By almost any measure, the Oregon Ducks had an incredibly successfully year when it comes to recruiting in the 2023 cycle. They finished with the No. 8 class in the nation, the second-highest-rated class the school has ever seen, and they had the top-ranked class in the Pac-12 for the fifth consecutive year.. Considering that this all took place in Dan Lanning's first full year on the job, that's pretty impressive.
And to be completely honest, it could have been a lot better as well.
The Ducks signed one 5-star player in 2023 - WR Jurrion Dickey - but they were incredibly close to landing a handful of others. Take QB Dante Moore, or DL David Hicks, for example. Or look at ATH Nyckoles Harbor, or S Peyton Bowen, or RB Richard Young. All of those teams had the Ducks among their top 2 or 3 schools before making a decision. Moore flipped to UCLA; Hicks chose Texas A&M; Harbor committed to South Carolina. Bowen actually chose the Ducks, but hours later changed his mind and flipped to Oklahoma.
The point is that Lanning and his team were in the hunt for a lot of these players, but couldn't quite close down the stretch.
Many may see that as a negative, but if you want to wake up this morning and choose to be an optimist, you can easily see the silver lining in it all.
In today's world of college football where the transfer portal is incredibly prevalent, a lot of players end up having multiple recruitments, and multiple commitments. After starting their college careers at one place, sometimes they find that it doesn't suit them - whether it be the culture or the amount of playing time that they're getting - and another school might fit them better. In the cases where that does happen, schools - and coaches - with the best relationships with those players often jump to the front of the line in the second round of recruiting.
5-star WR Jurrion Dickey highlighted as instant-impact player for Oregon in 2023
A perfect example of this is South Carolina defensive end Jordan Burch transferring to Oregon this offseason. Burch, a former 5-star DE, was recruited heavily out of high school, and one of the schools he strongly considered was the Georgia Bulldogs, with Lanning leading the charge.
The Bulldogs didn't end up getting Burch, but Lanning had that relationship built, and it ended up paying off a couple of years down the road.
"I think that it just shows that you never know when a relationship might go full circle," Lanning said when talking to media members on Signing Day. "I know his work ethic, I know his demeanor and his approach and having a strong relationship. You know, four years ago, you never realize it's gonna pay off down the road and come full circle like I said, but then it gives us a chance to be better. I'm really excited about him being here."
Might this be the start of a trend that we see take place at Oregon?
Dan Lanning believes California is critical to Oregon's recruiting success
Take someone like Hicks, who was rated by 247Sports as the No. 7 player and No. 1 DL in the 2023 class. He developed a great relationship with Lanning, and took multiple visits to Eugene over the course of his recruitment. My sources from within the program tell me that he really wanted to commit to the Ducks, but in the end, a push from his family to stay closer to home at Texas A&M ended up winning out.
What if he doesn't like College Station as much as he thought, and decides to enter the transfer portal a year or two down the road? What's stopped the Ducks from being the favorite to land him should that happen?
Of course, none of this matters unless the highly-rated players that Oregon missed on end up entering the transfer portal. But should that happen, and these guys end up looking for a new home down the road, I like where the Ducks stand.
Because Dan Lanning knows that in the world of recruiting, relationships are king.
Ranking the 20 best recruits to sign in the Pac-12 during 2023 cycle
Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire