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January 7, 2013

Recruiting impact: Kelly's decision

Oregon once again had a stellar year on the field under the guidance of head coach Chip Kelly. Under his prescription for success, the Ducks have played in four straight BCS Bowl games, winning the last two handily. They will certainly be in the top three teams in polls when the final rankings come out. And they bring back most of their team for 2013.

Which begs some questions: Why are the Ducks ranked at No. 42 in the current recruiting team rankings for the Class of 2013? Why are they ranked No. 8 in the Pac-12, behind such teams as Washington, Cal and Utah?

The answer is a mix of things. Small class size this year will hurt them in team recruiting rankings for sure. The NCAA investigation, despite looking positive for the Ducks at the moment, until it is settled will still being used against them in living rooms across the country.

But one of the biggest albatrosses on the Duck recruiting neck was solved this weekend as Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, seemingly the hottest commodity on top of the coaching search boards of northeastern NFL teams, chose to remain as Oregon's head coach.

The 2013 edition of Kelly-to-the-NFL resulted in a mercifully swift conclusion to a saga beginning months ago, as whispers and message boards invoked Kelly's name every time an NFL head coaches' job appeared in jeopardy. The longer the NFL/Kelly courtship continued, the more adverse impact it was capable of on the recruiting trail.

Some players on the team itself were insulated from it, as certainly was the aim of the Duck staff. Sophomore linebacker Derrick Malone said in the locker room after the win over Kansas State "I just found out about it a few hours ago so I haven't really thought about it that much."

Recruits, however, were very aware. If they somehow hadn't heard, schools competing with Oregon for a player educated them.

Before Chip Kelly's decision, Duck Sports Authority spoke with Florida commit OL Cameron Dillard, a player the Ducks recruited and are still very interested in.

"Is Chip Kelly going to stay at Oregon?" Dillard responded when asked if he still had any interest in the Ducks.

Undecided athlete and serious Oregon target Juwaan Williams was well-aware of the situation this weekend.

"I've been following it and doing my research on it," Williams said. "It's something you can't help but look into."

Chip Kelly himself cannot be faulted for his handling of the job offers. He did not discuss them with the media until after the bowl game. Classic Kelly focus-on-the-upcoming-game move. He let his agent handle the situation until after his team beat Kansas State, then became directly involved.

The best thing he did for Oregon was staying head coach. He is a winner and everybody knows it. But for the recruiting class of 2013, the best thing Kelly did was end the drama as swiftly as possible.

The Ducks only have 13 committed recruits at this time and look to take around 20 this year. That leaves in the neighborhood of seven, maybe a few less, recruits all committing in the next 30 or so days. Many schools are more or less full. In other words, much upside potential for their recruiting ranking.

How the Duck coaches close the deals in January will determine how this class stacks up. But Chip Kelly making his decision within days of the end of the season gives them a much better chance at success.


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