Since the Pacific Coast Conference was formed — which would later be renamed multiple times before becoming the Pac-12 — no team has enjoyed more success than USC. In the last 15 years, USC has won the Pac-12 seven times and has long been the face and prevailing brand of the Pac-12.
A changing of the guard is coming, though, and Oregon’s 32-point win against USC on Saturday could figurehead it.
“We have a chance to do something special,” head coach Mario Cristobal said after the win.
While Cristobal was referring to Oregon’s rising CFB Playoff hopes, the win could prove to have ramifications for years to come. With a bounty of 2020 recruits in the stands as the Ducks faced off against the Trojans, it represented more than just another game in the win column.
Saturday’s rout of Oregon’s cross-conference foe was a statement to the current and up-and-coming blue-chip players out of the state of California — the nation’s biggest recruiting hotbed outside of the South.
“We saw a bunch of green scattered throughout the stadium,” linebacker Troy Dye said. “It was pretty big to see all the support we had. We travel well as an Oregon fan base.”
Oregon traveled especially well this week given the amount of family members populating the stands. The Ducks’ success in the past has been built on game-changing California recruits. This year is no different, as a whopping 46 players comprise the “CaliFlock.” Many Ducks either played with or against their SoCal opponents in the past, or in the case of Mycah and Michael Pittman, grew up under the same roof.
Cristobal’s first full recruiting cycle landed at No. 7 nationally and first in the conference, according to 247Composite — two program firsts. His staff prioritizes California, as displayed by the 11 natives in the 26-commit class.
Thus far for 2020, the Ducks sit at No. 15 nationally and second in the Pac-12, just below Washington. It's a talented class — with a third of the commits hailing from California — but Cristobal and his staff still have work to do if they hope to secure another top-10 group.
Unlike last year when the No. 1 player in the nation, Kayvon Thibodeaux, committed to the Ducks, they have yet to land a five-star in the 2020 cycle, but that could change soon.
The No. 20 player in the nation and brother of offensive linemen Penei Sewell, linebacker Noah Sewell, is highly considering the Ducks. The Utah native has a 90% Crystal Ball Prediction for Oregon on the 247Composite.
“[It means] a lot, actually, just seeing Penei’s relationship with Cristobal, I can already see a sneak peek of what mine would look like if I were to commit to Oregon,” Noah told the Oregonian.
Sewell had effusive praise for Cristobal.
“He’s like a father figure to me, because he and my family known each other for a while now, and him taking care of Penei just feels like he’s just another father figure,” he said.
A commitment from Sewell would vault Oregon’s class into the top-10 and add yet another stud defensive prospect to a defense stacked with young talent.
Four-stars, 6-foot-6 receiver Johnny Wilson and the No. 2 pro-style in the nation, quarterback Jay Butterfield, headline Oregon’s 2020 class on the offensive side. The number one player as of now however, is Deland, Florida, native Avantae Williams.
The safety, while not large in stature at 5-foot-11 and just 170lbs, is instinctual in zone coverage and most notably effective in run support, displaying a downhill style of play. In addition, he flashes breakaway speed, frequently returning punts for touchdowns.
He will be joined by several fellow defensive backs in four-stars Luke Hill and Myles Slusher, three-star Jared Greenfield and transfer Bennett Williams.
The remainder of the 21-commit class is comprised of five offensive linemen, five defensive ends or outside linebackers, a running back, tight end, receiver and athlete.
To compete with teams from the SEC, as Cristobal has articulated his hopes in doing, Oregon must recruit like teams from the SEC. Since Cristobal took over, the Ducks have done so for all intents and purposes. For prolonged success, they must continue to do so as to ensure they get “their guys” through the program. For Cristobal and his staff this starts with zeroing in on California, the recruiting hotbed of the west.