The face of the Oregon offense has gone from being a Heisman Trophy quarterback to a sophomore running back, yet expectations are almost as high for 2015 with the Ducks picked to win the Pac-12 North and ranked fifth in the preseason coaches poll.
While Oregon loses Marcus Mariota to the Tennessee Titans and the starting quarterback situation remains cloudy, the Ducks return eight starters on offense, many of whom were major playmakers for the quack attack. And no returner made a bigger impact than running back Royce Freeman, who became the top freshman running back in conference history with 1,365 rushing yards.
Like Mariota, Freeman isn’t the most vocal guy. At 2015 Pac-12 Football Media Days, Freeman’s soft-spoken responses to reporters’ questions were polite, confident and short.
“Do you feel more of a burden with Marcus not around?”
“No, I don’t” (didn’t the Pac-12.com blogger learn not to ask yes-or-no questions in journalism school?).
“Do you feel pressure to produce more offensively?”
“No, I don’t feel like we’re under more pressure. I feel like we’ve lost quarterbacks in the past as far as University of Oregon goes and we’ve always replaced them and put many points on the board throughout the season.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich says Freeman’s lead-by-example attitude is just what the Ducks need.
“Royce is a guy a little bit like a Marcus-type leader initially. That’s not his natural deal to vocalize anything but he’s an unbelievable worker from day one,” Helfrich said. “The simple way to communicate [needing his leadership] to him or guys like him is, ‘would our team be better off if more guys were like you?’
“Just trying to facilitate those things and not make it fake but facilitate positions of leadership for him to be in and do that and I’m very pleased with how that’s progressing.”
While he isn’t the most outspoken person, Freeman isn’t shying away from the spotlight, either.
“For me to step up on the offensive side and for the team and be a leader is an important role and I want to focus on embracing it,” he said.