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Lanning brings SEC recruiting to Oregon, others unhappy


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It started with one duck emoji. Then another. Then another. Then another. Now we’re up to six ducks.

Every time Oregon coach Dan Lanning pulls out his phone, opens the trusty Twitter application and loads up a post with a duck emoji in it, it signifies that Oregon has picked up another commitment. And these aren’t just three-star, forgettable ducks. These are the new Oregon Ducks.

There has been no bigger winner on this first day of the early signing period than Lanning and Oregon. The Ducks opened the day by flipping four-star quarterback Austin Novosad of Dripping Springs (Texas) High from Baylor. Then they flipped five-star safety Peyton Bowen of Denton (Texas) Guyer from Notre Dame — though they were still awaiting his paperwork as of late Wednesday afternoon. Then they landed a commitment from five-star defensive end Matayo Uiagalelei of Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco over USC and Ohio State. Then they flipped four-star cornerback Daylen Austin of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly from LSU.

You may have lost count, but that’s four new Ducks, including three five-star prospects. The other two are four-star running back Jayden Limar of Lake Stevens (Wash.) High and three-star athlete Solomon Davis of Covina (Calif.) Charter Oak. There is also speculation that Oregon could also be in on five-star defensive lineman David Hicks of Katy (Texas) Paetow, who is currently committed to Texas A&M. Hicks is signing Friday.


The SEC has made its way to Eugene. And people don’t like it.


This was full-on recruiting warfare. Think about the programs Oregon pillaged Wednesday: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, LSU, the list goes on. These are the new Ducks, the ones who are going to stack their roster with elite-level talent because that’s what it takes to win a national championship. More importantly, they have a coach with an SEC background — straight from the Georgia pipeline — who knows exactly what a national championship roster has to look like.


With every Duck tweet from Lanning came the expected responses from jaded fans of opposing programs who were secretly — or not so secretly — jealous that their teams couldn’t get the job done Wednesday. It’s the normal fan temperament on days like this: “My team does everything by the book, and your team is cheating.” Then, when their team does something they were complaining about, it’s either crickets or rationalization. It’s a story as old as time, and certainly older than the days of NIL and legal compensation.


Here are samples of real tweets posted following Oregon’s barrage.


• @DesertDawgFan: “Most will be in the portal in a couple of years, recruiting wins do not translate to wins on the field.”


• @JustinSandberg: “Gee I wonder how. NIL would be okay if everyone played by same rules. Acquisition fees okay for some, apparently. It would also be nice if people didn’t pretend it’s not the money. If there’s nothing wrong with it, be honest.”

@Rome65: “Texas A&M 2.0”


• @unlnown64660701: “You should change your show from ‘Stars Matter’ to ‘Dollars Matter.’”


• @mkbnysz: “Must be nice having Nike money behind you.”


• @Cowboys_Sooners: “No, the Ducks are spending a lot of money today. We will see if buying a roster wins you a championship.”


That is just a select sample of a river of hundreds of similar-minded tweets. For every duck emoji, there were 10 emoji of dollar bills or bank bags.


Here’s the reality: Nobody is naive enough to think NIL has nothing to do with this. Some Phil Knight Nike money was probably being sprinkled all over the country. That makes people upset because not every school has the means to play ball at that level. Even a big-time program such as Ohio State seems to be struggling with how to deploy NIL money, and it’s costing the Buckeyes recruits. But this is the new world we’re living in. Either figure it out and win or complain about it and lose.


Oregon, for better or worse, has seemingly figured it out. And yes, maybe having the founder and CEO of Nike as a program booster is going to be the catalyst to turn things around in this new age of college football.


Complain about it while Lanning sits in his office giggling at your tears. You may say, “Look at Texas A&M — it paid for the best class in recruiting history a year ago and stunk.” But let me tell you in plain English: Oregon will be a much better football team when it has these top-tier players. I don’t care if Dan Lanning himself had to drive to Walter White’s storage facility in Albuquerque with a nylon bag and hand-deliver the money to the five-star prospects who are going to be boarding a jet to Eugene soon. Figure it out and get it done.

Yes, NIL was intended to reward current players for their performance. It was never intended to be a pay-for-play scenario. But the financial door was cracked open, and the large money monster broke through it. And honestly, is there that much of a difference between being rewarded for playing well once you are in college and being compensated upfront? Who are we to decide when others get paid? Who are we to decide how a rich person who wants to throw bands at teenagers spends his money?

The players earned that money as long as someone wants to pay them. They performed in high school and are likely to perform in college. Here’s another sobering thought: Everyone is doing it. Some might be better at it than others, but quit with the pearl-clutching and play ball.

Adapt or die.

That’s what the SEC has done. And that’s why the SEC is better. It just means more? Open your checkbook and prove it.

It seems like forever ago when Oregon opened its season against Georgia and got bludgeoned. Lanning, in his first year as the Ducks coach, had to play against his old team in Atlanta, and he knew in his heart what was coming. He knew what Georgia’s roster looked like, and he knew what Oregon’s roster looked like. The Ducks got completely destroyed in all facets of the game. If there were ever the need for a running clock, that might be Exhibit A.

After the game, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, “He’ll never say it, but he knows we’ve got better players.”

The funniest thing about the situation was that Oregon went on to win eight consecutive games after the Georgia loss with a roster that can’t compare to the team that’ll likely win the national title this year. Oregon has the foundation with its program, but it lacks the dudes on both sides of the ball to compete against the very best.

So what did Oregon do? What did Lanning do?

They went out and got players. When they lost five-star quarterback Dante Moore on Monday, they ruthlessly flipped Novosad away from Baylor after he was committed to the Bears for a year. Baylor withstood attempts to poach Novosad from Ohio State and Texas A&M in the middle of his recruitment, but Oregon ripped him away.

That’s college football in 2022.

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