The Oregon Ducks brought in former South Florida Willie Taggart on Dec. 7, 2016 to replace the fired Mark Helfrich. With that, Taggart had less than two months to ensure the Ducks would pull in a strong recruiting class.
Despite, the drama that came with players being hospitalized because of workouts, hiring a new coaching staff along with the pressure that now accompanies being the Oregon head coach, Taggart succeeded in reeling in a solid class. In fact, Taggart delivered such a strong class, that it finished ranked nationally as high as No. 17 by Scout. However, his class was met with scrutiny.
Some of the headlines out of Eugene bashed on Taggart and this year’s recruiting class (primarily over not landing tight end, Josh Falo, who committed to USC). But Taggart still brought in some speedy playmakers and helped boost the defensive that desperately needs improvement.
The biggest needs for the Ducks during this past recruiting cycle was along the front seven (defensive line and linebackers). This year’s class featured a handful of recruits who can make big impacts along the front seven this upcoming season.
Oregon landed three three-star defensive line recruits: Austin Faoliu, Rutger Reitmaier and Jordan Scott. It also brought in three-star, Popo Aumavae, who can play either offensive or defensive line.
All four lineman, are massive. The shortest of the four is Scott, at 6-foot-1. However, Scott weighs in at 350 pounds.
While the Ducks landed four strong defensive tackles and ends, they also picked up two solid linebackers: four-star Isaac Slade-Matautia and three-star Sampson Niu. People are extremely high on Slade-Matautia’s abilities.
“He’s a physical player and hits like a truck,” said Scout’s Greg Biggins. “He runs well, shows good lateral mobility and is comfortable playing in space. He has a solid frame with room to put on plenty of mass and not lose any of his athleticism. He’s a high motor player who plays with a ton of passion and projects as a high level BCS prospect.”
Not only did Taggart and company bolster the Ducks front seven, but they brought in a plethora of talented defensive backs as well.
The two biggest gets in the secondary for Oregon was cornerback, Thomas Graham Jr. (who was the No. 6 corner in the nation) and projected safety, Deommodore Lenoir (who was the No. 1 athlete in the country). With defensive backs becoming more important in today’s college football (since more teams run spread offenses), getting guys like Graham and Lenoir who have potential to become some of the best at their respective positions in a couple years are huge gets for Taggart.
Although Oregon landed a bunch of high level defensive products, they grabbed a few offensive stars as well. The biggest one coming in four-star quarterback, Braxton Burmeister.
Burmeister was originally committed to Arizona before flipping to Oregon back in mid-January. The 6-foot-1 signal caller has all the attributes to blossom into a solid collegiate quarterback. He has the arm strength, the running ability and football IQ (he is the son of former Washington Redskin quarterback, Danny Burmeister). Burmeister’s abilities have reminded a former Duck of a former Heisman winner.
“In my opinion, I think, he’s going to be better than Johnny Manziel. That’s how high I am on him,” said former Oregon quarterback, Akili Smith to the Register Guard. “All the awkward and everything Johnny was able to do at Texas A&M, Braxton can do. And to be honest, Braxton is bigger and thicker than Johnny.”
The Ducks also pulled in three three-star wide receiver recruits (Daewood Davis, Johnny Johnson III and Demetri Bunch) plus three-star running back, CJ Verdell at the offensive skill positions.
When Oregon’s 2017 recruiting became final, Taggart made one thing abundantly clear, he brought in recruits who will compete for playing time right away. It will be interesting to see if stars like running back Royce Freeman and quarterback Justin Herbert will remain starters in 2017 underneath Taggart.