Oregon Ducks fans have been witness to one of the greatest rises in college football history over the past two decades. The Ducks have risen from cellar dwellers to one of the hottest names in all of college football. The facilities, the uniforms and the Nike connection have all played a big role in the Ducks' rise to the top of the Pac-12.
Along with the success and the increased exposure nationally, has come a major boost in recruiting elite athletes to come to Eugene. It isn't always the high school All-Americans that turn into college stars. Oregon has made a living finding "diamonds in the rough" that have helped build a powerhouse in Eugene.
There have been some big names in the recruiting world who chose to play their college ball in Eugene, but how many of them have lived up to the hype?
The following is the first in a 10 part series that details:
• Players who came in as two-star recruits or were unrated coming into Oregon and far exceeded the expectations placed upon them by recruiting services.
• The recruits who were rated four or five stars by recruiting services coming out of high school, yet failed to match the hype due to injuries or lack of production.
Today, we look at the four-star players in Oregon's recruiting class of 2003.
They were right
Dennis Dixon: If you are judging solely by Dennis Dixon's senior season, the experts were wrong. Up until then Dixon had mired in mediocrity, sharing time with Brady Leaf. Once Chip Kelly got to Eugene and got his hands on Dixon, anything less than rating Dixon a top five-star would have been wrong. The smooth and steady Dixon was a magician in the pocket in Chip Kelly's scheme. Dixon was most likely headed towards the Heisman Trophy while leading the Ducks to what would have been a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, if not for season-ending injuries to Dixon and six other starters.
The nine games in which Dixon played that season will never be forgotten by Ducks fans. Despite missing the last four games of the year Dixon won the Pac-10 Player of the Year award, while also receiving 17 first-place votes in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
The amazing run saw Dixon go from a future minor league baseball player to an NFL draft pick. The Pittsburgh Steelers made Dixon their 5th round pick in 2008.