Week two of Oregon football spring practice began on Monday and there is one thing that both coaches and players can agree on: They are happy that athletes like Royce Freeman and Darren Carrington, who were on the edge of declaring for the NFL, are back and ready to get the team on track.
Carrington tallied five touchdowns and 606 receiving yards during the 2016 season. Another significant player who decided to forego the draft is senior offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby. He was out for the majority of the 2016 campaign due to a foot injury. Freeman also had an injury that held him back in some games, but he still led the team in touchdowns with nine and rushed for 945 yards.
“I’d prepared myself for him leaving,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “I know he’s such a special player and an opportunity like that doesn’t come often. I was ready for him to leave, but when he came back it was super exciting. He’s one of the best running backs I’ve ever seen and I’m excited to have him back.”
Freeman said the decision to stay is “never easy.”
“I felt like it was a win-win,” Freeman said. “I feel blessed to even have that decision put in front of me. Taking the good with the bad. We have a great team here and we just have to work from here on out. … We have a lot of guys returning, a lot of guys that decided to come back to get another year with the team. From here on out, the work ethic is only going to prove what outcome it is.”
The specifics as to why he decided to stay, however, are “top secret.”
“Can’t tell you that,” he said.
Head coach Willie Taggart said that he doesn’t want to try and reinvent things with Freeman. He does want to make sure that Freeman understands the blocking schemes and is more physical when he runs the ball, but apart from that, he is confident in Royce’s abilities and is excited to see what he can do.
“We’re going to let Royce be Royce and play ball,” Taggart said. “Royce is a pretty good football player and you don’t have to change much.”
Taggart has often emphasized leadership. As spring practice progresses, those leadership roles will be filled.
“Definitely Tyrell Crosby, Royce are the leader-type guys,” Herbert said. “They’re doing a good job of leading the group, and I’m going to do my best to get guys motivated and we just gotta keep picking it up.
These returning veterans are many of the players Taggart hopes will be the ones to take on the strong leadership roles.
“You see a lot more leading by example right now more than anything,” Taggart said. “As we continue to go and grow, the leadership that we want will come.”
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