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Leach says WSU is expecting Duck RB Royce Freeman to suit up

THE LAST TIME WSU and Oregon faced off, the Cougars came away with a thrilling overtime win. But in that victory last fall, Ducks’ running back Royce Freeman was a beast on the ground and piled up a whole lot of yards. After missing last week with a leg injury, Freeman is expected to be back on the field for Oregon this weekend. And if you ask Mike Leach, the Cougs have to kick things up a notch to prepare for the Duck RB.

Freeman is expected to start Saturday, and that’s not exciting news for DC Alex Grinch and the WSU defense.

In WSU’s 45-38 win over Oregon last year, Freeman was virtually unstoppable, rushing for a career-high 246 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been battling a leg injury which sidelined him for last week’s loss vs. Colorado, but The Register-Guard expects him back in action in Pullman. So does Leach.

“He’s a real good player,” Mike Leach said on his radio show Thursday night. “It sounds like he’ll play. They claimed he’d play last week and he didn’t, but we expect him to play.”

In the event Freeman isn’t able to go, and even if he does, WSU has to also be ready for Oregon running back Tony Brook-James, who rushed for 120 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown last week. Indeed, Oregon has several 'backs who can do damage.

“Well, they’re all good,” Leach said. “There’s no adjustment for them. The other guys they’ve got are good. That doesn’t diminish him (Freeman) in any way. He’s the best one they have, but it’s not like you can take your eye off other guys. Someone will play the position and you have to be precise with your job and attack the gaps to stop them.”

RELATED: CF.C TV: Grinch says pressure is key 

Another area Leach discussed at length on Thursday night was the strong play of the Cougar special teams unit during the win over Idaho two weeks ago. Leach gave plenty of credit to coordinator Eric Mele for the job he’s done. 

For those of you on Twitter, Mele refers to his unit as the “#SpecialForces” and they were indeed special vs. the Vandals.

“I think he’s really elevated the focus and the effort,” Leach said. “Our cover teams are what we’re doing best right now. Kickoff and punt coverage are our strongest units and that’s all effort. Those guys come in different shapes and sizes too.

“It’s not just running down there and blowing someone up. You have to get in a position to make a play and have good effort.”

Here are some more notes from Leach’s show: 

• The Cougar head man continues to give plenty of praise to second-year freshman running back James Williams, who rushed for 126 yards and a TD vs. Idaho.

“James does a good job with the ball in his hands,” Leach said. “He’s explosive and extinctively goes full speed. Even if he goes the wrong place, he goes full speed. He has natural hands and good precision on routes. He’s improving on protection. If he hits a guy in protection, he hits him hard. We just go to be conscientious to help him sort it all out. Part of it is he’s a young guy and he hasn’t had too many reps.”

• Leach expects the typical Oregon O to be present at Martin. 

“They’re real fast,” Leach said. “They’re always fast and look similar to what they’ve always looked like. Like a lot of teams this time of year, they’re trying to find themselves and be precise each game. They’re very aggressive and that’s haunted them a little bit. They’re breaking in a new quarterback and a new defense. They’ve got a lot of new faces.”

• On first-year Duck QB starter, former Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop.

“He’s a good player,” Leach said. “We’ve got to keep him contained. He does some good stuff on the move. When he’s on the move he can be dangerous.”


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