As some of the nation’s top high school players ran onto the field for Saturday Night Live, Oregon got its first commitment of the weekend.
If the couple hundred fans who showed up to watch UO’s third-annual elite football camp were looking to see if offensive lineman Jonathan Denis was live-tweeting his commitment from Autzen Stadium, they would not have found the Homestead, Fla., native.
However, it may have taken a while to reach that conclusion because there were no rosters available for the one-day camp as fans and media members huddled up to try and figure out which of the 80 or so players were wearing which jerseys, a job made more difficult with some duplicate numbers.
Some of the players stood out physically, namely 6-foot-6 quarterback Jay Butterfield and 6-6 receiver Johnny Wilson, who made a couple of connections during the day. Butterfield has committed to sign in December to join the Ducks next year. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal spent some time on the sideline with Wilson as he tried to add him to UO’s next recruiting class.
There were rumblings that a couple of players at the camp could soon make a pledge to the Ducks, joining Denis, a 6-3 guard ranked as a four-star recruit who became the 16th player to commit to the class.
Running back Trey Benson, wide receiver Kris Hutson, safety Jared Greenfield and Butterfield were among the players who have committed to the Ducks for 2020 that were on hand to try to recruit a couple of more players into class that is ranked in the top 20 nationally with eight or nine more spots available.
Oregon’s coaches worked with players in their position groups during individual drills as well as some team portions of the two-hour camp. Many of the recruits who spent the weekend on campus were in-state preps and prospects from California.
Quarterback Justin Herbert and running backs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell were among the current Ducks on the field with recruits as offensive lineman Shane Lemieux looked on from the sideline. Cristobal was not able to speak about the players individually and Oregon could not send the prospects out for interviews due to NCAA rules, but the coach discussed his staff’s recruiting philosophy earlier in the week during Pac-12 Media Day.
“We brought in high-energy, high-octane, passionate coaches that have a super-high level of expertise because the ability to connect is extremely important to us,” he said. “What would you like for your son, right? You’d like your son to be around a high level of expertise and guys that know what they are doing and have a super-high care factor that are going to bring it every single day. We believe you can’t separate. You bring it for practice, but you kind of let your foot off the gas for recruiting? No. If you’re recruiting, playing checkers, playing football, you bring it.”
Caleb Williams, a top 2021 quarterback recruit from Washington D.C., made a trip to Oregon this week but was gone by the time the camp got started.
“Oregon it’s been real,” he tweeted. “Until next time.”
The 2021 class was also represented by running back Evan Pryor, a four-star recruit from North Carolina, and Bryce Foster, the top-ranked guard in his class out of Texas.
Benson arrived from Mississippi as the Ducks continue a national search for prospects that added Denis on Saturday to a class that also features players from Illinois, Oklahoma and Maryland.
“The world is a lot smaller … traveling is easier,” Cristobal said of his wide net for recruiting. “I think around the country in general, you see a lot of movement and you see a lot of out-of-state signings because of the fact it is easier to travel now and I think the cost of attendance alleviates a lot of the things that usually hindered guys leaving the state. … Back in the day, everyone stayed home but it’s just different times. It might be a phase and it might not, but I think that’s what is transpiring now.”