Oregon’s running backs have no choice when it comes to physicality.

They hear the word all the time. It’s not a suggestion they play with physicality; it’s a requirement. Their coach, Carlos Locklyn is in the weight room lifting. They see him. He wants them to. He tells his group—a collection of backs he calls “my boys”—all the time he’s the best running back in the room.

“I think if you put the ball on the 1 yard line, ain’t none of them out there tougher than me. They know that,” he told reporters after practice this week. “I’m the toughest one in the room. Period.”

And Locklyn doesn’t have to hope his toughness or his approach rubs off on the room.

“It ain’t gonna have no choice but to rub off,” he said. “I ain’t changing. It’s the same standard every day, and you see them boys take the field like that, they work hard because they hear my voice from the beginning of practice until the end. They ain’t got no choice because I ain’t gonna let up. I’m not gonna cheat my kids in that room.”

Locklyn proudly says he’s from Montgomery, Alabama. “I’m old-school,” he says. Even with the Ducks practicing now in full pads, it doesn’t sound like Locklyn wishes it could. There’s nothing better than the sound of pads popping. “I want it to be a little more physical,” he says. “My boys, they’re gonna always say the word, ‘physicality.’ They know I lean on that. We can get better. I’m always going to tell them we’re gonna get better.”

The first-year Oregon assistant was a four-year letterman at Chattanooga, rushing for 1,555 yards over three seasons and twice leading the Mocs in rushing. He also added 71 catches for 676 yards. He played cornerback his junior year, tying for the team lead in interceptions. His average of 123.9 rushing yards per game still stands as Chattanooga’s single-season record, and his 6.5 yards-per-carry average ranks fifth on the program’s all-time list.

Locklyn looks like he could still strap it up. It also looks like he’s going to have this room ready to roll when the season opens on Sept. 3.

Even when Oregon’s numbers were slim in the room back in the spring, Locklyn was never focused on anything other than getting the players he had to play with their everything. Now that the room has grown, the message hasn’t changed.

“I never worried about (numbers),” he said. Oregon had Byron Cardwell, Sean Dollars, and Western Kentucky transfer Noah Whittington in the spring, but Cardwell battled an undisclosed injury during the period. Freshman Jordan James and Minnesota transfer Mar’Keise “Bucky” Irving arrived this summer. “I knew (head coach Dan) Lanning was going to put me in the right situation, put the team in the right situation to find the right backs, and he knew I was going to work, him and (offensive coordinator Kenny) Dillingham. We started off with two scholarship guys. Now we’ve got five. Really good backs.”

Asked to describe Irving, Locklyn said he’s “pure toughness.” He called James a big, explosive, violent runner. Dollars, he said, has been steady. Cardwell is growing in his ability to take instruction in the room to the field. “Noah’s been Noah,” he said of Whittington.

Dillingham said earlier this week the Ducks could use any number of backs this season.

“We’re going to use whatever we’ve got, whatever our talent is that way we’re fresh in the fourth quarter,” he said.

To that end, Locklyn has had a clear message for his room: the rotation will take care of itself, work to help your brothers.

“The best thing about the room is it’s a really good group of kids,” he said. “The main thing I’m trying to pour into these kids that I think sometimes we lose as coaches and adults: learning how to be one. You can achieve great things when you’re leaning on one another.

“There’s gonna come a time where you’re gonna need one another. That’s what I pour into those kids, learn how to be one. Learn how to root for one another. The room is gelling well and I’m excited about it.”

With a scrimmage coming up for the Ducks in camp, Locklyn was asked what he wants to see. He shared one thing that’s a non-negotiable. You can probably guess what that is.

“Physicality. That better show up,” he said. “That’s what I expect to see. I expect them to play hard. I tell them all the time effort doesn’t take talent.”

With Locklyn leading the way, Oregon figures to have plenty of both.