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Jayden Wayne, nation's No. 2 athlete in 2023, talks Oregon Ducks recruitment originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
While Mario Cristobal and the Oregon Ducks staff grind away at securing commitments from the 2022 class, it's also never too early to look ahead to targets in future years as well.
When it comes to the class of 2023, few players are more highly touted nationally than 6'6", 245-pound edge rusher Jayden Wayne, who is the nation's No. 2 athlete and No. 17 overall player nationally per 247Sports evaluation.
In fact, the Oregon Ducks were the first team to offer the Tacoma, WA native all the way back in July 2019 during the Saturday Night Live camp.
"It was exciting," Wayne told NBC Sports Northwest. "It was my first offer. I went to the camp, I showed my talent and they offered me."
Oregon has not been able to host the annual recruiting event since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Wayne told NBCSNW he would return to Eugene for SNL 2021 if it can happen.
"It was fun competing against the best," added Wayne.
In that case, it would be another opportunity for Oregon to host the elite recruit.
Unlike many other prospects in his class, a trip to Eugene this summer would not be his initial in-person visit as he's been on campus multiple times. On top of attending the SNL 2019 camp, he also attended the Washington State game at Autzen Stadium in 2019 which ended with a walk-off field goal for the win.
When asked if that trip and atmosphere left an impression on him, Wayne said it "most definitely" did, but the energy from that game extended all throughout the program.
"There’s a lot of energy [within the program]," said Wayne. "The coaches bring a lot of energy. It’s fun. It’s a nice facility."
Wayne specified the weight room and the Marcus Mariota Sports Performance Center as aspects that impressed him. He later added both a great weight room and solid nutrition programs will go into his final decision on where to attend school.
"[I want] a place to get better," said Wayne.
Before, Wayne said he talked to then-defensive Graduate Assistant Tre Watson who left Oregon to join Marcus Arroyo at UNLV in 2020. Since then, Wayne said he talks to Oregon "not a lot" but that "a bunch of [Oregon] coaches are recruiting" him.
However, given he wants to go to a place where he can maximize his potential, following in the footsteps of his favorite college football player Kayvon Thibodeaux may be enticing.
Wayne has taken notice of how Oregon has utilized Kayvon all over the field and thinks if he decides to go to Oregon, the Ducks can put him in similar positions.
"We both play like the same. We’re both fast, aggressive. We both can play anything," explained Wayne.
Furthermore, Wayne was compared to Thibodeaux by Rivals recruiting analyst Adam Gorney, who called him the "Physical Freak" of the Pylon 7on7 Tournament in February.
"Wayne has no bad weight, he’s rocked up and he moves so well that athleticism or get-off will be no question over the coming years. On the hoof, he looks like Kayvon Thibodeaux looks right now - after two years of playing college football."
On Twitter, Wayne mentioned he was "honored" to be compared to his favorite player in Thibodeaux.
KT even responded to him, telling him to "elevate the standard," a phrase used often by Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal when discussing the building of the Ducks football program.
While a decision seems quite a ways away, especially given Wayne wants to go take official visits to schools once the pandemic is over, expect Cristobal and the Ducks to make him a priority in the 2023 class given his talent and proximity to campus.
Wayne mentioned LSU, Tennessee, and Washington as schools he talks to more than Oregon. He's also talking to schools that have not offered him yet such as Clemson, Penn State, UCLA, Florida, and Texas.