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The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges

Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018. 

Other position entries: Quarterback

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Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 2)...: RB Tony Brooks-James emerges. 

Key departures: Senior Royce Freeman moved on to the NFL after breaking nearly every school record imaginable.  Versatile senior backup Kani Benoit is also gone.  

Projected 2017 starter: Tony Brooks-James, RSr., (5-9, 175),

Key backups: Darrian Felix, Soph., (5-11, 178); C.J. Verdell, RFr., (5-8, 192); Taj Griffin, Sr., (5-11, 178); Cyrus Habibi-Likio, RFr., (6-0, 208). 

What we know: Freeman is gone. Let's all take a moment to reflect on his greatness.

Now, let's take a moment to reflect on what his absence could mean for Oregon.

Yikes!

Then toss in the loss of Benoit. 

Double yikes!

Oregon hasn't lost this much running back talent in one offseason since maybe ever. But, in typical Oregon tradition, there is a potentially great running back waiting in the wings. 

Brooks-James has rushed for 1,557 yards in his career on 226 carries (5.9 per carry) and has scored 14 rushing touchdowns. If he managed to put up those same numbers in one season, the Ducks will be in business. 

Essentially, Oregon needs Brooks-James to become the next Kenjon Barner, who after backing up LaMichael James for three seasons, rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2012. 

What we don't know: Can Brooks-James be that guy? And, will he truly need to?

At a listed 178 pounds, it might be a lot to ask of James to carry the ball 20 times per game and survive the season. If he isn't up to the task, the Ducks do have options, albeit of the unproven variety. 

Felix saw minimal time as a freshman and gained 182 yards. The real wild card is Verdell, who by all accounts is the next great UO running back in waiting. He redshirted in 2017 due to injuries and ample depth already in place. 

We can't ignore Griffin, who was moved to wide receiver last season but still received some carries. He has 848 career rushing yards in his career on 6.1 yards per carry. 

Habibi-Likio has a lot of ground to make up on the depth chart in order to crash the rotation next season. But he does offer more bulk at 208 pounds than every other running back, except maybe Verdell, who packs 192 pounds on his 5-8 frame.  

What must happen for Oregon to contend: Clearly, Oregon must be able to run the ball well in order to succeed. Ideally, the Ducks will have a clear No. 1 back, and that man should be Brooks-James. But he doesn't have to match the level of play displayed in the past by the likes of Jonathan Stewart, James, Barner or Freeman. Brooks-James could simply be what Byron Marshall was in 2013 when he rushed for 1,068 yards and 14 touchdowns while Thomas Tyner chipped in 711 rushing yards and De'Anthony Thomas went for 594. 

If Oregon gets that type of production out of its top three running backs in 2018, the Ducks will be just fine. 

Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 3)...: Someone compliments WR Dillon Mitchell. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Now 140 yards away

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Now 140 yards away

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman returned to his 100-yard rushing ways on Saturday with 143 on 18 carries during a 49-7 loss at No. 22 Stanford. 

It was Freeman's first 100-yard game since he began the season with three straight such performances before going for 81, 51 and 62 over the following three games. 

Freeman now needs 140 to become Oregon's all-time leading rusher. He should reach that mark on Saturday at UCLA. The Bruins (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) rank last in the conference and 128th in the nation in rushing defense allowing 313 yards per game. 

Oregon (4-3, 1-3) ranks third in the conference and 18th in the nation in rushing with 244.3 yards per game. Freeman ranks third in the conference and ninth in the nation with 797 rushing yards. 

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break James' record of 5,082. 

RECORD WATCH

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 143 yards on 18 carries at Stanford. 

2017 total: Freeman now has has rushed for 797 yards rushing in six games.  

Career total: Freeman has 4,943 yards career rushing yards. 

Freeman needs: He is 140 yards away from breaking James' record. 

Previous games: Freeman rushed for 62 against Washington State, 51 yards vs. Cal, 81 yards at ASU, 157 yards at Wyoming, 153 yards vs. Nebraska and 150 against Southern Utah. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' previous record: 53.

Freeman's record: Freeman has 54 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Last week: Freeman did not score at Stanford.   

2017 total: Ten.

Next up: The Ducks play at 1 p.m., Saturday at UCLA. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Injury slows progress

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Injury slows progress

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman saw his progress toward becoming the Ducks' all-time leading rusher slowed over the past two weeks. However, plenty of time remains for him to surpass LaMichael James providing Freeman can avoid a major injury setback. 

Freeman appeared to be headed for a big night during a 45-24 win over California on Saturday before a shoulder injury forced him to leave the game in the first quarter after having already gained 51 yards on six carries. The week before, Freeman gained 81 yards on 15 carries during a 37-35 loss at Arizona State. 

The 51-yard performance moved Freeman to within 345 yards of breaking James' record with seven games remaining. Freeman practiced this week and appears to be set to return to action Saturday when the Ducks (4-1, 1-1 PAC-12) host No. 11 Washington State (5-0, 2-0). However, he could be limited because of the injury. 

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break James' record of 5,082.. 

RECORD WATCH

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 51 yards on six carries before leaving the game against Cal with a shoulder injury.   

Previous games: Freeman rushed for 81 yards at ASU, 157 yards at Wyoming, 153 yards vs. Nebraska and 150 against Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman now has has rushed for 592 yards rushing in four games.  

Career total: Freeman has 4,738 yards career rushing yards. 

Freeman needs: He is 345 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman did not score.   

2017 total: Ten.

Career total: Freeman has 54 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Next up: The Ducks host California (3-1) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Set TD mark in down game

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Set TD mark in down game

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman became the Ducks' all-time leader in rushing touchdowns Saturday when he scored on an 11-yard run in the second quarter of UO's 37-35 loss at Arizona State. 

It was Freeman's 10th rushing touchdown of the season and 54th for his career, putting him ahead of LaMichael James (53). Freeman now needs six rushing touchdowns to surpass former Oregon State running back Ken Simonton's Pac-12 Conference record of 59 rushing touchdowns (1998 to 2001). 

Freeman also rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries against the Sun Devils to move closer to breaking James' career rushing yardage record of 5,082. Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break James' record. 

RECORD WATCH

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries at ASU (2-2).  

Previous games: Freeman rushed for 157 yards at Wyoming, 153 yards vs. Nebraska and 150 against Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman now has has rushed for 541 yards rushing in four games.  

Career total: Freeman has 4,687 yards career rushing yards. 

Freeman needs: He is 396 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman rushed for one touchdown to eclipsed James.   

2017 total: Ten.

Career total: Freeman has 54 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Next up: The Ducks host California (3-1) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: One away from setting TD mark

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: One away from setting TD mark

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries during a 49-13 win Saturday at Wyoming to move to within less than 500 yards of breaking the Ducks' career rushing record held by LaMichael James.

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break LaMichael James' record of 5,082 (2009-2011). Freeman ranks second in the Pac-12 in rushing at 153.3 yards per game, trailing Stanford's Bryce Love (174.7). His 460 rushing yards rank third in the nation. 

Enjoying watching Freeman's hot start is the man who hands him the ball, sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert.

“It’s really fun to watch," he said. "Sometimes I hand the ball off and don’t carry out my fake and just watch.”

 

Here is a quick look at where Freeman's chase stands:

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns at Wyoming (1-2).  

Previous games: Freeman rushed for 153 yards against Nebraska and 150 against Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman now has has rushed for 460 yards rushing in three games.  

Career total: Freeman has 4,606 yards career rushing yards. 

Freeman needs: He is 477 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman rushed for three touchdowns.   

2017 total: Nine.

Career total: Freeman has 53 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Freeman needs: He is tied with James and needs one more rushing touchdown to sit alone atop the career mark. 

Next up: The Ducks play at Arizona State (1-2) Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: 153 yards closer to James' record

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: 153 yards closer to James' record

EUGENE - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries Saturday against Nebraska to move closer to breaking LaMichael James' career rushing mark. 

Freeman also scored two touchdowns during the 42-35 win over the Cornhuskers at Autzen Stadium. 

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break LaMichael James' record of 5,082 (2009-2011). 

Here is a quick look at where Freeman's chase stands:

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns vs. Nebraska.  

Previous games: Freeman Rushed for 150 yards vs. Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman has rushed for 303 yards in two games.  

Career total: Freeman now has 4,449 yards rushing. 

Freeman needs: He is 634 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman rushed for two touchdowns.   

2017 total: six. 

Career total: Freeman has 50 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Freeman needs: He is four away from breaking James' record. 

Next up: The Ducks play at Wyoming (1-1) Saturday in Laramie, Wy.

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Royce rolls for 150 vs. Southern Utah

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Royce rolls for 150 vs. Southern Utah

EUGENE - The return of Oregon running back Royce Freeman gave the senior a second chance at becoming the Ducks' all-time leading rusher. 

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break LaMichael James' record of 5,082 (2009-2011). 

Freeman got off to a good start Saturday with 150 yards on the ground during a 77-21 win over Southern Utah at Autzen stadium.  However, he began strongly last season before injuries derailed his chances of breaking James' record in three seasons. 

Freeman began the 2016 season with 3,203 career yards after rushing for a program-record 1,838 in 2015. That figure broke James' single-season record of 1,805 set in 2011.

Freeman needed 1,880 yards in 2016 to break James' career mark. Freeman gained 294 over the first two games of the season before an injury all but ended his chances of breaking James' record. A sternum injury suffered against Washington sent Freeman on the worst stretch of his career and he finished the season with 945 yards.  

Many figured Freeman would enter the NFL Draft but new coach Willie Taggart convinced him to return for his senior season. 

Record, or no record, James should still be regarded as the greatest running back in program history after Freeman is done.  

James set his mark on 771 carries over three seasons while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. Freeman will have needed four seasons and he's already carried the ball 726 times, gaining 5.9 yards per attempt. 

Freeman is also likely to break James' all-time rushing touchdown mark of 53. 

Here is the start of our weekly update on Freeman's record chase. 

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 150 yards on 23 carries and scored four touchdowns against Southern Utah. 

2017 total: See above. 

Career total: Freeman now has 4,296 yards rushing. 

Freeman needs: He is 787 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman scored four times on the ground.  

2017 total: See above. 

Career total: Freeman has 48 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Freeman needs: He is six away from breaking James' record. 

Next up: The Ducks play host Nebraska (1-0) Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Freeman last season at Nebraska rushed for 31 yards on five carries before going down witth a foot injury and missing the next game at home against Colorado.  

LaMichael James' heartfelt response to the end of the Gary Campbell-era at Oregon

LaMichael James' heartfelt response to the end of the Gary Campbell-era at Oregon

The legacy of former Oregon running backs coach Gary Campbell includes a long list of great ball carriers that helped propel the program's rise to prominence over the last 25 years.

No player better defines Campbell's 34-year legacy at Oregon than LaMichael James. He remains the program's all-time leading rusher (5,082 yards), helped lead the Ducks to their only undefeated regular season (12-0 in 2010) and James placed third in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting.

But none of those accomplishments matter more to James, he said, than his relationship with Campbell, who today announced on Twitter that his career at Oregon has officially come to an end.

The news hit James hard. Below is his heartfelt written response to CSN regarding Campbell's announcement:

  • "Over my time at Oregon, and even beyond, Coach Cam has become the most influential person in my life, next to my grandmother. Growing up without a great male role model I began to look to you for guidance and then before I knew it, it turned into much more. You went from a coach, to a role model, to a friend, and then to a father. I often tell people that when I look back, that it didn't really matter how good I was talent wise, the fact I couldn't let myself ever let you down is what pushed me to be great. I listened to everything you said to me, every piece of advice you gave, every direction you pointed me in. You instilled in me my drive and my focus as a person, not just as a player. It's no secret that you're the only Coach who could deal with my unique personality, and I would be lying if I said that you leaving the University of Oregon didn't take a piece of me with you. You were there for me when I was at the lowest point in my life. I had you there, always, pushing me and motivating me, not as a player, but as man. The bond I share with you is far bigger than a player and a coach. It's funny to think back at how you used to kick me and Kenjon (Barner) out of the meeting room for goofing off, or how you were always having to match every single piece of clothing you wore, and to see now how far you've helped me come in my life. I will forever be grateful for you as a coach, as a friend, and most importantly, as my dad."

 

Running backs coach Gary Campbell announces he is done at Oregon

Running backs coach Gary Campbell announces he is done at Oregon

Running backs coach Gary Campbell certainly won't be returning to coach at Oregon. 

Campbell, who told CSN in August that he was considering retiring at the end of the 2016 season, made it official today that he would no longer be coaching at Oregon via Twitter (see below).  

https://twitter.com/OregonRBCoach/status/812421279600869376

His Twitter declaration could extend to all sidelines, although Campbell has not officially announced that he is retiring. 

Campbell had little chance of being retained by Oregon coach Willie Taggart, who it appears will turn over the entire coaching staff. But any interest from the Ducks' new head coach toward a potential Campbell return to Oregon might not have mattered, anyway. 

The former UCLA running back has told CSN in the past that he likely would have only return to UO for the 2017 season if former head coach Mark Helfrich were not fired, or if former UO coach Chip Kelly had a made a miraculous return to Eugene to replace Helfrich. 

The legacy Campbell leaves behind at Oregon is untouchable. He coached several great running backs, including 14 that played in the NFL. His most dominant backs were LaMichael James, Jonathan Stewart, Onterrio Smith, Maurice Morris, Tony Cherry, Reuben Droughns, Derek Loville, Kenjon Barner, Jeremiah Johnson, Ricky Whittle, Diny Philyaw, Kevin Willhite, Byron Marshall, De'Anthony Thomas and Royce Freeman. 

Freeman record watch: 1,586 yards away from career record

Freeman record watch: 1,586 yards away from career record

Oregon junior running back Royce Freeman has a chance to rewrite the programs rushing record list this season. Each week we will provide an update on his progress. 

EUGENE - Oregon junior running back Royce Freeman has a chance to make history at Oregon. Again. 

After rushing for 207 yards on 21 carries Saturday night during a 44-26 win over Virginia, the junior sits 1,586 yards away from breaking Oregon's career rushing record held by LaMichael James.

Freeman, who wears No. 21, entered the season needing 1,880 yards to surpass James, the most famous No. 21 in program history, who rushed for 5,082 yards from 2009 through 2011. 

Freeman began the year with 3,203 career yards after rushing for a program-record 1,838 yards in 2015. That figure broke James' previous single-season record of 1,805 set in 2011. 

Freeman got off to a slow start this season with 87 yards on 11 carries in the opener against UC Davis. He got back on track with his stellar performance against the Cavaliers.

Here is a statistical breakdown of Freeman's run at both the yardage and touchdown records:

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 207 yards on 21 carries. He ran for an 85-yard touchdown in the third quarter. 

2016 total: Freeman has now gained 294 yards on 32 carries. 

Career total: Freeman has 3,497 yards. He needs 127 to move into second place all time ahead of Kenjon Barner (3,623)

Freeman needs: He sits 1,586 yards away from breaking James' record. 

Average needed per game (13-game season): With 11 games remaining, Freeman must average 144.1 yards per game to set the record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman scored twice on runs of two and 85 yards. 

2016 total: He now has four rushing touchdowns. 

Career total: Freeman sits at 39 for his career. He needs two touchdowns to tie Barner (41) for second place. 

Freeman needs: He is 14 rushing touchdowns away from breaking the record. 

Next up: The Ducks play at Nebraska (2-0).