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Royce Watch: Freeman ‘Rolls’ into 2017

Oregon’s senior begins his swan song season with a bang

NCAA Football: Southern Utah at Oregon Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Royce Freeman totaled exactly 200 yards and four touchdowns in Oregon’s first win of the year vs Southern Utah on Saturday. The Imperial, California native was handed the game ball after his performance, but he felt his head coach Willie Taggart deserved it more.

Welcome back to the second-year edition of Royce Watch! Each Tuesday during the season, we will give you an in-depth look at Freeman’s performance from the previous weekend, alongside a preview of his upcoming match-up. We’ll have quotes from everyone involved.

The Heisman Trophy committee has been notified after Saturday’s demonstration:

COUNTDOWN TO OREGON’S TOP SPOT

#1 - LaMichael James (5,082 career rushing yards)

#2 - Royce Freeman (4,296 career rushing yards)

#3 - Kenjon Barner (3,623 career rushing yards)

Freeman is currently 787 yards shy of being Oregon’s No. 1 running back in program history

CHASING PAC-12 HISTORY: CAREER TOUCHDOWNS

#1 - Ken Simonton, 60 (Oregon State)

#2 - LaMichael James, 58 (Oregon)

#3 - LenDale White, 57 (USC)

#4 - Skip Hicks, 55 (UCLA)

#5 - Charles White, 53 (USC)

#6 - Royce Freeman, 52 (Oregon)

Tied - Ka’Deem Carey, 52 (Arizona)

#7 - Jaquizz Rodgers, 51 (OSU)

#8 - Kenjon Barner, 50 (Oregon)

Freeman is currently 9 TDs shy of being the Pac-12’s all-time scoring leader from scrimmage

Following the forgettable 2016 season, Oregon junior Royce Freeman had a major decision on his horizon. To ‘stay or go?’ That was the question. Nevertheless, the thoughtful young man wanted to sit down with the new head coach of Oregon football prior to making any rash decisions.

After meeting Taggart, Freeman confirmed he would be coming back for his senior campaign.

Then, Royce hit the offseason workouts with a relentlessness unknown to mankind. Five days into September, we have all been witness to his new attributes.

Regardless of when Freeman entered the NFL Draft, he’s a promising professional talent. Some scouts are saying he may be the No. 1 overall RB prospect in the 2018 draft class. Either way, Freeman’s focus is on Oregon at the present moment.

On Saturday vs the Thunderbirds, Freeman exploded onto the 2017 scene with 23 carries for 150 yards and four scores. The senior workhorse added four catches for 50 yards in the receiving game. After the win, Freeman handed his game ball to Taggart.

“It means a lot to me,” said Taggart. “When the players give you something. It’s special to me because it’s my third time taking over a program and the last two I lost the first.”

After scoring 111 TDs in high school, Freeman had fans waiting in a line around the school to meet him or get his autograph. He is phased by nothing. Therefore, his success amid four years of college is nothing new to him.

Freeman acts like he’s been there before because he has indeed been there before, many times. It’s that same attitude and mental fortitude that is catapulting Freeman’s NFL Draft stock.

NCAA Football: Southern Utah at Oregon
Freeman met the end zone on four separate occasions on Saturday evening vs Southern Utah. The senior tailback accounted for four of Oregon’s record-setting nine rushing TDs at Autzen Stadium.
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

His Duck teammates completely understand what Freeman has been through during his 4-year college career. Everyone on the 2016 roster saw how difficult last season was for Freeman. Not only were the Ducks enduring a historically bad season, but Royce was dealing with injuries as well.

After an incredible offseason that saw UO’s RB squat 600 pounds, No. 21 will not allow a repeat of his last campaign.

Just talk to his teammates and you will quickly find out what they think of their senior captain. Not only do they respect him, but they fight being in awe of his presence on a football field.

“It’s something Royce is capable of doing every single game of every single week. Nothing you can do when he goes out and executes,” said Charles Nelson with a shrug.

It truly speaks to Freeman’s character behind the scenes with his unmatched work ethic. He exhibits that hard work does indeed pay off and will continue for the rest of his football career, as long as he puts in the effort.

NEBRASKA SNEAK PEEK

Following a tune-up vs Southern Utah, Nebraska comes to town this Saturday for a rematch from last season. During that game, Freeman exited with an injury and never returned. He carried the ball five times for 31 yards. The 35-32 loss began Oregon’s derailment.

Currently, Nebraska is ranked No. 41 in the nation in rush defense. In their first contest vs Arkansas State, the Huskers allowed 82 yards on 21 carries and no scores. Yet, they struggled overall, barely escaping with the 43-36 victory.

Freeman and the Oregon running game will look to carry their momentum from Saturday into the Nebraska showdown. The Ducks up-tempo rush attack and Freeman are ready for a second opportunity at the Huskers. Look for UO’s captain to dictate the tempo. We will have a complete breakdown/preview of the game this week at ATQ.

Stay tuned, if you want to; Twitter @TheQuackFiend Gram @eugene_levys_eyebrows