Newly crowned Mark Helfrich made sure to credit his assistant coaches Wednesday for their work in landing the 2013 football recruiting class for the Oregon Ducks.
With Chip Kelly leaving as head coach in mid-January, and Helfrich hired shortly afterward, the Ducks had some uncertainty as the days to the Feb. 6 letter-of-intent signing day approached. Helfrich says coaches went on a "world tour" to secure several recruits, although Texas running back Dontre Wilson opted to de-commit from the Ducks and sign with Ohio State.
The Ducks didn't lose any other projected prospects. Helfrich announced a 19-player signing class Wednesday, with the main surprise being the securing of linebacker Torrodney Prevot of Houston, who chose the Ducks over Texas A&M.
The most notable signee comes from the home state famed running back Thomas Tyner of Aloha High. Two other Oregonians offensive linemen Evan Voeller of West Linn and Doug Brenner of Jesuit signed among five offensive linemen who committed to bolster one of the areas of need on the Ducks.
Linebacker was another area of need, and the Ducks signed three players at those positions, including early enrollee Joe Walker from Los Angeles Harbor College.
So, Helfrich lands his first recruiting class, post-Kelly, and he says assistant coaches gave Herculean efforts in finishing things off. Eight assistant coaches are apparently staying with the Ducks, including Scott Frost, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Matt Lubick takes over as receivers coach and Ron Aiken as defensive line coach, replacing Jerry Azzinaro, who joined Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"A huge thank you to the assistants," Helfrich says. "These guys have been incredible. This has been a team effort," including administration, supporters, academic staff and community members. "It made a huge impression on these (recruits) and made them want to come here."
Kelly's departure caused some consternation during recruiting, and "you hear different levels of concern," Helfrich says. "Oregon football is certainly bigger than me or any one guy. Guys wanted to be here for a lot of reasons. Chip was one of them, but there were a lot of other reasons."
Helfrich says coaches travelled in groups many times and, with each visit, they exited homes and said, "Wow, that's our kind of guy," he says.
ESPN didn't have the Ducks ranked in their top 25 of top recruiting classes. But Oregon has rarely netted a top recruiting class.
"We'll keep this thing going on quality people," Helfrich says, referring to Oregon's run of four consecutive BCS appearances and 46 wins in 53 games. "There is character, a ton of leaders, a ton of captains, guys you'd like to see date your daughter."
Helfrich says there wasn't much uncertainty heading into the final 48 hours of recruiting, although the 6-3, 215 Prevot decided on the Ducks on Wednesday morning.
"Torrodney is our kind of guy electric on and off the field," Helfrich says. "The family had great questions (about UO); his uncle and mom had one of the best home visits of all-time. They had a litany of questions, and it was on.
"He saw himself here. We're happy with his decision. Don Pellum was the lead recruiter, but it was a team effort, everybody contributing at some point. I went one time (to visit), and we had six guys the next time. It showed solidarity, vision, all the things we do. We were honest with the guy."
As for Prevot as a player, Helfrich says: "He can really run and hit the quarterback. He played defensive end and outside backer and I see him in the mold of Dion Jordan. A young, dynamic, fast, physical, great tackler and finisher."
Clearly, landing Tyner was the big get. He's regarded as the second-best running back prospect in the country, according to scout.com.
"The guy's off the charts," Helfrich says, of the 5-11, 200 Tyner, who should compete with Byron Marshall and De'Anthony Thomas for tailback carries next season. "His world-class speed will help our track team, along with (fellow recruit Devon Allen, Phoenix). He has the total package as a tailback physical, fast, really good hands. He's a kid you have a normal conversation with and talk about the future, and he just wants to compete."
With Wilson de-committing, the Ducks scrambled to land another running back, Kani Benoit of Phoenix, who Helfrich describes as an elusive runner and "solid kid, really humble guy, but a competitive, hungry, humble type guy."
The Ducks are well-equipped at quarterback for the near future, with star Marcus Mariota and redshirt freshmen Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie. But they signed another QB, in the wake of Bryan Bennett transferring. He is Damion Hobbs, 6-2 and 195 and from Cedar Hill, Texas.
"He had committed elsewhere, then restarted his recruiting," Helfrich says. "He can really throw it and run it. Great student, great leader."
Along with Tyner and kicker/punter Matt Wogan of Indian Trail, N.C., the 6-2, 225 Walker appears to be another candidate to play right away.
"A lot of guys come in from JC not in shape," Helfrich says. "He came in fantastic shape. He knows he has a chance to play," what with graduations of Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay.
The Ducks signed Tyner, the 6-2, 280 Brenner and 6-5, 280 Voeller, and a fourth player from the Northwest in 6-5, 220 linebacker/tight end Danny Mattingly of Spokane, Wash.
Oregon went far and wide for recruits, as well, getting in early on 6-2, 290 offensive lineman Jake Pisarcik of Medford, N.J., and withstanding attempts by other teams to lure him away. Pisarcik's father, Joe Pisarcik, played quarterback for the New York Giants.
The Robinson twins of San Diego, Tyree and Tyrell, stayed firm on their commitments to the Ducks. Both were recruited as athletes, they are about the same size 6-4, 200.
Here's the list of the 19 UO recruits, with official information and Helfrich-inspired comments:
Joe Walker, LB, 6-2, 225, soph., Palos Verdes, Calif. (L.A. Harbor College/Palos Verdes HS). Comment: Has an opportunity to play, with only starter Boseko Lokombo and backups returning.
Devon Allen, WR, 6-0, 187, Phoenix, Ariz. (Brophy Prep). Comment: Comes from a great program, Brophy Prep.
Kani Benoit, RB, 6-0, 200, Phoenix, Ariz. (Phoenix Thunderbird HS). Comment: Always on UO radar.
Doug Brenner, OL, 6-2, 279, Portland (Jesuit HS). Comment: Joins sister Liz at UO; projects as guard-center.
Darren Carrington, WR, 6-2, 186, San Diego, Calif. (Horizon HS). Comment: Dad played for San Diego Chargers.
Elijah George, OL, 6-5, 250, Las Vegas, Nev. (Arbor View HS). Comment: Athletic, in mold of Jake Fisher, Tyler Johnstone
Damion Hobbs, QB, 6-2, 195, Cedar Hill, Texas (Cedar Hill HS). Comment: Led team to Texas 5A title game.
Cameron Hunt, OL, 6-4, 265, Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS). Comment: Helfrich calls him "a fantastic offensive lineman."
Danny Mattingly, LB, 6-5, 222, Spokane, Wash. (Mead HS). Comment: Brother played at Washington State; de-committed from Notre Dame.
John Mundt, TE, 6-4, 232, Modesto, Calif. (Central Catholic HS). Comment: Helfrich says he's "just a stud, fast and physical, great hands."
Jake Pisarcik, OL, 6-2, 290, Medford, N.J. (Shawnee HS). Comment: Gained weight, impressed on film.
Torrodney Prevot, LB, 6-3, 214, Houston (Alief Taylor HS). Comment: Lights up a room with his smile.
Tyree Robinson, ATH, 6-4, 200, San Diego, Calif. (Lincoln HS). Comment: Will pick where he wants to play.
Tyrell Robinson, ATH, 6-4, 201, San Diego, Calif. (Lincoln HS). Comment: A little bigger version of his brother.
Chris Seisay, DB, 6-1, 177, American Canyon, Calif. (American Canyon HS). Comment: Oregon assistant coach Jim Radcliffe is impressed with his talents.
Thomas Tyner, RB, 5-11, 201, Aloha (Aloha HS). Comment: Had ab epic 643-yard, 10-TD game.
Evan Voeller, OL, 6-5, 278, West Linn (West Linn HS). Comment: Grew into his body during high school.
Juwaan Williams, ATH, 6-0, 181, Tucker, Ga. (Tucker HS). Comment: Like WR Josh Huff; has good character.
Matt Wogan, PK/P, 6-2, 197, Indian Trail, N.C. (Porter Ridge HS). Comment: Captain of his high school team.