Weíve all had time by now to digest the hiring of Mario Cristobal, that awful Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State, the hiring of Cristobalís staff and the new vision for Oregon football.
The question now: Are you buying it? Or, more importantly, are THEY buying it?
The ďtheyĒ in this case refers to the 17- and 18-year-old recruits who put their signatures on letters of intent. They will have as much say as anyone in the outcome of Oregonís decision to elevate Cristobal in the wake of Willie Taggartís abrupt exit.
Taggart left Oregon with a highly rated recruiting class, then proceeded to raid it. Whatís left is still a good class, ranked 16th nationally by 247Sports. But itís not everything Oregon thought it was getting when Taggart was here, and on paper, itís not the transformational haul thatís going to make the Ducks a national title contender.
Oregon wanted to preserve recruiting momentum after Taggart left, and promoting Cristobal was one way to do it. The Ducks salvaged quite a few of their commitments, added some new ones and finished about where they usually did under Mark Helfrich.
Thatís not a bad start for Cristobal, all things considered. I think it also reflects some uncertainty about what Oregon is going to be under a coach whose pedigree is a total departure from what weíre accustomed to in Eugene.
Cristobal is a trench warfare guy. Talking about offensive line play makes his face light up. Heís made it clear that the team he wants to build will be modeled after the ones he coached or faced in the SEC: dominant up front, with a power running game and a hard-hitting defense.
ďWeíre going to invest heavily in the offensive and defensive lines, because it makes everything else go,Ē Cristobal said.
At the same time, Cristobal says, ďWe want to be what Oregon has always been.Ē He also says the Pac-12 is a conference of quarterbacks and wide receivers, and that Oregon will try for a 50-50 run-pass split.
I donít think Iím reaching to say that the Ducks canít be all of those things. Recruits who waffled on Oregon may have been correct in sensing that the Ducks have some identity issues to iron out, and that uncertainty probably contributed to a handful of defections from Taggartís original class.
The Ducks lost several high-profile wide receivers because of Taggartís departure, including Tigardís Braden Lenzy and TreíShaun Harrison, a four-star athlete from Seattle. At his announcement Wednesday, Harrison twisted the knife by choosing an Oregon hat at first, then saying, ďI donít think Iím going to go hereĒ and playing the Florida State fight song.
The Ducks can thank ó or curse ó their former coach for that one. After recruiting Harrison to Eugene, Taggart likely apprised him of all of Oregonís weaknesses while convincing him to flip to Florida State.
Hey, Taggart didnít build a top-ranked recruiting class at Oregon by playing nice with everyone. What he did, at least in the short term, was give Oregon a recruiting brand that appealed to top-level prospects.
Thatís the same thing Cristobal will have to do. His brand will be different from Taggartís ó not as flashy, and not as dependent on his own personality. Heís not going win over recruits with catchphrases and hashtags.
Cristobal is a grinder. When we sat in his office for an interview last month, he probably got up five times to answer text messages or talk to recruits. People in the building say he keeps a more demanding schedule than Taggart did. When youíre talking about forging the identity of a program, thatís a good place to start.
Oregon under Cristobal needs to be the team that outworks everyone, the team thatís bigger and stronger and more physical. You can see the basis for that in some of the players the Ducks just signed: offensive linemen Penei Sewell (6-foot-5, 340 pounds), Justin Johnson (6-7, 342), Steven Jones (6-6, 340) and Christopher Randazzo (6-7, 330).
The challenge is to do that while convincing elite skill players that Oregon is still the place to be. Thatís how Taggart put the Ducks on top of the recruiting rankings, and itís what Cristobal has to do if Oregon wants to contend again for conference and national titles.
Whatever you thought of him as a coach, Taggart had the ability to connect with recruits. Since he left, Iíve heard from fans saying they knew from the beginning that he was a fraud, a phony and a snake-oil salesman. Funny, but I didnít hear a lot of that when Oregon was No. 1 in the recruiting rankings.
Remember: It doesnít matter if you buy it. What matters is whether THEY buy it.
Taggart knew that, and Cristobal will figure it out.
Follow Austin Meek on Twitter @austinmeekRG . Email email@example.com .