Unofficial Visits: How important are they?

Virtually everything about Oregon football is unique.

Oregon offers a lot of benefits for prospective athletes, but location is not one of them. The Ducks are way down the list when it comes to ideal college destinations.

During their rise to prominence under Chip Kelly, the Ducks have done things at their own pace.

Texas used to be the only school that would fill its class before spring ball started. Now you can find a number of programs doing the same thing. The Ducks look like they will enter the season with just eight commits. One of the biggest reasons is their location.

More kids are committing before their senior seasons even begin after making unofficial visits to their favorite schools.

For schools like Oregon, this can be looked at as a major negative while trying to keep up with the top programs. For the most part, Oregon has as a rule that a prospect must visit the campus before their commitment will be recognized.

It could stem from past decommitments or the program's recognition that not everyone is cut out for a Northwest college town. Whatever it is, Kelly is adamant about having a prospect on campus before accepting his pledge.

The problem is that Oregon doesn't have a specific region it recruits. The Ducks are a national program tucked away in the Northwest. California will always be the Ducks' most fertile recruiting ground, but even kids from California struggle to make it to campus before official visits are allowed.

The way the Ducks recruit under Kelly is very unique. For a school in the northwest with little local talent to choose from, one might think the Ducks would throw offers out to prospects nationwide and accept any commitment.

However, if a prospect from Florida wants to commit before he can take an official visit, he must pay his own way to campus before his senior season.

Recruiting has changed so much that unofficial visits have become nearly as important as official visits. Coaches and players often have more time to spend with a recruit during an unofficial visit.

For a school like Oregon, it is often either a deal-maker or a deal-breaker.

If a prospect visits Oregon from across the country on his own dime, it usually means the interest is more than sincere. In recent years, that interest has turned into a commitment quite a few times.

In 2010, the Ducks signed three prospects from across the country, due in large part to their ability to visit the campus over the summer.

Dior Mathis from Michigan, James Scales from North Carolina and Issac Dixon from Florida each made it out to Oregon before their senior seasons had begun. All three followed up with official visits and eventually signed with the Ducks.

Hosting a prospect on a game weekend in the fall is the ultimate goal, especially somewhere that comes alive on Saturdays in the fall like Oregon does.

Oregon is faced with a new challenge as its location makes it difficult to get kids on campus on a regular basis. Schools in California, the South and the East Coast are able to host kids throughout the year as their campuses are accessible to a large number of elite prospects.

Oregon will never have the benefit of having 50+ prospects within a few hour drive. It will continue to try and get kids on campus in the spring or summer, while counting on official visits as its primary selling point.

What has always been viewed as a unique program will continue to be in a very unique situation when it comes to the shifting trends in recruiting.

Usually the trendsetter, the Ducks need to find a way to keep up with this trend or risk being left behind.