Monday’s workout held indoors but tempo and “juice” flowed.

The Oregon Ducks began the second week of spring workouts with a guest – Heisman Trophy Winner Marcus Mariota who gave a pep talk to the 2018 squad. While the workout continued, Head Coach Willie Taggart spoke to reporters and talked about star running back Royce Freeman.

“It’s not fitting into what I do,” responded Taggart to a question about Freeman fitting into Taggart’s offense. “It’s about what Royce does.”

Despite what many think will happen to the Oregon Ducks and what notions some observers have about Willie Taggart, this new head coach to Oregon is very like a former head coach of the Ducks – Chip Kelly, in that while many associate the spread offense that runs a zone read with Kelly, the truth of the matter is that Kelly sculpted his team around the talent he had.

As does Willie Taggart.

Taggart went on to say that he believes Freeman is a very good football player and if anything, the headman wants Freeman to be more physical. Just like a former player at Stanford that Taggart coached, Toby Gerhart. For those walking down a path of tough memories, Gerhart broke the Ducks heart in 2009 when the big back, whom Taggart compared Freeman to physically, rushed for 224 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal ruined Oregon’s day for a 51-42 Stanford win. Gerhart carried the ball 38 times that day and a fatigued Duck defense could do little about it.

Will Taggart have Freeman carry the ball 40 times a game? Maybe, if that’s what it takes, according Taggart, though he hopes that won’t be the case.

For sure the Ducks do have an ample supply of talented running backs, something that great Stanford team that had Andrew Luck running the show didn’t have. The Ducks can go four deep in the running back department. Last year, Freeman had a down year in terms of total yards as he finished an injury plagued season just under a 1,000-yards at 945 net yards. The previous season the talented back rushed for 1,836 yards.

Taggart wants Freeman to be the player he is and the important thing for Freeman and the rest of the backs is to learn the blocking scheme that the Duck coaching staff is implementing with a reconditioned front line.

Speaking of that front line, Taggart has been continually saying that he has been impressed with the work of the offensive line and from his comments since he’s arrived at Oregon about getting the Ducks strong physically and mentally, it must be paying off.

Last season the Ducks played three or four redshirt freshmen in games and this year, that group is a year more experienced. Add the strength that Taggart is so determined his team will gain, this might be a very special season on the ground for the Ducks.

Freeman along with Tony Brooks-James, Kani Benoit and Taj Griffin should be back to their old selves in causing major heartache for opposing defensive coordinators when the season finally comes around next fall. Griffin by the way was out of action all last week due to an unspecified ailment, but very likely will be fully healthy by the time the season starts.

This upcoming Saturday, the Ducks will head north to Jesuit High School on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway in Portland for a “situational scrimmage” where the Ducks are going to work on specific game situations in a contact setting. This is going to be very revealing. How strong has the defense become? How strong is the Duck front line? Will Freeman and company run over people or try to dance away from defenders?

It’s probably too much to ask to be able to answer all those questions, but for the first time in six years, the Ducks are opening practices for the public and media so that observers can look for themselves at the 2017 team.

Start time is 2:30 p.m. and admission is on a first come basis. 


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