June 30, 2012

Going National: Southwest

Interactive Map by iMapBuilder

Since the arrival of Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator in 2007, Duck fans have seen not only a uniquely dominant offense, but they have seen the football program rise to unprecedented heights culminating in the 2012 Rose Bowl win. Along the way, a couple of special players from parts not normally represented on the Duck roster transformed Oregon football into a national brand.

This month, Duck Sports Authority began this series on national recruiting. So far we have taken a look at every region save one. Today we turn our attention to the region which has seen the biggest impact on the Oregon football team: the Southwest Region. An area untapped prior to Chip Kelly's arrival, the Southwest is a hotbed of talent. Though Texas and Texas A&M have traditionally dominated the state with Oklahoma also getting a vast majority of their talent from the football crazy state, there were plenty of overlooked football players that were passed over by the big boys of the Southwest.

We learned that the Ducks roster has undergone a transformation. Prior to 2007, this team was predominantly populated by athletes from the West Coast; especially California. Comprising nearly 70% of the scholarship players in 2007, California dominated the Ducks roster. In the 2011-12 season, though, Californians counted for only 48% of the Ducks roster. That is a significant change.

The West coast had long been the dominantly represented region on the Ducks roster. Prior to the successes of Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly, that was out of pure necessity. Attempting to lure players to Oregon was difficult enough when it was just getting them out of California. Getting them from everywhere else was exponentially more difficult as Oregon did not have a brand name nationally.

Let us take a look now, at how Oregon's presence in the Southwest region has changed during Chip Kelly's tenure. We begin by looking at the scholarship players from the top three states in the region (Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma) that were on the Oregon roster in 2007 and again in 2012.

Players by State

All Others00.0

All Others00.0

When Duck Sports Authority first looked at the changing recruiting trend of the Duck football coaching staff, it was clear that the roster had been impacted with players not from the Ducks normal territory. We have already seen that there were some Midwestern and Southeastern players sprinkled into the roster over the last several years. The Southwest, though, is where the Ducks have found their biggest impact over the past five years. It's not just that the Ducks got a few players out of Texas, but that the players who Oregon coaches were able to sign were impact players like LaMichael James and Darron Thomas.

What is interesting about these numbers is not only the absence ofTexas players in 2007, but also the lack of players from Arizona. The Arizona schools have been conference members for over 30 years, plenty of time to establish some recruiting ties there. Nonetheless, the Ducks had zero players from the state on the roster in 2007. The state of Arizona has been a clear target for Duck coaches under Chip Kelly. There is a lot of speed and talent in the Phoenix area and Chip Kelly has worked hard, along with his assistants, to gain a foot in this very important desert state.

We know that the number of players on the roster that hail from the Southwestern region has increased over the past five years, but has the recruiting strategy changed, or are the Ducks just getting more players from other states? Let's take a look at the trend in offers to athletes from the Southwest from 2007 to present.



As expected, Texas has seen an increased importance in the eyes of Oregon coaches Surprisingly, though, the Duck coaches are not blanketing the state with dozens of offers. With an average of just ten offers per year, the Texas representation on the Oregon roster has changed dramatically. This would imply that the coaches know which players are serious about their interest in Oregon and which ones are only interested in "free trips" or seeing facilities. On an average of just 10 offers per year, the Ducks have added six players from the state of Texas. And, that does not include the four players who signed with the Ducks in 2012. With the loss of James and Thomas, the Ducks will still have two additional Texans on the roster for the 2012 season.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The importance of this region cannot be overstated. While Oregon has always relied on the California pipeline to get players, the "football way of life" in Texas makes it a prime breeding ground for talented, focused players who eat, breathe and sleep football. In a state where high school football is life, the athletes and talent in the state are enough for Oregon to have a place in the state. While every college football team likes to venture to Texas, the Ducks now have their name in the minds of the athletes and can take advantage of the successes of players like James, Thomas and even Josh Huff.

With yet another early commit from the state of Texas in 2013, it appears as if the Ducks are determined to maintain a presence in this region. In fact, in analyzing the number of offers to players from Texas and Arizona, the Ducks may still be able to mine the state even further for talent With the exceptional productivity of the players from Texas once they donned the Duck colors indicates that the result is absolutely worth the effort. This is a region that is ripe with talent and the coaches were brilliant to move into the state and make some headways, they should keep up the work; it will continue to have a positive impact on Duck football into the future.

In 2007, when Chip Kelly arrived, most fans marveled at his innovative offensive mind. What they may not have understood is that his innovativeness was not confined to on the field offense; but the way football is "done" at Oregon. Not listening to those who might have claimed it impossible to make any dent into Texas, he clearly knew that the Southwest was a place that could provide the players he needed. He continued his creativity by expanding the recruiting efforts nationwide. At times it can be frustrating to "recruitniks" that follow this closely. After all, the Ducks can only sign anywhere from 20-25 players each season. With this knowledge, and the fact that the Duck coaches make 100 or more offers per season, some athletes that fans really love will choose elsewhere. But the number of kids from around the nation who now consider Oregon and "elite" program make these efforts worthwhile.

If Oregon coaches pulled back and recruited just its primary region, then the brand that has been built would quickly fade. A national presence is needed to maintain "elite" status. So, while it may get frustrating to spend a lot of energy recruiting nationally for fans, it is something that continues to build the Oregon name in the minds of athletes and their parents nationwide.

Southwest Region Offers71120161814
Total Offers1031141191109389
Region % of Offers6.8%9.6%16.8%14.5%19.4%15.7%

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