

"Thank you to Oregon football, Coach Cristobal and Andy Avalos for a memorable season," Coombs said in the post. "I am fired up to work as the new defensive coordinator at UC Davis."

Before joining Oregon’s staff in 2019, Coombs was slated to serve as Eastern Oregon’s defensive coordinator.

Coombs' stint in Eugene was short-lived. The Washington State native joined the Ducks coaching staff last offseason as defensive analyst after four seasons with Boise State Football. He worked primarily as a defensive special assistant and a defensive quality control assistant. 

Northwest Guide to the AFC & NFC Conference Championships

usatsi_13682281.jpg
USA Today Images

Northwest Guide to the AFC & NFC Conference Championships

The Seattle Seahawks may no longer be in the postseason, but that doesn't mean you can't have a rooting interest in the remaining playoff games. 

Here's every player with a tie to the Pacific Northwest that may play this weekend in a conference championship. 

San Francisco 49ers

Arik Armstead - Oregon Ducks (2012-2014)

Armstead came to Eugene as one of the highest-rated defensive recruits in school history and lived up to that billing. He recorded 46 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and 2.5 sacks as a junior before being selected seventeenth overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. So far for the Niners Armstead has racked up 41 tackles, 10 sacks, and two forced fumbles.

DeForest Buckner - Oregon Ducks (2012-2015)

Joining Armstead on the defensive line is the former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year DeForest Buckner. The 49ers selected Buckner with the seventh overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft following an incredible senior season when he recorded 83 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, and 10.5 sacks. This season the defensive end has 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles on his way to being selected as second-team All-Pro. 

Richard Sherman - Seattle Seahawks (2011-2017)

The Seattle Seahawks selected one the mainstays of the Legion of Boom in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Stanford University. In Seattle, he became one of the greatest players in franchise history. Famous for his loud mouth, he backed up his smack talk with his play on the field. His most famous play as a Seahawk was his tipped pass to force an interception to clinch the NFC Conference in 2013 against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Green Bay Packers

Evan Baylis - Oregon Ducks (2013-2016)

As a Duck Baylis caught 44 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns. He had five catches in the 2015 CFB Playoff National Championship Game. He went undrafted but due to the Texans having four tight-ends in concussion protocol Baylis made the active roster to begin the season before being cut a few weeks later. He has bounced around practice squads before joining the Packers' practice squad.

Cole Madison — Washington State Cougars (2013-2017)

The Packers selected the Cougars guard in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. This past season he was put on Injured Reserve after suffering a torn ACL in practice. He has yet to see the field in the NFL. As a senior in Pullman, he was rewarded with an All-Pac-12 First-Team selection by the Associated Press. 

Kansas City Cheifs

Matt Moore - Oregon State Beavers (2005-2006)

Backing up Patrick Mahomes will be former Beavers quarterback Matt Moore. He got a few starts this season with Mahomes out with an ankle injury, playing well in a loss to Green Bay and then defeating the Minnesota Vikings 26-23 after Moore threw for 275 yards passing and a touchdown. In Corvallis, Moore played two seasons including a senior year where Oregon State won ten games including a thriller over then-No. 3 USC.

[RELATED: Reviewing former Oregon State QB Matt Moore's NFL journey]

Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota - Oregon Ducks (2012-2014)

The greatest player in program history will suit up in the AFC Championship game but not as the starter. The Titans selected Mariota with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft but benched the Heisman Trophy winner in favor of Ryan Tannehill after a 2-4 start. Mariota has still seen the field in both of Tennessee's playoff victories this season, however.

Oregon recruit Noah Sewell injured in Polynesian Bowl, severity unknown

screen_shot_2020-01-19_at_3.00.51_am.png
Noah Sewell/Twitter

Oregon recruit Noah Sewell injured in Polynesian Bowl, severity unknown

One of Oregon’s top recruits for 2020 was injured Saturday night. 

Noah Sewell, the five-star inside linebacker and brother to Penei Sewell, went down at during the Polynesian Bowl.

The game, which is held in Honolulu, HI, is an all-star football game featuring the world's elite high school players of Polynesian heritage and other ancestries.

Sewell, a 6'2", 266-pound prospect chose the Ducks out of 34 total offers in November and officially signed in December. 247Sports rates Sewell as the best player to come out the state of Utah and the second-best inside linebacker in the country.

In addition to Sewell, the following Oregon recruits participated: Linebacker Justin Flowe, wide receiver Kris Hutson, cornerback Dontae Manning, quarterback Robby Ashford, cornerback Luke Hill, offensive lineman Laaope Laloulu and defensive lineman Maceal Adaese.

The nature of Sewell’s injury is not known at this time. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. We’ll update you as information becomes available.

Payton Pritchard's three-point dagger in OT seals Ducks’ comeback win over Washington

usatsi_13928237.jpg
USA Today Images

Payton Pritchard's three-point dagger in OT seals Ducks’ comeback win over Washington

It is difficult to play in front of an sellout crowd of 10,000 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena.

It’s even more challenging to mount a comeback when your team is down 16 points with 10:22 remaining in the second quarter.

But when the game is on the line in overtime, and you give Payton Pritchard the ball, you might as well call it game. Pritchard is built for moments like these. 

The National Player of the Week came up time and time again in No. 8 Oregon's 64-61 overtime victory over Washington, but perhaps his biggest shots came in the final moments. With 1:09 to go in regulation and 8 seconds on the shot clock, Pritchard hit a 3 from Mars to tie the game up. UW's Isaiah Stewart responded with two made free throws to give the Huskies a lead once again. Then, Pritchard found Shakur Juiston for the lay-in off pass to tie it up 56-all, and a missed three-pointer from Jamal Bey would send the game in overtime. 

Pritchard's most important basket of the night came with 3 seconds left on the clock in overtime. Pritchard drilled a 3 from way, way beyond the arc at the end of the shot clock to complete Oregon's largest comeback victory since Feb. 22, 2017. 

"This is MY city," Pritchard appeared to be shouting after the play. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting, made six three pointers in the win and effortlessly perfected the Damian Lillard "Bad Shot."

Even Tyrell Crosby knows Payton Pritchard is the real deal. 



Freshman Chandler Lawson added a career-high 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Ducks and was crucial in the second half, helping the Ducks dig out of a 16-point hole. 

Next up, Oregon (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) will head back to Matthew Knight Arena to host the USC Trojans (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12). 

Zest, sweat and grit pays off for Rose Bowl Defensive MVP Brady Breeze: 'I just had to believe in myself'

Zest, sweat and grit pays off for Rose Bowl Defensive MVP Brady Breeze: 'I just had to believe in myself'

When Brady Breeze entered spring practice heading into his junior year, the Ducks safety knew his chance of playing was grim. Breeze was a fourth-string boundary safety and not much higher than scout team.

Fast forward nine months and Breeze stood on the field in Pasadena, Calif., as the Rose Bowl’s Defensive MVP. He had a spectacular performance: compiling nine tackles, a pass breakup, a forced fumble and fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Ducks 28-27 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers.

On this week’s episode of Talkin’ Ducks with Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman, the hometown hero out of Lake Oswego discussed the challenges he faced on a stacked Ducks roster and how his confidence in himself helped make the defense so successful.

“I just kept faithful with myself,” Breeze said. “Most guys would have just transferred. As soon as they see themselves as second or third string, their transferring. So I knew the reason I came here is because I love the University of Oregon and I love everything about this school and the football program. That was just something that was kind of my motivation. I knew I was good enough…I knew I was athletic enough. I just had to believe in myself. Every single day is a battle to try to earn every single rep.”

Breeze believes the extra work he did outside practice, including the 15-30 minutes in the weight room every day which helped him to gain more armor on his body, ultimately paid off at the end of the year.

“As far as the season went, I would approach every day at practice trying to work on my back pedaling technique, work on my brakes,” Breeze said. “I would go in the weight room like after our little extra workouts, just to do little things here and there to help maintain my body so I can stay healthy throughout the whole season.”

Breeze also discussed what it was like to work with first-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and what he expects from the Ducks next season. 

Oregon Ducks hire a coach, just not an offensive coordinator

usa-today-8155191.0.jpg
IMAGN

Oregon Ducks hire a coach, just not an offensive coordinator

An addition to the Oregon Ducks coaching staff was revealed on Friday, but it's not the one many people were expecting.

Since news came earlier this week that the Ducks were expected to hire former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead as their new offensive coordinator, many wondered when the university would make the news official. 

Well, it wasn't Friday. 

Although, Mario Cristobal did add to his coaching staff.

Jalen Ortiz, recently a defensive graduate assistant at Wyoming, will join Oregon as an assistant coach for the defensive backs.

Ortiz's Twitter account also lists "Defensive Graduate Assistant UO" in the description of his profile. 

Jalen Ortiz spent two seasons as a graduate assistant with the Wyoming Football program.

As a defensive graduate assistant in 2018, Ortiz helped coach a Cowboy defense that ranked No. 19 in the nation in total defense (allowing opponents only 326.2 yards per game), were No. 25 in the NCAA in rushing defense (129.5 yards per game), ranked No. 28 in scoring defense (giving up only 22.0 points per game) and were No. 32 in pass defense (196.7 yards per game).  The UW defense also ranked No. 16 in the country in fewest first downs allowed to opponents (223).       

Ortiz completed his college playing career with the Cowboys in 2017.  Ortiz was Wyoming’s starting strong-side (SAM) linebacker and nickel back in 2017. He was a transfer from UCLA where in two seasons, Ortiz appeared in 26 games. 

He'll work under defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and presumably co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Keith Heyward and cornerbacks coach Donte Williams.