Justin Flowe

Defensive monsters, skilled weapons, big men in the trenches: How Oregon’s 2020 class is filling needs

Defensive monsters, skilled weapons, big men in the trenches: How Oregon’s 2020 class is filling needs

Oregon’s 2020 recruiting class is taking shape and it is already making history. A step back reveals the bigger picture, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s recruiting prowess is tangible and thriving. In Oregon’s graduating senior class, the Ducks will lose quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye and four starting offensive linemen. This special group of seniors are leaving the future of Oregon football in the hands of upcoming leaders, while the incoming freshmen, who Cristobal referenced as "game changers", will bolster the roster .

The secret sauce is being real. We have a tremendous passion for the University of Oregon. We all feel, without a shred of doubt, that this is the best place in the entire country. - Mario Cristobal

With the 2020 class (which isn’t completely settled until February), Cristobal filled needs on the roster with skilled weapons, defensive monsters and big men in the trenches.

Skilled Weapons


Justin Herbert will play his last game as a Duck in the Rose Bowl vs. Wisconsin. Herbert’s likely heir could be redshirt freshman Tyler Shough, who has flashed his skill and talent from the Spring Game to the Nevada game and beyond as Oregon’s back-up. However, having some competition (also add freshman Cale Millen) for the starting role is ideal. Whoever Iearns QB1 status will face Ohio State in Oregon’s second game of the 2020 season.

Enter four-star pro-style quarterback Jay Butterfield. Butterfield is the highest-ranked quarterback to commit to the Ducks since Kellen Clemens in 2003 and the Pac-12 highest-rated quarterback commitment in the 2020 class. The No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the nation is 6-foot-6, 202-pounds and Cristobal called him, 

One of the better players in the country.

According to Cristobal, Butterfield is enrolling early and the competition will be open for what he expects will be intense spring practices. Butterfield could push Shough for the job, or possibly win it. If he doesn’t, the two-year difference is large enough that Butterfield could be groomed to take over after Shough. Oregon also added the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, Robby Ashford.


Oregon keeps all of its starting wide receivers except for grad-transfer Juwan Johnson, so landing four-star receiver Kris Hutson is a bonus. Hutson committed to Oregon on the morning of the spring game after being being committed to USC, originially.

The Bellflower (Cal.) St. John Bosco High School wide receiver will instantly add to Oregon’s depth at receiver with a chance to contribute right away. He's 5-foot-11, 175-pounds and is a talented receiver who displays excellent route running abilities as Oregon’s top-rated receiver from the 2020 class.

Defensive Monsters


The Ducks’ leading tackler for the past three seasons, inside linebacker Troy Dye, is headed for the NFL and it appears UO has found worthy candidates to fill the void left by him. Oregon also loses senior Bryson Young to graduation.

Enter two five-star inside linebackers, Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. Both commits are among the top-10 recruits in Oregon football history, coming together for a scary (at least) three seasons together. Also, Oregon added three-star linebacker Jackson LaDuke.

I’ve never been around a caliber of linebacking class like that. Their block-destruction capabilities are phenomenal. These guys are game changers. - Mario Cristobal

Watching how defensive coordinator Andy Avalos pairs Flowe and Sewell with an already dominating front seven, plus defensive end Kayvon Thibodeax (2019’s No. 1 recruit who is breaking records

and wreaking havoc) will be prime time college football.

Oregon has landed three (Thibodeaux, Flowe, Sewell) five-star defensive players in back-to-back classes for the first time ever.

Sewell could earn a starting spot instantly, much like his older brother Penei Sewell, who earned the starting left tackle spot as a freshman. Noah Sewell’s obvious athleticism for his size already projects him as an early NFL draft pick.

Flowe will also certainly threaten to start immediately. The relentless athlete is “one of the most physical football players to come out of California in years,” according to 247Sports evaluation. Flowe recorded 123 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles and 13 quarterback hurries in his senior season.

Big men in the trenches

The Ducks will lose four offensive line starters at the end of this season. Shane Lemieux, Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hanson, Dallas Warmack and Brady Aiello are leaving (literal) big shoes to fill as a dominant force up front that has attributed to much of the Ducks recent success.

Oregon added five new offensive linemen in 2020 to help fill the trenches. As a former offensive lineman, Cristobal made this a priority.

Trenches were addressed with size, length, explosiveness, recover-ability. -Cristobal

In Oregon’s 2020 class is: four-star offensive guard Jonathan Denis, three-star offensive guard T.J. Bass, three-star offensive tackle Jaylan Jeffers, three-star offensive guard Marcus Harper and three-star offensive tackle Faaope Laloulu.

The importance of adding to the offensive line depth cannot be overstated. Each of these five athletes walks into a prime situation to contribute right away. The strength of Bass, the size of Laloulu (390 pounds) and agility of Jeffers make those three very interesting prospects for the next season.

Cristobal has lived up to his reputation has an elite recruiter. Currently, Oregon is within striking distance of cracking the top-10 again. The 2020 class is ranked No. 16 by 247sports and No. 11 by Rivals, with a couple months before the classes are settled in February.

The second-year head coach led Oregon to sign the nation’s No. 13 class in 2018 according to 247Sports, just under two months after being named the head coach. A year later, Cristobal and his staff landed the highest-ranked class in program history at No. 6 by ESPN, marking the first time Oregon has ever had the top class in the Pac-12.

It appears the 2020 class is headed towards the same success, which is showing obvious dividends for the Pac-12 Champion Ducks as they prepare for their first Rose Bowl since 2014.

Social Media reacts to five-star LB Justin Flowe committing to the Oregon Ducks

Social Media reacts to five-star LB Justin Flowe committing to the Oregon Ducks

11:16am... that's the time when Justin Flowe, the top rated outside linebacker in the country, as well as the top player in California, donned an Oregon baseball cap and flashed an O to the cameras, surrounded by his classmates in a crowded gym at Upland High School. 

Many Ducks fans, players and coaches took to social media to share their excitement. 

To get things started, many current and future Ducks players were hyped, like the other five-star linebacker in the 2020 recruiting class: Noah Sewell.

As did Keith Brown, a 2021 Ducks commit who also happens to be the top rated inside linebacker in the country for his recruiting class.

Many other Ducks celebrated the announcement.

Former USC and Heisman winner Matt Leinart also paid attention to the newest trend in recruiting; recruits from southern California going to Oregon rather than USC.

Some national media pundits also are taking note of the Ducks’ stellar recruiting, such as Bruce Feldman.

As excited as the Ducks players were, the fans were equally as excited. 

Some USC fans didn’t take the news well.

Oregon strikes gold with Justin Flowe: Makes history, high-ceiling impact

Oregon strikes gold with Justin Flowe: Makes history, high-ceiling impact

The Oregon Ducks just landed one of their highest 2020 recruiting class targets on the board. Five-star linebacker Justin Flowe’s commitment to UO catapults the Ducks into possible top-10 class territory (which would likely usurp Washington for No. 1 in the Pac-12 Conference), makes history and provides a high-ceiling player possible of instant defensive impact.

Flowe makes history

Flowe’s commitment is a testimony that Oregon coach Mario Cristobal will continue to bolster and emphasize his physical defense. Oregon’s 15.7 points allowed per game in 2019 is the lowest in school history since 1966, holding 12 of 13 opponents under their season scoring average. 

Flowe is nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker and the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2020 signing class, according to 247Sports.

Flowe became the second highest-rated recruit in program history for Oregon, behind only true freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.  His commitment cements Oregon with the second consecutive class where the Ducks land the best-rated player in California (Thibodeaux) and he joins Noah Sewell as another five-star linebacker in the current class.

It was the best for me, personally. I feel like I’ll thrive in that program.

-Justin Flowe

The Ducks have their four highest-rated linebackers in program history currently enrolled or committed to UO (2020 commit Noah Sewell, true freshman Mase Funa and class of 2021 recruit Keith Brown).

Under Cristobal, Oregon has landed back-to-back classes with a five-star defensive player for the first time in UO history; Thibodeaux in 2019 and Sewell and Flowe in 2020.

Flying with the Ducks

With Clemson adding a five-star linebacker Trenton Simpson over the weekend, Oregon was in a battle with USC for Flowe’s commitment. Entering early national signing day, Flowe was the nation’s top uncommitted prospect.

(Oregon) feels like I can come in and make an instant impact. I’m just going to go in and be ready to work. I’m going to play hard.

-Justin Flowe

The Upland, Calif. native received offers from the majority of top-tier programs and narrowed his choices to Clemson, USC, Miami and Oregon. The Ducks emerged as the leader but Flowe took an official visit to USC the final weekend before early signing day, and the Trojans jumped into his top-two after not being in his top-four earlier in the season. 

Flowe’s possible instant impact

Seniors Troy Dye and La’Mar Winston Jr. graduate this season, opening up playing at linebacker alongside Isaac Slade-Matautia. Flowe could step in right away and continue the upward trajectory the defense has been on the last few seasons. 

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete has a verified 4.68-second time in the 40-yard dash, 4.38 in the shuttle and a 34-inch vertical jump. In his senior season, he recorded 123 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception, five forced fumbles and 13 quarterback hurries.

He’s a huge hitter and one of the most physical football players to come out of California in years. He’s relentless in how he plays, refuses to stay blocked and does a great job in pursuit. He’s tremendous getting in the backfield and making plays. Has rare timing and instincts.

-Evaluation from 247 Sports


Flowe will join a loaded Duck front seven, with Jordon Scott, Austin Faoliu, DJ Johnson, Slade-Matautia, Thibodeaux, Funa, Sewell, and now Flowe. Plus, in next year's 2021 class the Ducks add in-state talent Brown, the nation's top rated inside linebacker. Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos will have plenty of elite talent to play with in the years to come.