The book on Chip Kelly's recruiting efforts at Oregon
It’s been nearly five years since Chip Kelly coached his last game at Oregon and after taking the 2017 off, his name is on the tip of the tongue of several fan bases who are already looking for new coaches or figure to be in the market for one by the end of the month. Kelly’s teams were known for their flashy offenses and big-time playmakers, but despite all the success he had in Eugene there are still several questions about Kelly as a recruiter. Today we look back at the Oregon recruiting classes from 2009-13 to to see how many big names he signed, how they panned out and also how well he did at developing talent.
Note: Kelly was officially hired as head coach of Oregon in March 2009 but was on staff as offensive coordinator from 2007-09. The 2013 class is also included, even though Kelly left Oregon from Philadelphia two weeks before Signing Day that year and was replaced by his offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich.
The Ducks signed four five-star prospects during the Kelly era, including two from the state of Oregon. The biggest and most successful win of the bunch was landing Thomas, who seemed bound for USC only to commit to Oregon on Signing Day in 2011. Thomas went onto have a terrific career for the Ducks as an offensive weapon and was selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he still plays. Seastrunk never played at Oregon after redshirting his freshman year but did go onto an excellent career at Baylor. He was also at the center of the NCAA investigation that would later lead to an 18-month show cause for Kelly. Both Lyerla and Tyner has flashes of brilliance in Eugene but saw their careers sidetracked for different reasons. Lyerla eventually left the program in the middle of the 2013 after multiple off-field incidents and is now out of football. Tyner rushed for more than 1,200 yards combined in his first two years for the Ducks but took a medical retirement after multiple shoulder injuries. After two years away from the game he resurfaced at Oregon State, where he has played primarily as a backup this season.
Over the five-year period Oregon signed a total of 40 four-star prospects and like most schools there was a fair amount of both his and misses. But Kelly gets credit for helping bolster the Ducks recruiting during that period. From 2004-08 the school signed just 22 four-stars and from 2014-17 the school signed 27 four-stars. Among the biggest successes were defensive linemen Armstead and Buckner, who went onto be first round picks in 2015 and 2016. While Kelly’s teams produced several NFL Draft picks, it’s notable that only Huff (Philadelphia, 2014) and Grasu (Chicago, 2015) were the only offensive four-stars signed from 2009-13 to go onto be drafted.
THE EXCELLENT EVALUATIONS
The ability of Kelly (and his staffs at Oregon during that time) to identify and evaluate talent played a major role in the success Oregon had during that period. The group is headlined by former three-star and eventually Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. Oregon was the only Power Five program to offer Mariota and he went onto become the best player in the program’s history. Likewise, Long was a three-star junior college player who spent just one year with the program before going in the first round of 2013 NFL Draft while Fisher was an All-American who went onto be selected in the second round of NFL Draft. Mitchell and Hart were both key playmakers for the Ducks during their time in Eugene and are now both on active NFL rosters.