It’s becoming rarer by the year to see seniors have big impacts in the college game. In basketball, the best players are one-and-done, while in football most of the best talent depart after their junior seasons to chase NFL dreams.
However, the Pac-12 has seen some of its best players come from four-year players. From Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman to Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, the Associated Press took a deep dive into some of the conference’s best seniors in 2017.
According to the AP, first-year Oregon head coach Willie Taggart made convincing Freeman to stay in Eugene a top priority once he was hired.
Shortly after he was hired by the Ducks last year, Oregon coach Willie Taggart traveled to Imperial, California, to convince running back Royce Freeman to stay in Eugene for his senior season.
It was no casual detour on Taggart’s holiday break. Imperial is about a two hour’s drive east of San Diego.
“When I was getting ready to leave, he walked me out to the car and said, ‘Coach, I’m coming back,’ and I screamed like a cheerleader ‘Yeeaaahhhh!'” Taggart said.
The decision to stay has allowed Freeman to become perhaps the most accomplished running back in school history. He’s racked up 5,364 career rushing yards, 54 career rushing touchdowns and 29 100-plus yard games on the ground — all school records.
“You want to make sure they make the best decision for themselves,” Taggart said. “It’s not about me or anything. It’s about that young man. Sometimes they get false information, so you try your best to feed him with all the right information for him to make the best decision for him and his family.”
As for Falk, he’s been the catalyst to one of the best seasons in Washington State history. The gunslinger broke the Pac-12 career mark for passing yards last week (13,801) and has guided the Cougars to an 8-2 overall record.
— Evan Closky (@KREMEvan) November 6, 2017
“Almost without exception they’re better off staying in school,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “They’re nearly always encouraged to do that by the NFL. The NFL doesn’t care whether you come out this year or next year, they feel like if you’re good enough to play in their league they’ll get you anyway. The more polished you are, the better chance you have of making the team, the better your odds of enhancing their product.”
In Seattle, Washington’s Dante Pettis has established himself as perhaps college football’s greatest ever returner. Last week against Oregon, Pettis broke the NCAA mark for punt return touchdowns with his ninth.
WORLD SERIES CHAMPION AND GREATEST PUNT RETURNER OF ALL TIME DANTE PETTIS HAS DONE IT AGAIN pic.twitter.com/51Eb2EqHoq
— Barstool UW (@Barstoolhuskies) November 5, 2017
“Everybody’s in such a hurry, that’s the trend, to get there and make the money, and we all understand that,” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said, per the AP. “But it’s all about your development and your maturity, as a person and a player, to be able to help you to do that (play in the pros) for a long time.”
While ultimately being overshadowed by the likes of Bryce Love and Ronald Jones II, as well as Freeman, Colorado senior running back Phillip Lindsay ranks fourth in the nation with 1,334 yards rushing this season.
“We’re excited that Phillip came back, and I think he definitely is, too,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think he wanted to finish out the right way, and I think he’s done that.”
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