Breaking down the DB recruiting boon at Oregon during the Dan Lanning era

Dan Lanning has been the head coach of the Oregon Ducks for only 17 months. Since taking over for Mario Cristobal in December of 2021, a lot has transpired. There have been roster shake-ups, numerous coaching changes, big-time wins, frustrating losses, and all-in-all, a successful start to the new era of Oregon football.

One thing that hasn’t changed under Lanning is recruiting success in Eugene. While Willie Taggart got the ball rolling in 2017 and turned a lot of Oregon eyes toward the world of recruiting in his one year at the helm, Cristobal really took things to the next level and recruited better than anyone ever had in Eugene.

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Lanning picked up right where Cristobal left off, and is arguably doing things just as well, if not better than the former Oregon coach did.

While Lanning has a knack for star-studded visitor lists and a recruiting class that resembles an SEC school along the defensive trenches, one of the things that has stood out to me the most during his almost two years in Eugene is his — and his coaching staff’s — ability to recruit in the defensive secondary. Whether it’s cornerbacks or safeties, it has felt like picking up players who can cover with speed and be physical at the point of attack has been a priority for the Ducks.

Again, this ability is not Lanning’s alone but also should be credited to his coaching staff, mainly cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin, former safeties coach Matt Powledge, and current safeties coach Chris Hampton.


Oregon's Demetrice Martin named Pac-12 Recruiter of the Year


On Sunday afternoon, the Ducks got a commitment from 4-star cornerback Ify Obidegwu, the No. 99 player in the 2024 class. His commitment urged me to dig into the numbers to answer a question that I have found myself routinely asking…

Is Dan Lanning’s staff better at recruiting defensive backs than any other coach we’ve seen at Oregon, or is this just a product of recency bias?

I dug through the numbers of the recruiting classes for the past five head coaches to get an answer, going back to the start of the Chip Kelly era when you could argue that recruiting started to be a focus for Oregon. Here’s what I found:

Dan Lanning Defensive Back Commits

Class of 2024

  • 4-star CB Ify Obidegwu (0.9517)

  • 4-star S Aaron Flowers (0.9466)


Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9491

Class of 2023

  • 4-star S Cole Martin (0.9154)

  • 4-star S Tyler Turner (0.8976)

  • 4-star CB Roderick Pleasant (0.9574)

  • 4-star CB Daylen Austin (0.9462)

  • 4-star S Kodi DeCambra (0.8944)

  • 3-star CB Solomon Davis (0.8756)

  • 3-star CB Collin Gill (0.8550)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9059

Class of 2022

  • 4-star CB Jalil Tucker (0.9417)

  • 4-star CB Jahlil Florence (0.9377)

  • 4-star S Trejon Williams (0.8964)

  • 4-star CB Khamari Terrell (0.8937)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9137

Analysis: What Lanning has been able to do in his 2.5 recruiting classes so far in Eugene has been impressive. He was able to land a couple of big hitters on short notice in the 2022 class, and a massive seven-man DB class in 2023 is among the higher-rated groups we’ve seen in the past couple of decades. It will be exciting to see how the 2024 class continues to build out, and if more blue-chip defensive backs join the group.


Mario Cristobal Defensive Back Commits

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Class of 2021

  • 4-star CB Avante Dickerson (0.9442)

  • 4-star S Jaylin Davies (0.9350)

  • 4-star CB Daymon David (0.9133)

  • 3-star CB Darren Barkins (0.8719)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9161

Class of 2020

  • 5-star CB Dontae Manning (0.9841)

  • 3-star S J.J. Greenfield (0.8722)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9281

Class of 2019

  • 4-star CB Mykael Wright (0.9783)

  • 3-star CB Trikweze Bridges (0.8874)

  • 3-star CB Jamal Hill (0.8793)

  • 3-star CB DJ James (0.8759)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9052

Analysis: To no one’s surprise, Mario Cristobal was good at recruiting, and that success wasn’t just confined to the offensive line. The highest-rated CB recruit in Oregon history — 5-star Dontae Manning — was a Cristobal recruit, and he also brought in guys like Jamal Hill, Trikweze Bridges, and DJ James.


Willie Taggart Defensive Back Commits

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Class of 2018

  • 4-star S Steve Stephens IV (0.9430)

  • 4-star S Jevon Holland (0.9324)

  • 3-star S Verone McKinley III (0.8871)

  • 3-star CB Haki Woods (0.8549)

  • 3-star CB Kahlef Hailassie (0.8485)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8931

Analysis: Willie Taggart did a lot with very little. In his one year in Eugene, Taggart brought in two of the best safeties that Ducks have seen in the past decade, both of whom are playing in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. I guess Oregon fans can thank him for that, at least.

Mark Helfrich Defensive Back Commits

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Class of 2017

  • 4-star CB Deommodore Lenoir (0.9697)

  • 4-star CB Thomas Graham (0.9604)

  • 3-star S Billy Gibson (0.8478)

  • 3-star S Nick Pickett (0.8478)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9059

Class of 2016

  • 4-star S Brady Breeze (0.9025)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9025

Class of 2015

  • 3-star CB Ugo Amadi (0.8784)

  • 3-star CB Jihree Stewart (0.8584)

  • 3-star S Dylan Kane (0.8482)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8617

Class of 2014

  • 4-star CB Arrion Springs (0.9603)

  • 3-star CB Matrell McGraw (0.8866)

  • 3-star S Charles Nelson (0.8706)

  • 3-star CB Glen Ihenacho (0.8518)

  • 3-star S Dominique Harrison (0.8403)

  • 3-star CB Khalil Oliver (0.8190)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8714

Analysis: Mark Helfrich had a lot of time to work, and he did well bringing in a handful of difference-makers. However, the hit rate was not relatively high, with a lot of misses mixed in there. Helfrich did bring guys like Ugo Amadi, Charles Nelson, Deommodore Lenoir, and Thomas Graham into the mix, though.


Chip Kelly Defensive Back Commits

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Class of 2013

  • 3-star CB Chris Seisay (0.8738)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8738

Class of 2012

  • 4-star S Reggie Daniels (0.9148)

  • 3-star CB Stephen Amoako (0.8765)

  • 3-star S Eric Amoako (0.8534)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8815

Class of 2011

  • 4-star CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (0.9188)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.9188

Class of 2010

  • 4-star CB Dior Mathis (0.9340)

  • 4-star S Erick Dargan (0.8921)

  • 3-star CB James Scales (0.8764)

  • 3-star S Derrick Malone (0.8733)

  • 3-star CB Terrance Mitchell (0.8701)

  • 3-star CB Troy Hill (0.8701)

  • 3-star S Eric Dungy (0.8111)

Average 247Sports Rating: 0.8753

Analysis: It’s funny to see the DB class dwindle as Kelly’s years went on at Oregon, largely due to the fact that there were so many difference-makers in his inaugural class in 2010. Between Troy Hill, Terrance Mitchell, Dior Mathis, Erick Dargan, and Derrick Malone, you have a handful of players who would make a mark in Eugene, and two of whom are still finding success at the NFL level. Kelly later brought Ifo Ekpre-Olomu into the mix as well.


Ranking DB Recruiting Classes

Which coach landed the best DB recruiting class? That can’t be perfectly answered yet, since one of the leading contenders is Dan Lanning’s 2024 class, which is off to a hot start with two highly-rated players. If we were to include that class, though, with the caveat that it isn’t complete, here are how things stack up:

  1. 2024 Class — Dan Lanning (2 players)

  2. 2020 Class — Mario Cristobal (2 players)

  3. 2011 Class — Chip Kelly (1 player)

  4. 2021 Class — Mario Cristobal (4 players)

  5. 2022 Class — Dan Lanning (4 players)

  6. 2023 Class — Dan Lanning (7 players)

  7. 2017 Class — Mark Helfrich (4 players)

  8. 2019 Class — Mario Cristobal (4 players)

  9. 2016 Class — Mark Helfrich (1 player)

  10. 2018 Class — Willie Taggart (5 players)

  11. 2012 Class — Chip Kelly (3 players)

  12. 2010 Class — Chip Kelly (7 players)

  13. 2013 Class — Chip Kelly (1 player)

  14. 2014 Class — Mark Helfrich (6 players)

  15. 2015 Class — Mark Helfrich (3 players)

I noted the number of players in each class because that is a big factor in determining the average rating of the talent each cycle. Obviously, Chip Kelly’s 2011 class looks great according to the average recruiting rating, but with just one player — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu — it explains why.


Also, it feels notable that Mario Cristobal’s best class — 2020, ranked No. 2 — also only had two players. That makes Lanning’s start to the 2024 class look a bit better than I expected it would, though it will be interesting to see how the rest of the current cycle plays out in the DB room.

Head Coaching Recruiting Averages

So we’ve looked at the top-rated DB classes in Oregon history, and seen which coaches were able to have the most successful years getting players to join the Oregon secondary. Who had the most impressive tenures at Oregon according to that metric, though? Here’s a look at the average DB recruiting rating during each coach’s tenure at Oregon (again, note that Lanning is in the middle of his third recruiting class, so his rating could be bolstered a bit by the quality of recruits in the 2024 class):

No. 1 — Dan Lanning (13 Total DB Commitments)

Number of Recruiting Classes: 2.5
4-Star Commitments: 11
3-Star Commitments: 2
Average DB Rating: 0.9160

No. 2 — Mario Cristobal (10 Total DB Commitments)

Number of Recruiting Classes: 3
5-star Commitments:
4-Star Commitments: 4
3-Star Commitments: 5
Average DB Rating: 0.9141

No. 3 — Willie Taggart (5 Total DB Commitments)

Number of Recruiting Classes: 1
4-Star Commitments: 2
3-Star Commitments: 3
Average DB Rating: 0.8931

No. 4 — Chip Kelly (12 Total DB Commitments)

Number of Recruiting Classes: 4
4-Star Commitments: 4
3-Star Commitments: 8
Average DB Rating: 0.8803

No. 5 — Mark Helfrich (10 Total DB Commitments)

Number of Recruiting Classes: 4
4-Star Commitments: 2
3-Star Commitments: 8
Average DB Rating: 0,8716


This exercise confirmed two things for me: 1) Dan Lanning and his coaching staff have been extremely successful at recruiting defensive backs, and 2) saying that the new era is leagues better than any other coach in Oregon history at recruiting DBs is shrouded in a bit of recency bias.

Mario Cristobal was great at recruiting across the board, and that included some really highly-rated DBs. While not all of them panned out as expected, you can’t always use hindsight when looking back on recruiting from years in the past. Between Taggart’s one strong year, and a few big hits from both Helfrich and Kelly, the DB recruiting over the past decade or so in Eugene has been very solid.

I still think it’s incredibly clear that under Lanning, Coach Meat, and the new staff at Oregon, we’re seeing a bit of an uptick. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the 2024 class shapes up in the secondary, and I absolutely want to revisit these numbers a couple of years down the road. But I think when all is said and done, we will look back on Lanning’s tenure in Eugene with the recognition that the defensive secondary took a major leap.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire