Earlier this week, Dale Newton talked about the recruiting success at the tight end position. While most talk about the Oregon way for how the game is played in the field, be it fourth down conversion attempts or veterans setting young guys "straight" with physical play that reminds them there are no "stars" on the Oregon team, the reality is that the term runs deeper than in field play.
The Oregon way starts on the recruiting trail. While rising to national prominence over the past five seasons, Oregon has seen unprecedented success on the field. Conference championships, Rose Bowl appearances and a win; a National Championship Game appearance; you name it, the Ducks have accomplished it over the past four seasons.
At the same time, the Ducks have finished no higher than 11th in the national recruiting rankings. Teams like Alabama and USC who have had their own dynastic runs during the past decade also spend their time at the top of the recruiting rankings.
Yes, rankings are an inexact science. Nonetheless, teams like Alabama, USC, Texas and LSU have significant talent levels on their rosters. Oregon, without the same talent has seemed to continue their rise despite this fact.
Many point to the development of players at Oregon as the prime reason for their over-achieving success. And that is a fair point. John Neal has taken a number of lower rated high school defensive backs and turned them into NFL Pro-Bowl caliber players. The list of defensive backs, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks that have gone from Oregon to the NFL is surprising given the lack of respect Oregon players seem to receive on a national basis.
But there is something more to this success than just player development. After all, most college coaches pretty good at developing players.
No. Development alone does not explain the success of the Oregon Way.
Turns out, this Oregon Way starts in the living rooms and on the recruiting trail. As many of our astute readers know, Oregon has now had every signed player qualify academically for five consecutive recruiting classes. In that span, Oregon has signed 113 players. Oregon coaches have been right 113 consecutive times. Every player. Qualified. That is an incredible stat and it is where the Oregon Way starts.
By getting kids who can compete academically, the coaches have focused as much on character and intelligence as athletic gifts. By having kids who have athletic gifts and are intelligent, they have found out that you can coach up smart kids a lot easier. Character counts.