Christmas may be a few days away but for Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, he got the best pre-Christmas present anyone could’ve asked for.
On Wednesday, Cristobal and his staff signed 22 recruits signed their national letters of intent to play football for the Ducks — 22 players who are so talented that they combine to make up the sixth best recruiting class in the nation, and tops in the Pac-12.
“It’s certainly a very successful and exciting National Signing Day,” Cristobal said. “A tremendous thank you has to go out to No. 1, everyone that creates that environment at Autzen Stadium because one of the huge reasons why so many of these young men chose to be members of this organization was because of their experience at Autzen.”
This class is expected to have an immediate impact on the field for the Ducks, with as many as 12-13 of them arriving on campus in January to go through Oregon’s spring practices and get a head start on competing for playing time.
Expected to compete right away — and the marquee player of the class — is Kayvon Thibodeaux, the nation’s No. 1 prospect out of California. His announcement to Oregon last Saturday over blue-blood Alabama was a massive win for Cristobal against his former boss Nick Saban.
“In terms of the football aspect it’s what you want, a gamechanger at defensive end,” Cristobal said. “A guy that can play the run and knock back tackles and tight ends and disrupt the offense, get in the backfield and create negative plays and on any passing situation, especially third down, here’s a guy that can change you significantly on third down.”
Oregon also got huge recruiting wins with the signings of Mase Funa and Mykael Wright.
Funa, the nation’s No. 55 recruit, is the highest-rated linebacker to sign with Ducks. Standing at 6-foot-2, 245-pounds, Funa is expected to compete for a starting spot right away with the graduation of linebackers Kaulana Apelu and Justin Hollins.
“This is exactly what you want on the field all the time — this guy is a big-time difference and he lets you know how he feels when he gets to you and he tackles you,” Cristobal said of Funa. “He’s a big guy… this is no little linebacker you’re going to collision against and be able to roll out this guy is going to knock you back.”
Wright, like Funa, is the highest-rated defensive back to play for Oregon. The nation’s No. 19 prospect and its No. 1 cornerback, Wright could fill a massive need for the Ducks and its struggling pass defense.
“A true cornerback… just under 6-foot tall… a legitimate 4.35-4.4 guy — unbelievable hips, suddenness, change of direction, explosiveness,” Cristobal said of Wright. “He’s a guy that his play will speak for itself, especially when you put him in the return game as well as punt returner and a kick return.”
One of the biggest wins for Oregon was the ability to replenish on key positions of need, such as wide receiver. The Ducks signed four players to help out junior Dillon Mitchell, a one-man wrecking crew on the field.
The addition of four-star prospect is four-star Mycah Pittman, an elite game-changer the second he walks onto campus. The Ducks also might’ve found a diamond in the rough in three-star J.R. Waters, somebody who battled Wright during the offseason and more than held his own.
“Oregon is strong everywhere in the country… we just made a point to be us,” Cristobal said. “We’re high energy and passionate individuals while we’re coaching and teaching and everything else.“