5-star WR Kevin Coleman Jr. talks 'dream school' Oregon Ducks originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest
Few players would be a larger, program-altering commitment for Oregon than five-star wide receiver Kevin Coleman Jr.
As the nation's No. 2 wide receiver and No. 17 overall prospect nationally in composite rating, Coleman Jr. would be one of the highest-rated commits in program history.
Luckily for the Ducks, Oregon has an in no other school has, the ability to fulfill his childhood dream.
"Oregon was my dream school as a kid," Coleman Jr. told NBC Sports Northwest. "It’s like God blessed me with the opportunity to achieve my dream as a kid."
One player, in particular, made the 5'11", 170-pound speedster (11.32s 100m as a freshman) fall in love with Oregon football, so much so Coleman Jr. still watches his highlights nearly daily.
"One of my favorite college players of all time is De’Anthony Thomas," he said. "Still down to this day... I watch his highlights like every single day. De’Anthony Thomas had a big impact on me liking Oregon: the swag he brung, the offense, the similar skillset. As a kid I noticed I had the same type of skill set as him and we played alike."
Landing DAT was a program-altering acquisition for the Ducks that still pays off to this day, and given how Coleman Jr. describes his game, he could be similar.
"The skill set I have is different. The way I’m going to change the game in the future is going to be crazy. I’m going to be a legend. My skill set is different. I don’t think no one has my skill set, ever."
Coleman Jr. clearly has a lot of confidence in himself, but don't mistake that for him being complacent. He has plenty of lofty goals to accomplish such as winning a Heisman Trophy after seeing Devonta Smith win the award this past season.
He knows the only way to fulfill his potential is to put in the necessary work.
"Only thing I do on and off the field is work," said Coleman Jr. "You will never see me not working. In school, I’m on my grades. Outside of school, working on the field, working in the weight room, seeing what I can get better in.
"I’m trying to see what I can do to see myself there [as the best.] Who do I have to outwork? How do I be in their position?"
When deciding on a school to attend, one of Coleman Jr.'s requirements is a place where he can develop and leave ready for the NFL.
"If they can get me there, not just getting there using talent but actually producing me to be the best Kevin I can be. It’s that simple."
While Oregon will likely have three consecutive top-ten NFL Draft picks assuming Kayvon Thibodeaux declares for the 2022 NFL Draft, the Ducks have only had three wide receivers drafted since 2007: Dillon Mitchell (7th round), Josh Huff (3rd round) and De'Anthony Thomas (4th round).
Enter Oregon wide receivers coach Byran McClendon, who joined Mario Cristobal's staff a year ago. He has coached multiple highly-drafted players such as Nick Chubb (second-round pick), Sony Michel (first-round pick), and Todd Gurley (first-round pick) as Georgia's running backs coach and then 2020 third-round pick Bryan Edwards and 2018 second-round pick Deebo Samuel as South Carolina's offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
Now, after bringing in the highest-rated receivers class in program history, McClendon is serving as Coleman Jr.'s primary recruiter in tandem with Mario Cristobal.
"Every day I talk to them," said Coleman Jr. "We been building this relationship for a while, for over a year. We talk daily about different things: how I can get better as a person, on and off the field. They check in every time, even communicate with my parents which is important to have that relationship."
As for his impression of McClendon, the Saint Louis, MO native could not say enough good things about him, professionally and personally.
"With them getting Coach B-Mac, he’s a very good person, he’s a very good receivers coach. He’s actually going to take them to the next level and them over the hedge for what they need coming from the receiver position.
"He’s a cool guy to talk to. He’s funny. We act kind of similar. As a child, he went through kind of the same things so he knows what shoes I’m in. He’s a truthful guy, a guy I can trust. He’s a guy I can call for anything just to talk about anything, get it off my chest. He’s not just a football coach, he’s a guy who cares about you.
"He’s a guy who’s been through the recruitment process so he knows kinda how the recruitment is. There’s a lot of stuff out here, you got to make a kid trust you so just telling the truth, just being himself is what I like about him. He’s [relatable] because he’s been in my shoes. He’s not only going to help me get to Oregon, he just wants me to pick the best fit that I can actually pick. What fits me, what school fits me."
Their relationship has developed enough that Coleman Jr. even gave McClendon some love on social media earlier this month.
The hiring of Bryan McClendon, along with the current state of Oregon football, has given Coleman Jr. confidence Eugene could be the place for him.
"They’re winning. They’re winning the Pac-12. It’s not like they lose. Won the Rose Bowl last year, back-to-back Pac-12 Champions and now they’re putting people in the league. They produce them as well. First-round picks and Coach B-Mac is a great guy to play with."
That doesn't mean the upcoming season doesn't matter, however.
Coleman Jr. says he plans to sign in December during the early signing period as a silent commit and announce his decision during the NBC All-American Bowl on January 8th, similar to Dontae Manning in 2020.
That will be enough time for Coleman Jr. to see the entirety of the 2021 regular season, in which he expects big things from the Ducks on the gridiron.
"Their passing game is going to be very important this year," he said when asked what he wants to see from Oregon this fall.
"I want to see big numbers, I want to see the talent they bring in quarterback wise and what the future holds with the quarterback. I want to see Coach B-Mac, how he produces the wide receivers. I want to see the production, if he got them better from last year. And I also just want to see them win, like they’ve been doing."
All that work to excel on the field in the fall for Oregon is being put in right now. Soon, Coleman Jr. will be able to see for himself how things are done in Eugene after the recruiting dead period ends June 1st.
"I will be going to Oregon [on] unofficial and official [visits]," he tells NBC Sports Northwest before adding he wants to attend Oregon's annual Saturday Night Live camp which is usually scheduled for the end of July. SNL has been one of the Ducks' greatest recruiting weekends, without fail, since Cristobal took over the program.
"When Mario Cristobal came, he [has] been getting good players from all around and taking Oregon to another level," described Coleman Jr.
When he tours campus this summer, it will not be his first time seeing all Oregon has to offer thanks to virtual tours, however.
"It shocked me, just seeing how big it was and how amazing it is," he recalled when asked about his virtual tours. "One thing I like about the campus is they have the best of the best facilities. Oregon is known for their facilities and it was just amazing just to see it."
The SNL camp will be an opportunity for him to hang out with some of the nation's best prospects and get a feel for what it would be like to attend the same school. Without naming any names, Coleman Jr. said he talks to "a lot of players with interest in Oregon."
"My biggest thing is anywhere I go, I want to have the No. 1 recruiting class coming in so I won’t say any names but I talk to a lot of big-time prospects about Oregon.
"If we all get together we can win a Natty for Oregon and get each other better, each and every day by just going against each other. In order to be the best, you got to beat the best."
If Coleman Jr. commits to Oregon, enrolls and brings home the program's first National Championship, he knows how much that will mean to the Oregon faithful and college football history, as a whole.
"My biggest thing is making history. I always been the type of person to make history.
"Just by going to Oregon and winning a Natty, I can make other kids want to go to Oregon and make Oregon a Receiver U."
While wide receiver talent hasn't been Oregon's calling card, with the level of talent Mario Cristobal brings in year-in, year-out, along with Joe Moorhead and Bryan McClendon taking the Ducks passing game to the next level, why can't Oregon start pumping out polished, NFL-ready pass-catchers?
Just looking at the Ducks wide receiver room right now, Devon Williams, Mycah Pittman, Johnny Johnson III, Troy Franklin, Dont'e Thornton, and more all have the upside to be drafted if McClendon develops them correctly.
Could Coleman Jr. have his name added to that list this time next year? We'll have to wait and see.