GameDay: Don’t sleep on Royce Freeman

Oregon sophomore running back Byron Marshall (9) makes the Heisman Trophy pose as he runs down the football field. The No. 10 Oregon Ducks play the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 30, 2013. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

Oregon sophomore running back Byron Marshall (9) makes the Heisman Trophy pose as he runs down the football field. The No. 10 Oregon Ducks play the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 30, 2013. (Ryan Kang/Emerald)

Posted by Hayden Kim on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 8:00 am.

Royce Freeman has undoubtedly been the most intriguing topic of discussion this offseason.

The problem is, the true freshman has yet to play in a college football game.

The 6-foot, 227-pound, five-star running back out of Imperial High School may already be drawing comparisons to Jonathan Stewart for his strength and speed, but the general public has yet to see him with their own eyes.

“He’s had some great days and he’s had some days where he looked liked a freshman, but he’s been competitive, exceptional on special teams and he’s another fun guy to be around because he’s a quiet worker, grinder-team guy,” Mark Helfrich said.

Oregon’s practices have been closed for years now, and for this reason, speculation is as far as it can go when it comes to players like Freeman.

One thing is for sure, the coaches have been impressed with him. Oregon may not be open about its prospects, but with Freeman, it is apparent that he is doing all the right things to be in a legitimate competition with Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall.

“He’s in the mix, no question,” running backs coach Gary Campbell said. “We don’t recruit guys by their size, we recruit them by productivity, and I think he (Royce Freeman) can produce in this offense.”

At the moment, Freeman is in a three-way tie with Tyner and Marshall for the starting spot heading into their season opener against South Dakota. It may just be a ploy to further motivate the three, but it appears to be a bit more.

After hearing from running back coach Gary Campbell and offensive coordinator Scott Frost, the one common denominator with Freeman was hard work and receptiveness. For a highly touted freshman like Freeman, there is nothing more to be said.

“Retention of the playbook, coming in shape, he doesn’t have any tweaks or anything,” Frost said. “He’s been business since he got here.”

Guarantees are something that no team likes to make. Injuries and unsuspected issues are suspect with any player, and because of this reality, Freeman will remain a question mark until proven otherwise.

Freeman’s talent and natural ability may have granted him a five-star status at the high school ranks, but he will now be competing against some of the best college programs in the country.

Bigger, faster, stronger may well be associated with Freeman in the near future, but these three adjectives are already synonymous with every Pac-12 team he will face this season.

It appears that Freeman will get his chance this season to live up to the hype. Under the coaches’ eyes, Freeman has done enough not to redshirt this year and that is a good first step for the freshman.

As soon as Freeman steps onto the field for the first time, the real test will begin. And at that moment, all the previous questions will be answered.

“We kept saying right before Fall Camp that we hope he’s exactly what we hope he is, and he’s been that – exceptional,” Helfrich said. “When he had the ball in his hands, it looked really good. Really looking forward to his career for many reasons.”

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim