Helfrich with Spring Update: Lockie, Freeman, Physical Football

Jordan Ingram FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Jordan Ingram reporting for FishDuck.com from Hatfield-Dowlin Complex in Eugene, Ore.

The Oregon Ducks are midway through spring practices and just a few weeks away from their 2015 Spring Game on May 2nd. This morning, Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich provided FishDuck.com with a spring practice progress report on Jeff Lockie, Royce Freeman, and playing more physical football.

1. Physical Football

FishDuck.com writer Ashley Young interviewing Tyler Johnstone after Mondays spring practice.

FishDuck.com writer Ashley Young interviewing Tyler Johnstone after Mondays spring practice.

Since the first day of spring practice, Helfrich has emphasized his desire for his team to shake off the cobwebs from the offseason and play more physical football. As the new guys learn the system and veterans shift to leadership roles, playing at a high physical level will continue to be a work in progress.

“The physicality picked up,” Helfrich said. “We have not been a great scrimmage team, we’ve joked about that for however long I’ve been back here. But it was one of the best [scrimmages] we’ve had from just a straight pads-popping scenario.”

2. Great Expectations

For the Oregon coaches, the expectations of their players are clear: play hard and stay positive. It’s a winning philosophy that’s proven itself since Helfrich became head coach in 2013.

The next challenge for the Ducks is to get everyone to believe in their abilities as individuals and as a team.

“Just competing with a positive attitude,” Helfrich said. “There are times when we have so many young guys out here or first time players, that they know what to do, but they don’t believe they know what they are doing. So, they do it slower than you want them to or just not with total commitment to it.”

3. Spring MVP

If there were an award for Most Valuable Player in spring training, it’s a sure bet sophomore Royce Freeman would be at the top of the list. Helfrich can’t say enough about the powerful young running back who already has Heisman Trophy buzz after his breakout true freshman performance.

Royce Freeman is pretty good, news flash. That guy just does everything right. I kind of challenged him the other day that he needs to become more vocal. He’s kind of in the long line of Marcus and Hroniss, of guys that are just unbelievably great guys but too quiet for the overall greater good. Just initiating a little more vocal leadership is something we’ve challenged him to do.

4. Quarterback Clarity

So, who’s who in the quarterback race? Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that junior Jeff Lockie is making the transition from backup to starter. With Vernon Adams out of the equation until Fall, Lockie keeps moving forward, continuing to build trust with his teammates and coaches.

“Jeff Lockie has been outstanding,” Helfrich said. “Both physically and then just the intangibles of getting guys lined up, vocal leadership, and taking control. He’s a guy who has the credibility to make those guys move.”

Top photo by Dave Peaks

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