Always a hopeful, never a finalist; is this the year for Freeman?
Oregon running back Royce Freeman has been one the most consistent players on the Ducks’ team since he first stepped foot on Rich Brooks Field as a freshman in late August 2014.
In that game against South Dakota, Freeman rushed for a modest 75 yards on ten carries behind Byron Marshall in Oregon’s dominant 62-13 victory.
Since then, he has been a Heisman hopeful every year, but found himself buried behind star backs such as Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Derrick Henry of Alabama. Freeman is one of the top returning players in the nation, but is this the year he truly breaks out and makes it to the Heisman ceremony in New York?
Freeman only had 11 carries in Oregon’s opener against U.C. Davis and rushed for a solid 78 yards, but said that he “had more than enough in the tank” and was “still fresh” going into the fourth quarter.
In Oregon’s preseason game against Virginia on Sept. 10, Freeman was given those extra carries that he wanted and didn’t waste a single one. He rushed for 210 yards on 21 attempts for two touchdowns, including one 85-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“Last week I fell short of my standard,” Freeman said following the Virginia win. “You know, I always want to get 100 plus on carries and things like that. There’s a lot of ball to go around, but this week Coach Lubick was showing love.”
With three college football players named finalists and invited to the Heisman presentation in New York every year, Freeman must contend for those sacred three spots with other college football standouts, some of which have already experienced being a finalist.
Last season, Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson and Stanford star Christian McCaffrey placed second and third in voting, and are front-runners in this year’s competition.
Three Oregon greats have also been Heisman finalists: Joey Harrington, LaMichael James, and Oregon’s only Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota.
In Saturday’s game against Virginia, Freeman moved up the rankings of Oregon’s top running backs. He surpassed Derek Loville for the third spot on Oregon’s career rushing list. Now, with 3,495 career-rushing yards, Freeman is less than 130 yards away from passing up Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenyon Barner and drawing closer to LaMichael James’ record of 5,082 yards.
When asked about how it feels to be in the record books among Oregon greats, Freeman said, “it’s pretty amazing.”
“Knowing the previous backs that came before me and all the hard work that they put in at this university, knowing some of those guys and actually talking to some of those guys personally, and having the ability to surpass them — it makes me feel good,” Freeman said. “It’s a great feeling and honestly a team milestone.”
Follow Kylee O’Connor on Twitter @kyleethemightee
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