Oregon running back Royce Freeman isn’t buying into the Heisman hype
If there’s any pressure on Royce Freeman — whether it be from his role in the Oregon offense, the preseason Heisman Trophy conversation or being in the thick of an elite running backs class — he doesn’t show it.
Freeman actually doesn’t even believe in pressure. He says no one at Oregon does. But the expectations for the junior running back have to be heightened after two stellar seasons, especially with the Ducks not set on a starting quarterback as training camp nears.
“I think any pressure that is put on me or anything like that, I’m more than willing to take it,” Freeman said at Pac-12 media day in Hollywood on Thursday. “But we don’t believe in pressure, and honestly we have other guys and weapons on offense that will help me out. Whoever the quarterback is, he’ll help me out, and then we’ll move forward.”
The Heisman race doesn’t happen in July, or anytime soon after, but a stable of running backs are promising to make it an interesting one. It starts with LSU’s Leonard Fournette, then includes Freeman, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Georgia’s Nick Chubb. Freeman scored 19 touchdowns, rushing and receiving combined, in back-to-back seasons and led the Pac-12 with 17 rushing touchdowns last year.
“Honestly, it’s an honor to be mentioned on the list and be mentioned with those guys and those types of players,” Freeman said of being in the Heisman conversation. “But honestly, it’s a long road from now. We haven’t even played our first game; we haven’t even had our first practice. So moving forward, I can’t even be thinking about that right now.”
Oregon won’t have a starting quarterback named by its first practice, but coach Mark Helfrich is determined to have one when the Ducks open against UC Davis on Sept. 3. Oregon finished 9-4 with an Alamo Bowl loss to Texas Christian last season, and Vernon Adams was a viable signal caller when healthy.
Now it looks to be a race between redshirt freshman Travis Jonsen and graduate transfer Dakota Prukop, who came from Montana State.
“Sometimes they’re all trying to win the job with their next throw, and that’s the worst kind of perspective you can bring into it,” Helfrich said Thursday. “This summer will be big for those guys just from a confidence standpoint, and they will all be completely different guys in fall camp.”
Considering Helfrich brought in Brady Hoke to fix a defense that was the Pac-12’s worst last season, a lot will be different as 2016 rolls around.
It will be up to Freeman to be a calming constant for the Ducks.
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