There was speculation as to whether Oregon’s record-setting running back Royce Freeman would risk his current NFL draft status by participating in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State. And although Freeman’s participation in practices this week had led to hopes of an appearance, new head coach Mario Cristobal confirmed Thursday that Freeman has chosen not to play for risk of injury.
While disappointing to Duck fans, the move can’t really be described as shocking. Just last year, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey sat out the Sun Bowl and was eventually selected 8th overall in the NFL draft.
While some may call into question the loyalty and team spirit this practice displays, coach Cristobal himself said that he was not disappointed in the senior from Imperial CA. but also acknowledged that he would have loved to have had him on the field.
Freeman is currently projected as an early to mid-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft.
With the absence of Freeman, much of the load will fall upon the shoulders of senior Kani Benoit and junior Tony Brooks-James. Freshman Darrian Felix may also see an increased role.
While both dynamic players in their own right, Benoit and Brooks-James don’t present the power or dominance fans have come to associate with Freeman. However, Oregon proved the last couple games of the regular season that having quarterback Justin Herbert under center makes the Duck’s offense multi-dimensional again and as such opens up the running game with the threat of big-play passes.
Freeman finishes his collegiate career as Oregon’s all-time leading rusher and the Pac-12’s all-time leader in touchdowns scored, having broken Oregon State’s Ken Simonton’s record in the Civil War last month.