Oregon had notable wins over eventual Pac-12 champion Washington, Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins and Civil War rival Oregon State this season.
And on Saturday, coach Mario Cristobal and his staff beat ‘Bama.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, a five-star defensive end from Westlake Village, Calif., verbally committed to Oregon over Alabama, Florida and Florida State.
During his announcement carried live on ESPN, Thibodeaux was asked why he decided to join a program known nationally for offense.
“Because you can take over on the defense,” said Thibodeaux, who also celebrated his birthday Saturday. “You can be the best man, you can be the biggest man. That’s my goal.”
ESPN ranked Thibodeaux as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 cycle. The 6-foot-5, 239-pound star is the highest-ranked player to commit to Oregon since recruiting ranking databases began.
Coaches are not allowed to comment on specific players until national signing day Wednesday, but Cristobal tweeted “B O O O M!!!” moments after Thibodeaux put on a Ducks visor live on national television.
Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will have an easier time replacing senior defensive end Jalen Jelks with the addition of Thibodeaux, who made his official visit during the 30-27 overtime victory over the Huskies at Autzen Stadium.
“Not only is this pickup important for the University of Oregon, but it’s critical for the state of the Pac-12,” ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill said. “You just don’t have players that are this impactful along the defensive front coming out of the West Coast each and every year. The defensive front personnel in this league needs to improve greatly. Kayvon Thibodeaux deciding to stay on the West Coast, go to the University of Oregon for Jim Leavitt and that multiple defense that is going to come up with all kinds of great ways to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in the Pac-12.
“We know it’s an offensive league, but it’s these types of players that need to change the fortune of the Pac-12.”
Thibodeaux is the 20th known verbal commitment in Oregon’s 2019 class, which moved up from No. 7 to No. 3 in Rivals rankings behind Alabama and Georgia.
But Saturday night Elijah Blades, the top-ranked junior college cornerback, announced he had a “change of heart” and was flipping from his previous verbal commitment to the Ducks and plans to sign with Texas A&M.
Camden Lewis of Cornelius, N.C., gave Cristobal a verbal pledge during his official visit late Saturday. The three-star placekicker was originally committed to Minnesota.
Oregon, which is hosting nearly 20 recruiting visits this weekend, finished the evening No. 5 in the national rankings behind Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and Clemson with less than 72 hours left until prospects can sign national letters-of-intent.
Oregon Ducks 2019 commitments
Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu | OL | 6-7/345 | Corsicana, Texas
Trikweze Bridges | DB | 6-3/175 | Lanett, Ala.
Josh Delgado | WR | 5-11/181 | Bradenton, Fla.
Sean Dollars | RB | 5-10/185 | Santa Ana, Calif.
Ge’mon Eaford | LB | 6-0/217 | Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Mase Funa | LB | 6-2/245 | Santa Ana, Calif.
Patrick Herbert | TE | 6-5/225 | Eugene
Camden Lewis | K | 6-0/185 | Cornelius, N.C.
Treven Ma’ae | LB | 6-4/240 | Las Vegas
Cale Millen | QB | 6-4/190 | Snoqualmie, Wash.
Mycah Pittman | WR | 5-11/195 | Calabasas, Calif.
Suaava Poti | DT | 6-3/285 | Bellflower, Calif.
Jonah Tauanu’u | OL | 6-5/317 | Harbor City, Calif.
Kayvon Thibodeaux | DL | 6-4/239 | Westlake Village, Calif.
Isaac Townsend | DE | 6-6/235 | Arvada, Colo.
Keyon Ware-Hudson | DT | 6-2/305 | Santa Ana, Calif.
JR Waters | WR | 6-3/185 | Oxnard, Calif.
Lance Wilhoite | WR | 6-2/186 | Nashville, Tenn.
Jayvaun Wilson | ATH | 6-2/210 | Valencia, Calif.
Mykael Wright | CB | 5-11/180 | Harbor City, Calif.