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Ducks land star tailback

The speedy Oregon Ducks just keep landing talented running backs.

Last year it was homegrown star Thomas Tyner. This year it's Royce Freeman out of Imperial, Calif., who also had offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and Stanford, but on Wednesday signed his letter of intent to play for Oregon.

Freeman ran for 2,824 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior last season at Imperial High School. Freeman, who is 6-feet and 227 pounds, has drawn comparisons to former Ducks LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Stewart.

He could have an impact right away with the departure of De'Anthony Thomas, who decided to skip his senior season and declare for the NFL draft. The Ducks will return backs Byron Marshall and Tyner, who played last year as a true freshman.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich called Freeman a "prototypical big back."

"Just a great kid, who is fast and physical," Helfrich said.

Oregon also lured 5-foot-9 running back Tony James, a four-star prospect out of Gainesville, Fla. Now that receiver Josh Huff has graduated, Oregon recruited 6-foot-2 receiver Jalen Brown from Phoenix, who has already enrolled.

Helfrich said Brown typifies the players in this year's recruiting class.

"A great kid from a great family who was captain of his team," Helfrich said.

Among Oregon's other four-star recruits was cornerback Arrion Springs out of San Antonio, who is expected to help the Ducks shore up the secondary after the loss of safeties Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson to graduation and the early departure of Terrance Mitchell to the NFL draft.

The Ducks filled other defensive needs with the signings of 6-foot-7, 253-pound tackle Jalen Jelks of Phoenix, 6-foot-3, 270-pound end Austin Maloata of Corona, Calif., 6-foot-5, 207 pound end Justin Hollins of Arlington, Texas, and 6-foot-2, 229-pound outside linebacker Jimmie Swain of Olathe, Kan.

The Ducks have lost defensive linemen: Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Havili-Heimuli and linebacker Boseko Lokombo, who all graduated. But Oregon returns all off its offensive line, anchored by center Hroniss Grasu, and 10 offensive players overall.

The Ducks were in the mix for 300-pound defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao, who committed to LSU. Five-star safety/receiver John "Juju" Smith also was considering Oregon, but signed a letter of intent with USC.

Oregon got commitments from 17 prep players, three junior college players and transfer Johnny Ragin, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound linebacker who decided to leave Cal. The NCAA limits FBS schools to 25 new scholarship players, but Oregon didn't have that many open roster spots.

Last season, its first under Helfrich, Oregon finished with an 11-2 record, capped off by a 30-7 victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl.