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'The prospect of playing for Coach Taggart my final year here was certainly a factor'

Oregon Ducks Royce Freeman (#21) rushes down field against Oregon State Beavers defense. The Oregon State University Beavers hosted the 120th Civil War against the University of Oregon Ducks on Saturday afternoon at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore. The Oregon State Beavers beat the Oregon Ducks 34-24 breaking an eight-year losing streak. Photo by Katie Pietzold

EUGENE, Ore. – Running back Royce Freeman will return to Oregon to play his senior season for the Ducks.

Freeman is ranked second in rushing yards and touchdowns to only LaMichael James, who played for the Ducks in 2009 through 2011.

“After consulting with my family and giving this considerable thought, I feel this is the best decision for me in regards to my future on and off the field,” Freeman said in a statement. “My education was one of the most important reasons I chose to come to Oregon and that priority hasn’t changed.

“I wish to thank Coach Helfrich and the entire coaching staff for the roles they have played in my success thus far. I am extremely grateful to Coach Campbell for everything he has taught me and the influence he has had in my life over the last three years.

“However, the prospect of playing for Coach Taggart my final year here was certainly a factor in my return. His enthusiasm and vision for this program are contagious. I am certainly excited to be coached by him and enhance my development.

“All praise to the most high; and Go Ducks.”

Freeman is a two-time first-team Pac-12 all-conference choice.

He set Oregon’s single-season rushing record with 1,836 yards as a sophomore.

He is one of only four Oregon players to rush for over 1,000 yards in two separate seasons.

He has rushed for 100 yards or more in 22 games over 3 seasons, including two games over 200 yards.

Battling injuries for most of 2016, Freeman still ran for 945 yards in 11 games.

Freeman was ranked fourth in the country in rushing yards per game in 2015 (141.2 avg.) and will begin the 2017 season ninth on the Pac-12 conference’s all-time rushing list.

“The return of an experienced talent such as Royce Freeman ranks among the top recruiting coups we could hope to attract to the University of Oregon in our first two weeks at the helm,” the Ducks’ first-year head coach Willie Taggart said. “Royce represents the type of young man that we intend to build this program around. Not only does he stand out as one of the top running backs in the country, he epitomizes the character of the type of student-athlete we are looking for as well as the work ethic of someone who truly wants to be here.”

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