Oregon received its 9th commitment for the class of 2014 yesterday in the form of 6-7, 255 pound defensive lineman Jalen Jelks.
Yes, you saw that right, 6-7, 255... and only 16 years old. Jelks is a man-child from Arizona who has had an interest in the Ducks for several months. I briefly profiled Jelks as someone to watch in May.
Jelks had impressed at the Rivals Camp Series and was starting to get a lot more attention. Combine his impressive performance with his size and youth and there is plenty to be excited about for Oregon fans.
Jelks, while big and very athletic, does have some areas of improvement like most high school prospects. He has good pad level and a quick first step off the line. He shows good footwork and tremendous pursuit ability. He does have a tendency, though, to leave his feet when trying to make a tackle. That's easy to get away with in high school where you can dominate by your sheer size, but it won't fly in college.
Much of what he has, though, cannot be trained; size and athleticism. And he is only going to grow. He reminds me a little of DeForrest Buckner, though Buckner was a little more polished with his technique.
Maybe a better comparison is a taller version of Taylor Hart. For those that don't remember back this far, Hart was a three-star prospect out of Tualatin that signed with Oregon in 2009. Hart was 6-6, 255 when he signed and he has grown to 292 pounds. In the process, Hart has become one of the most versatile players along the Oregon defensive line capable of plugging holes in the middle or playing outside at defensive end.
Jelks has the same kind of size and athleticism to make a similar impact.
When Jordan Hoiem committed, he told me that he didn't like to compare himself to other players, he just wanted to be his own player. But it's natural for us to look at a player and wonder where he might fit and who he might closely resemble as a player.
Jelks will undoubtedly be his own player when he arrives on a college campus. Now, as is always the case this early in the process, it should be mentioned that Jelks' commitment is only as good as the paper it is written on... and that is none.
We all know that commitments in July are not binding; only a signature in February will matter.
If this commitment sticks, however, it will go a long way to replenishing the defensive line depth Oregon loses this year. With the earlier commitment of four-star JUCO defelsive lineman Tu Talia (6-5, 270), the defensive line recruiting for Oregon in 2014 is shaping up very nicely.