For new Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, it’s safe to say that his first month on the job could be going a little smoother. But unfortunately it definitely isn’t, and instead of celebrating his first recruiting class in the lead-up to Signing Day on Wednesday, the Oregon staff is instead trying to hold on for dear life.
While a number of Oregon’s top commits have elected at least inquire elsewhere prior to Signing Day, the biggest blow came on Monday night, when one of those top commits actually chose to decommit and announced that he’d instead be attending Ohio State. That player was four-star running back Dontre Wilson of DeSoto, TX who was widely considered to be the top prospect in Oregon’s recruiting class. Instead of bringing his 4.4 speed to Eugene, he’ll head off to Columbus where it appears as though he’ll take on a similar role in Urban Meyer’s fast-paced offense that he would’ve in Eugene.
Looking at the Wilson news in the big picture, this is a tough pill to swallow for the Ducks. It also could be a game-changer for the program both on and off the field.
On the field, the effect of losing a player of Wilson’s caliber is clear; simply put, whenever you’re missing out on a chance to bring in a player who rushed for 2,600 yards and accumulated 46 total touchdowns as a senior, that’s going to hurt. It’s especially troublesome given that at 5’10 and shifty, Wilson was a perfect fit for Oregon’s fast-paced offense, and would’ve filled a need with the departure of Kenjon Barner to the pros. De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall will share carries next year, but it’s also safe to assume that Wilson would’ve seen game-action also.
At the same time, this really is bigger than just on the field production and hits to a bigger, broader picture about the off-the-field psyche of the Ducks right now. Crystal Ball Run already spent plenty of time this off-season discussing what will become of this program going forward, but it’s safe to say that it has lost a lot of its luster without Kelly. No matter how big the effect Kelly had on this team and program was (personally, if you’re asking this writer, the answer is “immeasurable”), it’s safe to say that at least the perception is that the program won’t be the same without him. It shows in recruiting, and with the decision of Wilson to take his talents to the seemingly safer destination of Columbus, OH.
Still, there was good news for Oregon on Monday night, when the guy who was considered to be the second best player in Oregon’s class, Darren Carrington re-affirmed his commitment to the Ducks. Carrington had taken visits to Arizona and Arizona State in previous weeks, but elected to stick with Oregon.
Apparently it’s not all bad for Mark Helfrich.
Things could still be going better though.
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Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.