Not long ago, the idea of Oregon heading into the heart of SEC country and pulling out the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose running back was no more than a pipe dream. But as the Ducks’ profile has grown over the last decade, that type of coup no longer seems out of place.

In the class of 2015 alone, Oregon has landed an Under Armour All-American wide receiver out of Missouri, a four-star Tennessee cornerback, a Semper Fidelis All-American defensive lineman from Minnesota and a five-star defensive lineman out of Hawaii.

However, no individual recruit speaks to the Ducks’ national reach more than McEachern High School (Georgia) running back Taj Griffin.

In late April, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound playmaker with 4.34 speed chose Oregon over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA and others.

And no one was particularly surprised.

“This is a kid that had all those Alabama, Florida, SEC major offers,” said Justin Hopkins, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “This is a statement for Oregon reaching in there and grabbing such a highly talented player. The offense is clearly attractive.”

Given Griffin’s speed and skill-set, rather than find the decision shocking, many college football fans met the news with little more than a “makes sense” shrug.

Oregon has become a prime location for speedy offensive weapons.

The Georgia product provided fans a glimpse of what he could be in the Ducks offense during his season opener this fall, rushing for three dazzling touchdowns before suffering a late-game knee injury that ended his season.

It wasn’t much of a preview, but in just one quarter Griffin showed that he come develop into a LaMichael James/De’Anthony Thomas hybrid who will immediately add another dynamic to the already scary collection of offensive weapons that includes Thomas Tyner, Royce Freeman, Byron Marshall, Darren Carrington, Bralon Addison, Charles Nelson and others.

The injury was disappointing, but Oregon coaches saw the end game with Griffin and reassured him that he was still a priority recruit.

“It made me feel really good,” he said. “Some schools do take scholarships after that, because they don’t want to be bothered with that. Technology is so good nowadays that it’s just getting me back to 100 percent. They say you come back faster.”

Griffin graduated early and enrolled at Oregon this month to rehab his knee and get ahead academically to lighten his load in the fall. It wasn’t his initial plan, but he has had to adjust to a senior season that has been anything but expected.

“I really think it’s going to help out a lot in terms of getting ready,” Griffin said. “We can get ready for the season, have a little more time to learn the playbook, get settled in, have another semester under our belts. Ultimately, it will help with graduation. We’ll get done kind of early and we can focus on football.”

A focused, healthy Griffin in an Oregon uniform is a dangerous future reality, but one that few around the country are surprised to see.

Tomorrow: No. 1.

Previous athletes featured:

– No. 3 QB Travis Waller

– No. 4 WR Alex Ofodile

– No. 5 ATH Malik Lovette

– No. 6 CB Ugo Amadi

– No. 7 OL Zach Okun

– No. 8 OL Shane Lemieux

– No. 9 OL Calvin Throckmorton

– No. 10 DB James “P.J.” Locke

— Andrew Nemec | @AndrewNemec  

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