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Saturday, July 13, 2013
ESPN 300 Cali RB commits to Oregon

By Erik McKinney

It doesn't appear the Oregon ground game will be slowing down anytime soon.

On Friday, the Ducks added a commitment from running back Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif./Imperial), who becomes verbal commitment No. 8 in this class for Oregon and just the second offensive skill player, joining quarterback Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic).

Freeman admitted that the Ducks always held something of a lead in the race for his commitment.

One of Southern California's most sought-after recruits, Freeman narrowed his final group down to Florida, Oregon, UCLA and USC before selecting the Ducks, but he also held offers from Alabama, Florida State, Nebraska, Stanford, Tennessee and Wisconsin. The nation's No. 11 tailback and No. 154 player overall said he had no timeline for his recruitment and that a commitment would come whenever he felt comfortable with his decision. That turned out to be Friday.

"After my visit up there, I took some time to think about what I wanted to do," Freeman said of the pause between a recent trip to Oregon and this week's commitment. "[I committed because] the coaching staff has been there for a long time and they know what they're doing, and the program's tradition."

Freeman said the trip was important because he needed to see if he felt comfortable away from home, although he added that the short flight up the coast allows it to still feel close.

When Freeman arrives in Eugene for good, he's likely to join an incredibly talented backfield. While Oregon didn't sign a tailback in the 2009 class -- for good reason, considering Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James were both signed in 2008 -- the Ducks are now on pace to sign at least one four-star running back in every class since 2010, when ESPN moved to the star system. What's more, the Ducks continue to do well at the position in California, as Freeman joins De'Anthony Thomas, Barner and 2012 signee Byron Marshall as Golden State preps who signed with Oregon.

Going back even further, Freeman elicits comparisons to former Duck Jonathan Stewart, although Freeman said he can't quite match Stewart's muscular frame. He said the Oregon coaches compared him to Stewart, which helped counteract some of the detractors who told him Oregon's ground game was built purely on speed backs.

While it's true that Oregon's offense often causes onlookers to believe the tailbacks are pure flash and dash and running to the outside and escaping defenders, there is plenty of between-the-tackles running in the Ducks' system, which will be where the 6-foot, 227-pound Freeman shines.

A tremendously productive back, Freeman rushed for 2,482 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior and is likely to again lead the way for his Tigers team as a senior. His commitment to Oregon will likely shine the spotlight even brighter on Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom) and Demario Richard (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale), as they are the only two remaining committed four-star tailbacks in the West region.

It's unlikely Freeman will be back on the market, as he said he plans to take his one official visit to Oregon and be done with the recruiting process.