Eugene, Ore. -- Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal wrapped up another banner Early Signing Day with not just one, but two five-star linebackers headlining the class of 2020. Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell signed their letters of intent on Wednesday morning, giving the Ducks one of the best linebacker duos in Pac-12 recruiting history. Flowe, who was deciding between Clemson, Miami and a late push from USC, chose Oregon in a nationally televised ceremony. For the first time in program history, the Ducks signed the top ranked player in California in back-to-back years, becoming only the third school in college football history to do it (UCLA, USC).
Alongside Flowe came 5 star linebacker Noah Sewell, the younger brother of Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell and youngest of the Sewell family. He finished his senior season as Utah's 'Mr. Football' while being named a finalist for the 2019 Polynesian High School Player of the Year. Shoring up the linebacker group were 4 star Jaden Navarette and 3 star Jackson LaDuke.
"I've never been around a caliber of linebacking class like that," said head coach Mario Cristobal, who found about Flowe's commitment while the team was practicing. "Incredible group of men. They are intense competitors, they are great teammates, they are great leaders, they are all physical, they're explosive, instinctive."
Offensively, the Ducks brought nine players into the class, and two quarterbacks in particular. 4 star QB Jay Butterfield, the third ranked pro-style quarterback in the country, committed early in the process and stood firm with his decision even with the departure of offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, who took the head coaching job at UNLV. But Wednesday afternoon, he was joined by another 4 star QB in Robby Ashford of Hoover, Alabama, the tenth ranked dual threat quarterback in the country. Ashford initially committed with the intent of officially signing in February, but had a change of heart and signed shortly after committing.
"I don't think you ever fill a need that very year with that very year, with that very class," Cristobal explained. "We try to do it two years out being that you're probably gonna have guys for the most part take a year to develop while they're making an impact and then really be on their way to being their best in the second year. But we felt the big bodies on both sides, the line of scrimmage, the trenches were addressed."
Oregon did indeed spend a great deal of effort on shoring up the offensive and defensive lines, bringing in five on offense and four on defense. One of the players garnering the most interest from the media Wednesday was Faaope Laloulu of Honolulu, Hawaii, who is listed at a whopping 6 foot 7 inches, 390 pounds.
"I think they undershot his size," joked Cristobal. "He is the first human being to make (Oregon defensive line coach) Joe Salave'a look small. It looked like Joe was his Mini-Me. He's a humungous human being. Incredibly athletic and agile. We'll need to get him in the type of physical conditioning shape to be able to sustain high level of play for extended plays but make no mistake about it, this is an extremely talented individual who has all the tools."
But the day wasn't without some losses. 4 star wide receiver Johnny Wilson flipped from Oregon to Arizona State, while 4 star safety Miles Slusher flipped to Arkansas. Avantae Williams, the top safety in the 2020 class, decommitted shortly before the Early Signing Day. Even still, there have been rumors of one so-called 'silent' commitment that will be announced between now and the National Signing Day, in which all recruiting classes will be finalized. For now, the Ducks are a top two recruiting class in the Pac-12 and top 20 nationally, though that could skyrocket even higher if there Oregon adds some high level players before February.
Rose Bowl notes:
Head Coach Mario Cristobal did confirm that departed offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo will be back coaching for the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, and that he will be calling plays as well. As of now, there is no rush to find a successor, and that his departure did not affect the recruiting process all that much.
""Marcus will be the offensive coordinator for the game and in the same capacity that he's been working," Cristobal said. "It was important, number one, to make sure that the players, the program are the most important thing to keep in mind when making that kind of a decision. We do things a certain way. And in meeting with Marcus, we had talked about the type of regimen and schedule that must be kept up in order for this thing to be successful, because that's always the first question when asked, How can a guy balance two things? Well, there's not a single second, that we typically commit to a weekly process that has been compromised. You know, he's pulling some real long hours to make it work, you know, with his new, his new appointment, which I'm super, and we're all incredibly happy for him."
Cristobal also mentioned that just about every player on the injury list was healthy and practicing. That list included wide receivers Lance Wilhoite and JR Waters, offensive lineman Chris Randazzo, while offensive lineman Steven Jones and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu are still redshirt decisions (they have played four games so far this season and can burn their redshirt by playing in the Rose Bowl). Wide receiver Mycah Pittman is healthy and practicing, but his status will be decided by the team doctors.