Oregon Football: Why Thomas Tyner Will Be the Featured RB as a Freshman
October 16, 2012 was a bad day. Oregon Ducks 2013 commit Aloha High School running back Thomas Tyner decommitted and decided to re-open his recruiting.
October 18 was a better day. Tyner thought it over and recommitted to the Ducks.
As I write this, Tyner has regained his 5-star ranking on Rivals.com. Earlier concerns about his injuries have been erased as a result of his spectacular senior season at Aloha. Tyner is currently considered to be the No. 21 overall prospect nationally in the 2013 class.
I don't begin to understand why Tyner decommitted and then recommitted less than 48 hours later. But recommitting to the Ducks is the right move for Tyner and for Oregon. Here's why.
Thomas Tyner is the perfect fit for the Oregon Ducks' offense.
He has blazing speed—another one of those track guys—and he has the potential to be a game-breaker every time he touches the football. Sound like anyone you know?
Tyner put up some real numbers during his senior season at Aloha: 3,405 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns. Lots of kids don't hit those numbers in their careers, much less in one season. Tyner averaged almost 12 yards every time he carried the rock.
Tyner's stats in his senior season set state of Oregon high school records. But the eye-popping statistic came in September when Tyner set Oregon single-game records with 643 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns—this is not a typo—in a win over Lakeridge High.
The 6'0", 207 lbs Tyner is also a real threat returning kickoffs.
In addition to his 43 rushing touchdowns and two receiving TDs in his senior year, Tyner also returned two kickoffs for scores.
My guess is that at the next level, where Tyner will be taught the finer points of returning kicks, he will really excel. Certainly the speed and instincts that make a great return player are there.
True freshman running back Byron Marshall got some terrific experience in 2012. Because of the Ducks' blowout wins early in the season, Marshall saw real playing time.
In his collegiate debut in Oregon's win over Arkansas State, Marshall rushed for 64 yards and scored his first collegiate touchdown. He got his first 100-yard rushing game two games later against Tennessee Tech.
You remember that game. That's the weekend that Kansas State was supposed to play at Autzen, but they chickened, er, opted out (that was your first tart-tongued jab at Fiesta Bowl-bound Kansas State. I'm guessing there will be more between now and Jan. 3.)
My point, and I do have one, is that Marshall was solid each and every time he got in a game in relief of Kenjon Barner: 59 yards here, 67 yards there—all very respectable.
However, what we have here with Tyner coming in one year behind Marshall is not a LaMichael James/Kenjon Barner do-over. Where James was "the man", and Barner had to wait until His Greatness graduated, Marshall and Tyner will be the "co-man."
Marshall will be listed as the starting RB, at least for Oregon's first two games against Nicholls State and Nevada. But by the third game when Tennessee visits Autzen, expect Tyner to start. Both will play in Oregon's "run-first" offense because Tyner simply has too much firepower to leave him on the bench.
Where does that leave fellow 2013 RB recruit Dontre Wilson out of Desoto, TX? Either No. 3 on the depth chart, or a possible redshirt.
Next In Long Line of Excellence
You've probably heard that each President of the United States leaves a hand-written note in the Oval Office desk for the next up.
I'm convinced that each Oregon running back does the same when his turn with the Ducks is up. It might be on Twitter now instead of a hand-written note, but the concept is the same: Here's what it means to take the reins of running the ball at Oregon.
Thomas Tyner has watched many great running backs come and go at Oregon. He understands what it means to be next in line.
He is worthy.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.