There may not be a more obvious projection of the 22, but Royce Freeman will be the starting running back for the Oregon Ducks, again. The senior plans to say farewell to college football with one more electric season under the Eugene sun.
We are just 24 days away from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah on Saturday, September 2 at Autzen Stadium.
If you missed any of my 11-part series projecting the defense, you can find it at ATQ. Now, it’s time for the offensive starter projections for Willie Taggart’s 2017-18 team.
WILLIE TAGGART’S 11
QUARTERBACK - Justin Herbert (Tuesday)
STARTING RUNNING BACK, ROYCE FREEMAN
Rolls Royce Freeman is just 936 rushing yards away from tying the No. 1 running back in Oregon history and my personal favorite, LaMichael James (5,082).
With 937 yards this season, Freeman would be the all-time leading rusher in program history. Considering the talent that has graced UO football, it would be a monumental achievement for the senior back.
Freeman recorded the most rushing yards in a single season by an Oregon RB in 2015. He rushed for 1,836 yards and 19 total touchdowns (17 rushing). His career highlight occurred that year vs Washington State when Freeman rushed for 246 yards.
For his storied career, Freeman has rushed for 4,146 yards and 44 touchdowns on the ground. In the passing game, the California kid has 65 receptions for 650 yards and four scores. He is averaging 5.9 yards per carry over his three-year career.
This offseason, the running back exhibited his insane workout regime here on Twitter. If you haven’t seen the video yet, the Duck back squats 600 pounds. Pac-12 defensive players will not be sleeping well before they play Freeman and the Ducks.
“We think running back is an extension of the o-line,” Taggart said. “The more they understand the ways the line is taught to do things, the better they can be as a running back setting blocks. Royce is in the offensive line meetings too, so he understands the calls and what Coach Cristobal is teaching those guys.”
The senior was disappointed after a 4-8 season last year but has rededicated himself this offseason. The Ducks may have the best overall backfield in the country. Additionally, Oregon has a depth of talented backups should Freeman need a breather.
Players like Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit could all start for other programs. Not to mention, the freshman back Darrian Felix has been opening eyes in camp. If this isn’t the most talented backfield in the nation, it’s certainly the deepest.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Unleash the Rolls! Freeman will pass Mr. James en route to breaking the Oregon record with 1,602 rushing yards in 2017. With Taggart’s love for the run game, Freeman will explode for a career-high 21 touchdowns on the ground and 24 in total. He will be a 1st Team All-Pac-12 member, alongside being named an All-American. Freeman’s signature performance will come in his final Civil War game at Autzen. The lead back will rush the rock 29 times for a new career-high of 250 yards.
Part 3 of Willie Taggart’s Starting 11 series will continue on Thursday.