Oregon moved one step closer to finishing out its recruiting class on Saturday morning when Corona (Calif.) Centennial defensive tackle Austin Maloata became the 18th verbal commit for the 2014 class. The three star prospect's announcement came somewhat unexpectedly, but he told eDuck that Oregon had been recruiting him since he de-committed from USC two weeks ago.
The coaches pushed hard and after consulting his family, Maloata made his decision. He is slated to play nose tackle and brings a lot of upside to the table, demonstrating a good use of his hands and quick footwork in his highlight film.
One quality that will benefit him at the next level is that he is apparently a relentless pursuer. He bursts through the line and can deliver a punishing hit, even if he's a split-second late getting to the quarterback. Combine his skill set with some seasoning, and he he'll have the chance to make an impact sooner than later.
Maloata hails from American Samoa and is the second recruit in as many years to come out of Centennial, along with freshman offensive tackle Cameron Hunt. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 260-pounds and is the fifth addition to the defensive line for this class.
The Ducks could've had a 19th verbal commit in Ratu Mafileo as soon as this weekend, but his initial plans were derailed when he didn't receive an expected offer.
The cause? Mafileo said the NCAA is investigating his academic portfolio allegedly for classes he took after school.
Earlier in the week, the defensive tackle from Honolulu (Ha.) said an offer was predicated on his academic standing and it seems that until the matter is officially cleared up, the coaches will not be extending a scholarship to the big guy.
Interestingly, Mafileo said the issue hasn't affected his decision making process and he fully intends to announce which school he will attend on National Signing Day. He said he still intends to visit Oregon, but it will have to wait until after Feb. 5.
One other prospect that's still in play in Khalil Oliver. The Meridian (Idaho) defensive back took his official visit to Oregon last weekend and enjoyed learning more about the academic structure of the school and remarked how the quiet nature of Eugene reminded him of home. Right now, the Ducks look to be in a good spot to land Oliver, who is also considering Washington and Boise State.
Earlier in the week Oliver wasn't sure whether or not he would take one last official visit to Boise State over the weekend, but said that Neal would be making one last in-home visit with him this week. Although they came in late to the process, the Ducks have inserted themselves as a major player for the three-star athlete and he could be the next addition to the class, possibly even before Feb. 5.
A big National Signing Day
Maloata's verbal commitment leads to the inevitable question of who's left on the board grab before Wednesday?
Oregon will have multiple opportunities on National Signing Day to make one final splash. U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao, Semper-Fi All-American cornerback Mattrell McGraw and Under Armour All-American five-star athlete John "JuJu" Smith will all announce where they'll go to school on Wednesday, and all of them will be considering the Ducks.
McGraw, a three-star prospect out of River Ridge (La.), will choose between Oregon and Texas A&M. He and secondary coach John Neal have built a strong bond since he received his offer last March. Since then, McGraw has had Oregon near the top of the list, and they have remained the only constant with each modification to his list.
However, in recent weeks Texas A&M has made a late push and has become a fixture in his final decision. He met with both coaching staffs last week, finishing with Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff last Wednesday.
McGraw said that Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich made a final pitch to him during their last in-home visit, indicating how much he wanted him to come to Eugene. Oregon has had themselves in a great position for a long time, and not much has changed since then. Now there's just one hurdle left to jump.
McGraw planned to have a decision finalized by Saturday and he is scheduled to give his announcement on ESPNU.
Lealaimatafao will have three hats to choose from on Wednesday according to Annabel Stephan of Scout.com. Oregon will go up against UCLA and LSU, though as of late it has really been down to the Ducks and Tigers for the three-star San Antonio (Tex.) prospect.
Lealaimatafao took his official visit to Oregon last week and reports varied from either a good trip to not as good as expected. LSU came on late in the process, but with family connections in the Baton Rouge area and a successful unofficial visit registered, they're not only in the race, but some have them up front.
It's no secret that Lealaimatafao is the most desired defensive tackle prospect left on the board, and he has been for weeks. The addition of Maloata helped bolster the defensive line without question, but adding Lealaimatafao's explosiveness and technique would give Ron Aiken plenty of size and strength to mold going forward into next season.
Smith would be the coup of the class for Oregon. Recruited as a wide receiver, the top three athlete in the west according to Scout is a can't-miss prospect. It won't be easy since he is considered a USC lean, but he did mention the possibility of taking another unofficial visit to Oregon this weekend in a recent article by Greg Biggins.
Even if that didn't occur, the Ducks were scheduled for an in-home visit last Wednesday and appear to be the only school with a strong outside shot of upending the Trojans.
Smith has the speed, size and natural ability to be a star at the next level. In Oregon's system, it would likely give him more avenues to explore and enhance his playmaking ability.
While he walked away impressed following his official visit back in October, Smith hasn't tipped his hand a ton throughout the process. He indicated that he could have a final decision made by Sunday night, but will hold off on announcing until Wednesday.