In an interview for FishDuck.com on Wednesday, I spoke with Oregon running back Royce Freeman at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
Strap on your football helmets and lace your cleats because spring has officially arrived. The Ducks returned to the practice field on Tuesday and the men in green and yellow were excited to be back on the football field; Wednesday morning marked the second day of spring practice. Oregon’s 2014 season has been well documented over the past few months. Marcus Mariota became the first Heisman winner in the school’s history, the Ducks participated in the first ever college football playoffs and Oregon won 13 games, which is a school record.
However, despite the fact that the Ducks achieved great success last season, they came up short in the National Championship game against Ohio State. Freeman hasn’t forgotten about that painful loss, but the running back is also excited for a new season and a new beginning. He expects to learn the team’s concepts a lot quicker this season, especially because he has a full year of experience under his belt.
“It makes everything smoother for us (Ducks) offensively and for us in the backfield,” Freeman said after practice. “We can just learn a lot more things and we’re able to establish the offense more early on, and just executing at a higher level.”
Sure, Oregon is known for its flashy and exuberant jerseys, but its up-tempo and high-scoring offense has also caught people’s attention. The Ducks’ fast-paced attack is due in large part to a multitude of different moving pieces, but Oregon’s running game is what allows its offense to take off.
Although the Ducks are expected to possess a plethora of tailbacks next season, which includes Freeman, Thomas Tyner and Tony James, Freeman believes that they each have their own unique characteristics, and the first two days of practice have given them a chance to gel together.
“We look more in tune with each other, more in sync,” Freeman said. “We’re helping each other out in the backfield and we’re just pushing along.”
One of the primary reasons the Ducks have been so successful the last few years is because they’ve had athletes with great character and unmatched leadership qualities. Hamani Stevens, Hroniss Grasu and Mariota are just a few examples, but with the departure of all three of those players, Oregon will need its youngsters to step up. Freeman says he is ready to accept the challenge.
“I’m more of a lead-by-example (type of player), and once I get established I try to help the others out,” Freeman said. “But I’m working on being more vocal so those that don’t know the plays know what we’re doing. We’re just working with each other so we don’t have miscommunication out there.”
Top Photo by David Pyles