SoCal prep football players hitting the Oregon trail

University of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal speaks to members of the media during PAC-12 Football Media Day at the Ray Dolby Ballroom on July 25, 2018. Courtesy photo

HOLLYWOOD – California prep football is in the midst of a migration. Players from Southern California have been flying north to Oregon.

They’re called the “Cali Flock,” according to social media, and they’ve made Oregon’s 2019 recruiting class the top class in the Pac-12 and the fifth-best in the country, according to

Valencia’s Jayvaun Wilson joined the flock in late April and his former Viking teammate, Mykael Wright, committed nearly a month later.

“Unbelievable football,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of SoCal at Pac-12 Media Day on Wednesday. “Unbelievable coaching, tremendous commitment to the game itself. You see that if you get online, you see all summer long, there’s some type of activity or event.”

He added: “We want to make sure that we litter our roster with players from Southern Cal.”

Of the 16 players in the Ducks’ 2019 recruiting class, nine play football in Southern California. In addition to Valencia, Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Calabasas and Oxnard are all prep football programs represented in the class.

Cristobal cited the year-round competition as a strength of prep football in the region, whether it’s seven-on-seven tournaments or tug-o-war competitions in the offseason.

MORE: Foothill League football Player of the Year transfers to Narbonne

“Football is very important, very important out here,” he said, “and we really want to make a tremendous investment in not only in California and Southern Cal, but in the West Coast completely, so we love it.”

Wilson and Wright were two of the most prolific players in the Foothill League last season.

The former ran for 724 yards and 19 touchdowns on 75 carries last season and hauled in nine passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. The latter caught 55 passes for 1,317 yards and 18 touchdowns.

“We played a couple college teams in California like when I was in high school,” said Ducks defensive lineman Jalen Jelks, who attended high school at Desert Vista in Arizona.

“They just play different ball out here. It’s different. Even from Arizona, we’re right across the street, but it’s just different. I don’t know if it’s coaching or the weather, but it’s different ball out there.”

Scrolling through Twitter, it’s not uncommon to see a glitzy, customized Oregon graphic announcing the commitment of a prep player. Photos of the commit in a Ducks jersey and head-to-toe green and yellow gear appear on timelines even if a player just takes a visit to the school.

University of Oregon defensive lineman Jalen Jelks speaks to members of the media during PAC-12 Football Media Day at the Ray Dolby Ballroom on July 25, 2018. Courtesy photo

The players build up a following of college football fans, each urging him to join their respective school.

“I had a lot of fans come up to me and everyone noticed me,” Wilson told The Signal in April of his official visit to Oregon. “And the coaches, they always made sure I was good. They checked up on me and made me feel like I was a part of the team.”

Cristobal said that his program does keep an eye on younger players, but won’t extend an offer until the time is right. The coaching and recruiting staff likes to wait to see if a player has “the right DNA” to be part of the Oregon football program.

Internet sensations and DNA composition aside, the coach insists that Oregon’s dynamic recruiting tactics will always come to one main principle:

“Part of being aggressive is being very real,” he said. “We are very real, very genuine when we attack this process but when we see something that we feel needs to be at Oregon, we’re going to get after it, we’re going to be aggressive.”

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