The Circus That is National Signing Day

National signing day is like no other day in sports. It is a weird day where kids in their late-teens take over our televisions and social media feeds, and it’s a day when grown men hang on the words of high school seniors as though they are awe-inspiring revelations. To many it is a day that decides the future of their favorite college football team; to others it is just a big waste of time.

While some networks dedicate their entire programming schedules to it and Twitter feeds are flooded with up-to-the-second updates on it, in the end national signing day doesn’t tell us much of anything.
There is no such thing as a sure thing in this world and that definitely holds true in college recruiting as well. Highly touted recruits fizzle out or get into trouble, while other lesser-known players can flourish. It's an inexact science that has to be taken with a grain of salt whenever consuming.
Duck fans know this fact all too well as they have seen both sides of this conundrum in recent seasons. Lache Seastrunk was Oregon's big five-star get just three years ago (so big in fact he may have cost the team some impending sanctions). He has since left the team to play for Baylor after never taking a snap at Oregon.
Two years ago the Ducks landed an impressive class of wide receivers that included three four-star wide outs, one four-star athlete and another three-star receiver. Oregon fans are still waiting for one or two of these blue chip recruits to blossom fully. The surprises go the other way too however.
Two years ago Oregon signed a kid by the name of Marcus Mariota, a three-star quarterback out of Hawaii, whom only one other school (Memphis) offered a scholarship to. Considering he is the best quarterback the Pac-12 will feature next season; so far he has turned out to be pretty good. Then there were Duck favorites like Kenjon Barner, the three-star running back that received just two offers aside from Oregon’s, or Kiko Alonso, another three-star recruit not even on the nation’s radar. Max Unger came to Oregon as a three-star recruit in 2004 and is now an NFL all-pro center.
The list of under-rated stars that Oregon has produced is impressive and extensive, but it doesn't stop in Eugene. Just two years ago, Johnny Manziel, the first freshman to ever win the Heisman trophy, was just a three-star recruit in which no "major" school recruited.
So while Oregon's 2013 haul of recruits looks promising, there is much more to take away from the day than how many total stars the team brought in.
First of all, yesterday was proof that players believe in Oregon's new coach, Mark Helfrich. Of the twelve players committed to Oregon prior to Chip Kelly's departure, only one defected from the Ducks. The rest, including Oregonian Thomas Tyner and San Diego's impressive Robinson twins, showed that Helfrich is no downgrade by deciding to remain loyal to the Ducks. Helfrich also proved he can pull in some talent of his own, adding seven new recruits since Kelly left.
Wednesday's NSD also showed that the program is in a better place to start Helfrich's first season than it was in Kelly's first (recruiting-wise). Kelly's first class at Oregon was ranked 32nd by and included just four four-star recruits. Helfrich's initial class ranked 21st according to Rivals and included seven four-star recruits and one five-star.
While the amount of recruits rated over four-stars is down a bit from the past couple years under Kelly (he averaged of eleven four-stars or above the past three seasons), this year's eight recruits is quite impressive considering when the coaching change took place.
Another nugget of information for Duck fans to take away from yesterday is the signing of kicker, Matt Wogan. A three-star kicker out of North Carolina, Wogan is the number two-ranked kicker in the country. Considering that placekicking directly affected Oregon's national championship hopes the past three seasons, landing a kicker reportedly able to nail 60-yard field goals on the regular is very exciting.
The last thing, and maybe the most important to take away from NSD, is the fact that the Ducks still have their last-minute magic. For the third year in a row the Ducks were able to pull in some key recruits on NSD and the days leading up to it. This year it came in the form of four-star offensive lineman, Cameron Hunt and four-star defensive end, Torrodney Prevot.
Prevot was previously committed to USC, but at the last moment decided to switch his allegiance to Oregon. This is the third straight year that Oregon has pulled a highly touted recruit from SC at the last moment (DeAnthony Thomas in 2011 and Arik Armstead in 2012), further proof that Oregon is the cream of the crop out west in the eyes of many young recruits.
In the end there was a lot to be learned about Oregon from yesterday's circus show that was national signing day, but it was more about where the Ducks and Helfrich are as a program rather than what the new players will bring to the table next season.
Vince Tushner is on Twitter. Follow him at @SportsVince21

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