Ashley Young of FishDuck.com interviewed Oregon’s running back coach Gary Campbell at the University of Oregon’s Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Tuesday.
Much of Oregon’s success this season has been attributed the play of their outstanding quarterback, Marcus Mariota. There is really no argument there. However, Mariota has led the Ducks all season, and his Heisman Trophy-like play has come with a lot of praise. And although Mariota has been Oregon’s MVP, the Ducks have gotten contributions from many other players as well.
Freshman running back Royce Freeman has exceeded expectations this season, and he’s shown that he can dominate when given the opportunity. The 6″1′, 229 lb. tailback has rushed for 1,185 yards, and he holds the record for most rushing touchdowns by a freshman with 16. Campbell, who joined Oregon’s coaching staff in 1983, has seen his share of great running backs, but he’s been impressed with Freeman’s willingness to be coached and to learn.
“His maturity has had a lot to do with it, and I like to think that I’ve helped along with that,” Campbell said. “He’s gotten to where he’s really familiar with our offense. One of the biggest improvements for him is that he’s learned to use his hands to keep people away from his body, rather than just being a guy who runs and uses his brute force to break tackles.”
Campbell mentioned that he enjoys coaching Freeman because he learns quickly, and he also stated that the “biggest reward for a coach” is when players execute what they learn in practice on game day.
One of the perks that Campbell has had over his 30 year coaching career at Oregon is that he’s been fortunate to coach many great players. LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman poll in 2010, and there is a real possibility that Mariota will be the Ducks’ first Heisman winner this season. Campbell said that both James and Mariota are unique in their own ways, but they share some characteristics as well.
“First of all they’re both great athletes, and they’re dedicated to the game. Their skills are the main things that make them standout, and their attitudes towards the game,” Campbell said. “They want to get the job done and they’ll do anything to get it done. They depend on their teammates to help them out, but they’re going to be out there and be leaders and try to take it upon themselves to make sure we’re successful.”
While the regular season may be over, the Ducks have a date with Arizona this Friday and they will battle it out for the Pac-12 Championship. The Wildcats have given the Ducks problems over the last two years, and Arizona feels confident about its chances to pull off another upset.
Oregon has averaged nearly 45.7 points per game the last two seasons; however, the Wildcats’ defense has held the Ducks’ offense to a meager 20 points per game in their last two meetings, and Arizona’s front seven has managed to overpower Oregon’s offensive line in those match-ups as well. Coach Campbell realizes that Arizona presents a challenge, and he knows that the Ducks must respect the Wildcats’ defense.
“They have some big guys upfront and their linebackers are really good,” he said. “If you have good linebackers then you’re going to be able to stop the run.”
Despite the Ducks’ inability to come out victorious against Arizona in their last two meetings, Oregon feels confident this time around. The Ducks have momentum on their side; Mariota is the best player in college football; this could very well be Oregon’s year.
Next stop, Levi’s Stadium.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline