More paint is swapped during the recruiting chase than at the Daytona 500, and some coaches are known to take an occasional shortcut through the middle of the track.
Football has its own stadiums full of drunks and rednecks, but no view of the back stretch. There are no restrictor plates in football, where recruiting wars of the past have included incentives like gold Trans Ams and briefcases full of case.
Clock management: less than three weeks remain in the 2014 recruiting game, and Mark Helfrich is out of timeouts. He and the Oregon staff will be in the hurry-up until Signing Day (Kirby Lee, USAToday Sports Images).
Jerry Glanville likes to tell a story about the time he visited a recruit that was wavering in his commitment, back when he was an assistant at Georgia Tech. Coach, I've decided I want to go to Tennessee, the recruit said. Glanville told Andy Johnston of College Football Insider:
“I said, ‘That’s nice. Let me take you for a milkshake and I’ll bring you back for the press conference. He got in my Buick Riviera, and I drove him to Atlanta and enrolled him at Georgia Tech. And they were sitting up there waiting for the press conference. Close the deal!”
For reasons that are entirely his own and to which he is completely entitled, high school senior Bishard "Budda" Baker, a fast, shifty slot receiver/running back/safety/returner from Bellvue, Washington, Tweeted yesterday that he was decommitting from Oregon. He's likely to join former Wolverine teammate Myles Jack at UCLA, or matriculate to nearby UW.
Baker's mother has a severe, limiting illness, Crohn's disease, and that may be a factor in his as-yet unexplained decision. He's a teenager, supremely talented, and the only appropriate thing for grown men to do is wish him well. The 5-9, 170-lb. safety could become a tremendous college football player, but at this point, it won't be with the Ducks.
Just about two weeks ago when De'Anthony Thomas declared for the NFL draft, Baker sent a Twitter message to 247 Sports recruiting analyst Justin Hopkins, asking him to tell UO fans he was ready for the challenge of replacing DAT, eager to bring "a natty" to the trophy case at Hatfield-Dowlin. He'd hosted three trophies at Bellvue, so it wasn't an idle boast: losing him is a big loss, not just in ability, but in leadership. Players like that infect a program with a winning ethic, an expectation a little like Steve Prefontaine's famous quote, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." A team needs a core of players who think that way, players who want to win championships and never stop competing or preparing. After losing Brian Jackson, Taylor Hart and Josh Huff, finding the leaders and pace setters of tomorrow is a high priority.
Baker was not only fast, he was serious and dedicated. That's what makes him a big loss.
Oregon's coaches now have the twin challenge of not only replacing De'Anthony Thomas, but replacing his replacement. The decision reduces the list of verbal commits in the 2014 class to 16, and knocks the Ducks down several spots in the PAC-12 recruiting rankings with less than three weeks to go until Signing Day.
On the field, the Ducks are in good shape for 2014 at both running back and receiver. Even if recruiting ended today they have Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner at running back, with Royce Freeman and Tony James set to join the roster on NSD. Freeman is 6-0, 230, and James runs the 100 in 10.5, an infusion of power and speed. New wide receiver commit Jalen Brown is 6-2 with great hands, leaping ability and body control, and a tall, smooth JC wide receiver named Eric Lauderdale is scheduled to visit on January 24th.
Baker's probably lost to the Webfoots, but the offense still has plenty of weapons. Last season the Oregon coaches closed strong in recruiting after Chip Kelly's January 16th decision to leave for the NFL, and they face a similar challenge this time. Juju Smith remains uncommitted. Mattrell McGraw is visiting Texas A&M this weekend. Defensive tackle Courtney Garnett is at Oklahoma.
In living rooms, dorm rooms and drive-in restaurants, decisions are being made and incentives offered. This part of college football is a little sordid and a little secretive. On the first Wednesday in February 120 coaches will take to a conference table or a podium in front of an array of microphones to announce that they've just signed a terrific class full of outstanding athletes and tremendous young men.
About half of them will actually believe it. And fifteen or so will actually be right. After a week or so to reconnect with their wives and kids, a new round of phone calls, emails and 11th-hour milkshakes will begin. The backstretch of the 2015 recruiting season is already underway, a new race for a limited field of super-charged talent.
To win football games, a coach has to land his share of Budda Bakers, and close strong every season.
Dale, glad to hear your job situation is improving. As to Budda Baker, I bet with his mothers heath issues, he stays at University of Washington. Lets hope Tony James stays with the program. He has the ability to fill this role. The Budda ain't no Bhudda.
Dale......you should be writing for SI. Go see Baker...talk to DAT...talk to other players about what happens along the thorny path to college football signing day. This would be a fascinating cover story.
It's Crohn's disease. This "suffer in silence" disease is painful and debilitating. Combined with it's close twin, ulcerative colitis, it receives little to no attention from the general public. Bless her in her fight.
By now, we know nothing is secure until Signing Day, so what hurts most about this is the 180 turn by Baker. It seemed like a sincere thought out decision when he committed to Oregon, seemed like he was enthusiastic about the opportunity. But yesterday, he just says "it isn't a good fit".One has to be a Green & Yellow homer of the highest order to think that Oregon is the best and only fit for every player. But it really scratches the nerve that he might end up at U Dub or UCLA.
I think the coaches would have been able to utilize him in the offense better than they handled DAT last season, in a large part because Tyner/ Marshall will be more settled. Maybe he would have fit in great in the backfield defensively, Neal would have done wonders with him, and who better to learn from than Ifo.
But, the Ducks just have to move on, the class still looks good, a few more could put it in the great category.
This is a double hit. Not only will he be not breaking for long touchdowns with the Ducks but he'll be piling up touchdowns for the PAC-12 enemy. It wouldn't have hurt so bad if he would have gone to another conference. MH and crew need to learn how to hold a recruiting class together, and learn fast! The new job shouldn't give you blisters Dale. Hope you like it and glad to hear you'll will be able to continue feeding the animals. Livefyre is even working correctly... will wonders never cease.
That is a big loss for the 2014 recruiting class. I had a vision of him becoming the dynamic player we're losing with De'Anthony Thomas off to the NFL. There's also the Oregon recruiting ranking and their perception as a program on a national scale that will take a hit as well.
IMO, the Ducks will be OK, but I think we'll feel this one.
One last personal note: Friday afternoon I got a call from a company which processes off-track wagers on horse races. I'd interviewed with them last week before starting at the electrical warehouse. The schedule runs 11-9, about 30 hours a week with no forced overtime or 4 a.m. starts, much more conducive to writing. So I'll be able to resume a much more normal output and creative process. Thanks everyone for your patience over the last week, and your support and well-wishes.
@Ducko30 I believe part of the reason Budda got cold feet was he, as well as thousands of fans, saw how the coaches used DAT this year. If you can not find a way to get your fastest man on the field the ball in space, then you are not doing a great job as a coach. Budda saw how poorly DAT was used and wanted no part of it. IMHO. Go Ducks WTD. P.S. duckified Livefyre isn't working for me....running explorer.
Lose Budda, gat Dale back. I'll take it.
Glad to hear another option became available. I had to grimace a little when you mentioned the 4AM starts at the other job.
@Dale Newton Congratulations on the new job. Always enjoy your blog and look forward to much more!
Not sure it's a fair trade for the health of the program, but I appreciate the sentiment. On another note, the lovely Miss Vicki was totally jazzed about hosting a tailgate for the Spring Game. Turns out she loves planning parties, and immediately started an animated conversation about what to serve and what it would cost to rent a canopy. She's planning menus and enlisting her daughter Hallie on the project as we speak. Hope some folks can make it.
Yeah, that's the time I usually like to go to bed.
Dale you're not going anywhere :) once Addison scores that first td of the year you will love the blogosphere again. If you bail on this operation I will have no way of voicing my opinion on our Ducks. Are we really worried about Budda?? 5'9 175 folks. We are only bummed bc he might stay in wash. Sure he's a great prospect but we need to grab lmfao, ford, Garrett for the Dline. We have an embarrassment of riches at Wr and rb already. The Dline and a big time safety like Juju is what we need today