Mario Cristobal’s philosophy has been both consistent and intentional since he took over as Oregon’s head coach in 2018. His vision: turn the Ducks into the Alabama of the Pac-12, a hard-nosed team that wins in the trenches, recruits elite players and prides itself on preparation and work-ethic.
Cristobal, as a former player at Miami and assistant coach at Alabama, knows instilling a culture alone can only go so far. Sooner or later, the team needs the right players.
That’s why it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when he hired former Bryan McClendon, South Carolina offensive coordinator and 2014 Recruiter of the Year, to fill the Ducks’ void at wide receiver coach. At just 36 years old, McClendon has proven the ability to recruit and develop offensive players at an elite level.
On top of his skillset, he brings SEC ties, something Cristobal covets. After playing receiver at Georgia, McClendon went on to play for the Chicago Bears before ultimately returning to his alma mater for the 2007 season as an assistant coach.
From there, his role continued to grow. He spent time coaching running backs, receivers and was named interim head coach in 2015.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment came in 2014 when the young coach landed Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom have since taken on large roles for their respective NFL teams. But that wasn’t the first time he recruited elite runners. During his tenure at Georgia, he brought two former No. 1 running backs on board in Isaiah Crowell and Keith Marshall, as well as 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Todd Gurley.
McClendon’s track record as a talent developer is equally as strong. In 2016, he made the move to South Carolina where he would take over as assistant, and eventually full-time, offensive coordinator.
There, receivers Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel blossomed under McClendon before beginning their NFL careers this past season. Deebo Samuel, who was last seen scoring a touchdown in the 2020 Super Bowl, entered South Carolina’s program as a three-star recruit who failed to crack the nation’s top-800.
Although Oregon’s recruiting has skyrocketed under Cristobal — who has landed top-15 classes in all three of his years as head coach and has the chance to finish top-five in 2021 — it’s no secret that the Duck’s recruitment of receivers has left something to be desired.
The team has signed just four top-100 prospects at the wide receiver position, ever. And the past few years haven’t been much brighter. In 2018, five wideouts decommitted from the program following former head coach Willie Taggart’s departure to Florida State. During the last recruiting cycle, Johnny Wilson, another highly touted four-star receiver, decommitted from Cristobal’s program.
The Ducks desperately needed someone with a proven track record and a first-rate resume, and that’s exactly what they got in McClendon. Since joining the program in mid-April, he’s locked up commitments from two big time receivers in four-star Isaiah Brevard and five-star Troy Franklin — the second best receiver to ever commit to the Ducks.
McClendon has already made his presence felt and if his past achievements are any tell, Brevard and Franklin will be the first of many.