Ducks add size with early football recruits
Despite a tumultuous few weeks leading into the early-signing day for football recruits, the Oregon Ducks seem to be on track for a highly-rated 2018 class.
The Ducks had 13 players sign letters-of- intent as of late afternoon on Wednesday, the first day of a new three-day period when football players can commit on paper to college programs.
Highlighting Oregon's class are several big offensive and defensive linemen, a sought-after quarterback, two promising running backs and several athletes expected to make an early impact on defense.
The Ducks signed the top recruits out of Arizona and Colorado and a touted running back from North Carolina.
Coach Mario Cristobal pointed to the offensive line, quarterback, running back and defensive line as areas addressed with players who signed with the Ducks on Wednesday.
As of late Wednesday, Oregon's class was ranked No. 11 nationally by Rivals and No. 13 by 247Sports. Not quite the potential No. 1 class that was once projected for Oregon before Willie Taggart's departure to become coach of Florida State, but still one of the highest-rated groups in program history.
Cristobal praised the work of his staff through the distractions of the coaching change and preparing for last week's Las Vegas Bowl, a 38-28 loss to Boise State. He emphasized that the 2018 recruiting cycle is only about halfway finished.
Cristobal compared quarterback Tyler Shough to Justin Herbert. Slough, from Chandler, Arizona, is among the top-ranked pro-style quarterbacks in the country. At 6-5, 195 pounds, his build is similar to that of Herbert.
"The similarities are striking" between Slough and Herbert, Cristobal said.
Offensive linemen who signed on Wednesday are Dawson Jaramillo (6-5, 295) from Lake Oswego High, Steven Jones (6-6, 340) and Christopher Randazzo (6-7, 330).
The addition of a pro-style quarterback and offensive linemen with notable size reflects the anticipated shift in offensive philosophy under Cristobal to a more power-oriented attack.
"For me, traditionally it has been massive human beings that can move. You don't want to compromise any athleticism for size," Cristobal said. "I think we've got a really nice combination there. Hungry guys. Because if they're r,eally big and they don't want to move much, the laws of inertia take over."
The running backs are Travis Dye, younger brother of Oregon linebacker Troy Dye, and Jamal Elliott from Durham, North Carolina. Elliott (5-10, 180), who missed much of his senior season with an injury, is the 13th-ranked running back in the nation.
Cristobal said Elliott and Dye could play as freshmen. He noted that both are track athletes with explosive speed.
On defense, the Ducks signed players at every level.
In the defensive backfield, the Ducks picked up several players who will have a chance to play right away in safeties Jevon Holland and Steve Stephens and junior college cornerback Haki Woods.
Holland (6-1, 182) is among the top-rated high school safeties in the country and will be expected to see action early in his Oregon career.
Woods is a 6-3 cornerback who played the past two seasons at Pima Community College.
"It's hard to find a 6-foot-3 corner, even in the NFL," Cristobal said.
Stephens, Cristobal said, is a special athlete who can add to the dynamic in the locker room.
At linebacker, MJ Cunningham and Adrian Jackson from Denver, Colorado signed.
Cunningham played his first three seasons at Franklin High and was an all-PIL linebacker there. He transferred to Madison this year but was injured and did not play for the Senators.
"He can play inside. He can play outside. He's a real versatile guy," Cristobal said.
Jackson is one of the higher-rated linebacker prospects in the country, in part because he has a 100-meter time of 10.9 seconds.
"The part that we love about him is this guy will strike you," Cristobal said. "If you're a ballcarrier or a blocker, this guy will run right through you. He's what you want hunting down ballcarriers."
Up front on defense, the Ducks added Sione Vea Kava (6-6, 270) a Hawai'i native out of East Los Angeles junior college and Andrew Faoliu (6-3, 255), the brother of Oregon freshman defensive lineman Austin Faoliu.
Noting that Vea Kava was the defensive player of the year in his league and in California Region IV as a sophomore at East LA JC, Cristobal said: "Those body types are hard to find, they really are, and this guy is a special one."
Cristobal said Faoliu "really popped on tape his senior year."
He projects to grow into a 285-290 pound defensive lineman.
"His motor and his explosiveness is what really attracted us to him. A guy we feel can change the game at the line of scrimmage like his brother," Cristobal said.
One area Oregon needs to address looking at the February signing period is wide receiver. The Ducks had four highly-touted receivers committed before Taggart left, but did not add a receiver on Wednesday.
Another area of need is tight end. And Cristobal said he wants to bolster the defensive line depth.
Cristobal said the retention of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo and associate head coach/defensive line coach Joe Salave'a was like gaining three five-star recruits.
Playing in the Las Vegas Bowl made recruiting difficult for this new early signing period. Oregon coaches flew in and out of Vegas throughout bowl preparations to recruit, and the Ducks had to cancel a big recruiting event on campus scheduled for last Saturday.
Cristobal said Wednesday was only a start for building a 2018 recruiting class. After this three-day window when players can sign, the traditional signing day in February looms large.
Oregon football letters-of-intent
MJ Cunningham, LB, 6-3, 230, Madison High
Travis Dye, RB, 5-11 180, Norco, Calif.
Jamal Elliott, RB, 5-10, 180, Durham, N.C.
Andrew Faoliu, DL, 6-3, 255, Santa Ana, Calif.
Jevon Holland, S, 6-1, 180, Pleasanton, Calif.
Adrian Jackson, ILB, 6-2, 210, Denver
Dawson Jaramillo, OL, 6-5, 295, Lake Oswego High
Steven Jones, OL, 6-6, 340, Temecula, Calif.
Christopher Randazzo, OL, 6-7, 330, Chino, Calif.
Tyler Shough, Q, 6-5, 197, Chandler, Ariz.
Steve Stephens, S, 6-0, 185, Fresno, Calif.
Sione Vea Kava, DL, 6-6, 270, Jr., Honolulu
Haki Woods, CB, 6-3 190, Jr., Chicago