Justin Flowe, Noah Sewell among UO's 19 players signed Wednesday
Mario Cristobal isn’t kidding about recruiting never ceasing.
While introducing Oregon’s 2020 class on Wednesday, the program’s aggressive coach said “certainly today was a day that we're all really excited about, that is actually probably not over.”
On the way out of the news conference at the Hatfield-Complex, Cristobal was informed that Robby Ashford, a dual-threat quarterback from Hoover, Ala., had become the 20th recruit to send in a letter-of-intent during the early signing period.
“It's the process that doesn't stop,” Cristobal said. “But the 2020 class is a championship class and, once again, the best class in the Pac.”
Oregon made another splash by landing two five-star linebacker recruits — Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell — to headline the class, which is ranked 10th nationally and first in the Pac-12 by Rivals and 16th nationally and second in the conference behind Washington (14th) by 247Sports.
Flowe, the nation's top uncommitted recruit entering signing day, decided to fly with the Ducks instead of Alabama, Clemson, USC and a list of other traditional powers.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Flowe is the No. 1 overall prospect from California. Oregon signed Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year Kayvon Thibodeaux, ESPN's No. 1 overall prospect, out of Los Angeles a year ago as part of the nation's No. 7-ranked 2019 class.
“When did I find out? I was on the field,” Cristobal said of Flowe’s late decision. “So we're paying attention. We were concentrating and focusing on practice. I just had a guy at a distance with a little phone on him to make sure if you don't get a thumb’s up you just get nowhere near me.”
After Troy Dye caps a brilliant collegiate career at the Rose Bowl, the senior star will be replaced with the best possible inside linebacker combination available in this cycle.
Sewell is the younger brother of Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell. The 6-2, 266-pound freshman-to-be is the No. 2 prospect at his position nationally behind Flowe and the top-ranked prospect from Utah.
“An extremely special family. Talented like you may never see … it happens every decade, two decades, sometimes a century. That’s what they are,” Cristobal said. “They live their lives and they play the game the way that you should, the way that it should be, the highest level possible. Incredibly blessed to have them here with us.”
Oregon also signed four-star outside linebacker Jackson LaDuke of Sparks, Nev., and is listing four-star athlete Jaden Navarrette of Norco, Calif. — Dye’s hometown — as a linebacker.
“I mean, these guys change you there,” Cristobal said. “They're knock-back tacklers. They're able to shed blockers and their block destruction capabilities are phenomenal.”
Oregon entered the early signing period, which runs through Friday, with 22 verbal commitments and a projected 2020 class ranked 12th by Rivals and 16th by 247Sports.
Tight end Seth Figgins, who spent his senior season at Sheldon High but did not play due to injury, and outside linebacker Peter Latu did not sign Wednesday but remain verbally committed to Oregon.
Players can still make their choice official during the traditional signing day on Feb. 5.
Jay Butterfield — who committed to the Ducks last spring after the nation’s top overall quarterback prospect, DJ Uiagalelei, announced his decision to join defending national champion Clemson’s No. 1-ranked class — plans to enroll early to begin competing for Justin Herbert’s soon-to-be vacated spot this spring.
Redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough and true freshman Cale Millen have a head start on Butterfield and Ashford.
“Our guys watch our quarterbacks every single day and they know how good they can be. We also know how good Jay can be as well,” said Cristobal, who was unable to comment on Ashford due to the timing of his commitment. “Being here early is always a tremendous advantage. The spring is going to be incredibly competitive and that’s what’s going to make our team better.”
Butterfield is one of seven California imports in the class, along with wide receiver Kris Hutson. Cristobal and his staff also added players from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Utah and Washington.
“Knowing the level of excitement that's there is a reason there is no snooze button hitting when you’ve got to be here for a 4:01 a.m. letter-of-intent being faxed in from the East Coast,” Cristobal said. “That's because the level of legitimate appreciation and excitement are through the roof right now. And today was incredible.”
The Ducks, who had their College Football Playoff run end with a defeat at Sun Devil Stadium last month, lost a recruiting battle to Herm Edwards when four-star wide receiver Johnny Wilson flipped his commitment from Oregon to Arizona State.
Prentice Gill, an offensive analyst on Cristobal’s staff this season, was hired to an unspecified full-time position on Edwards’ staff on Dec. 2. Gill is expected to coach the Sun Devils’ wide receivers, a group that now includes the 6-6 Wilson.
Oregon already added USC transfer Devon Williams to a wide receiver group that returns Johnny Johnson, Jaylon Redd, Mycah Pittman, Bryan Addison and Josh Delgado.
Myles Slusher, a four-star safety from Broken Arrow, Okla., also decommitted from Oregon on Wednesday and signed with Arkansas.
The Ducks still signed three defensive backs — Luke Hill of Temple Hills, Md., Jared Greenfield of Crenshaw, Calif., and San Mateo College transfer Bennett Williams.
Andy Avalos’ defense should be one of the nation’s best next fall with the touted recruiting class joining a veteran cast that could include Thibodeaux, Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu up front, middle linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia and a stacked secondary with Jevon Holland, Thomas Graham, Deommodore Lenoir, Verone McKinley, Mykael Wright, Nick Pickett and Brady Breeze.
But first the Pac-12 champions will try to end Cristobal’s second season as coach on a winning note against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif. (2 p.m., ESPN).
“You're just on a constant high because of the way the program is continuing, the way the trajectory of the program is going,” Cristobal said. “The level of excitement, the level of commitment, the strength of the culture, everything is just gaining momentum, getting stronger.
“I think It's evident in the way we're practicing right now. It's a testament to the players, their desire to continue to get better and elevate the program."
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