In what is likely to be a feisty running back competition, Royce Freeman's advantage could rest in his durability and across-the-board consistency.
Some running backs' skill sets are unbalanced. Some operate well in space, but aren't as effective between the tackles. Some are more effective as a pass receiver than as an every-down runner. Some have terrific straight-line speed, but don't have great vision; some are the opposite.
Freeman, on the other hand, is solid across the board. In addition to being perhaps the most durable running back in college football, amassing 1,026 touches over the last three years, he was effective in the passing game at Oregon, averaging 10.3 yards per reception over the course of his career. He runs with between-the-tackles power and open-field speed.
All that gives him a chance to distinguish himself in what could be a wide-open competition between Freeman, Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson.
"It’s going to be open, obviously, with [Booker] and De'Angelo," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "You’ve got to have two or three backs anyways, so it’s always going to be open competition. It takes two or three guys to have a solid backfield."
Freeman could also be a primary option in short-yardage situations.
"He's a big back with speed," Joseph said. "When we get down there in the red zone and we want to run the football, he's a nice option. When you’re third-and-one, fourth-and-one, he's a great option."
But Freeman wants more than situational work.
"I want to be out there on first down and second down and third down," Freeman said. "That's part of my asset as the running back."
His quickness numbers are outstanding, especially for a back of his size. His three-cone drill time of 6.90 seconds ranked third among running backs at the Scouting Combine, trailing only Northwestern's Justin Jackson and Fordham's Chase Edmonds -- both of whom are more than 20 pounds lighter than the 229-pound Freeman.
All that stands as evidence that Freeman is not a situational back, but one who could be an every-down, bell-cow runner who blends sufficient speed, agility and power.