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Oregon Football: Why Fans Should Temper Expectations for Thomas Tyner

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Oregon Football: Why Fans Should Temper Expectations for Thomas Tyner
Thomas Tyner (photo courtesy of Dough Beghtel, The Oregonian)

If you made it past the headline without bursting into a fit of rage, I invite you to hear me out.

Thomas Tyner has the most hype of any recruit in the history of Oregon football. Part of that stems from his local ties; he played high school football in Aloha, near Portland. But most of the hype comes from his performance on the field.

Just last season, Tyner ran for 3,415 yards and 43 touchdowns. He averaged more than 11 yards per carry and had more runs longer than 50 yards than you can count on two hands. In a wild game against Lakeridge, he rushed for over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns, making national headlines.

The hype surrounding Tyner also comes from the idea that he'll fit right into Oregon's speedy, up-tempo offense. He has faster straight-line speed than De'Anthony Thomas, but at 6'0" and 210 pounds, he also has the size of a safety.

All of these things are great, but I caution those Duck fans expecting him to light the world on fire in his first season.

First, no matter what someone does in high school, they have to prove their talents at the college level. By all accounts, it appears as if Tyner will fit in right away, but you can't cash a check before it's written. He still needs to learn the playbook, hit the weight room and get up to speed with the way things work at Oregon.

Second, high expectations create this image in fans' minds that Tyner may not live up to. He could rush for 750 yards, 10 touchdowns and return a kickoff next season and there would be plenty of fans wondering why he didn't live up to the hype in year one.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images
Thomas Tyner visiting with former coach Chip Kelly

If you're still with me, understand that this is not a prediction of Tyner's eventual failure. In fact, given what we've seen on tape, I think he definitely has the skill set to be one of the all-time great Ducks.

I'm not even saying that he'll stink next year, either.

If you look at the depth chart, it's Byron Marshall, De'Anthony Thomas and then several walk-on players. We know that DAT has a hybrid role where he's used as a slot receiver as well as a running back. And Marshall, despite his improvement over the course of the season, is still relatively inexperienced.

Barring disaster, Tyner will see the field next season and probably get quite a few carries. He'll have his share of freshman moments, but it's likely we'll also see that intriguing blend of speed and power burn defenses on several occasions.

But the few predictions I've seen from fans have him rushing everywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 yards, and that just sounds crazy. Adrian Peterson set the freshman rushing record at 1,925, and if Tyner even sniffs that mark, not only will it surprise me, but we'll be talking about one of the greatest seasons of all time.

Another overlooked aspect is the potential shift in offensive philosophy now that Helfrich is the head man and Scott Frost is the offensive coordinator. For the first time in several seasons, the Ducks are going to have a deep, talented receiving corps—with returning superstar Marcus Mariota at QB, they'll likely throw the ball a little more.

I doubt they'll ever be labeled as a passing team (why fix what isn't broken?), but I think we'll see fewer 10-play drives where Oregon runs the ball nine times, and that will take carries away from everyone.

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Given the inexperience the Ducks have at running back (at least compared with the last few years), they'll likely take a by-committee approach, which Tyner should be a part of. I foresee him carrying the ball 5-10 carries per game, with added carries later in the season should he progress quickly.

But the Ducks have a solid running back in Byron Marshall, who's been on campus less than a year. He, too, has the potential to be a really great running back. Oregon also has DAT, who showed everyone in the Oregon State game that he can handle 10-12 carries each game, even when they are designed to go at the heart of the defense.

Tyner will make his mark on 2013, of that you can be extremely confident. By the end of his career, we could have a reel of highlights so explosive that Michael Bay would have to shield his eyes.

But for the sake of unrealistic expectations and immense pressure on a teenager, let's be prepared for everything Tyner will give us in year one—the mistakes, the highlights, the missed blocks, the bursts to the edge, the touchdowns and the tackles for loss.

It's okay to be excited, and it'll be natural to inch toward the edge of your seat when Tyner takes his first handoff.

Just remember that Thomas Tyner will be a true freshman playing his first season of major college football. And should he rush for 2,200 yards and 25 touchdowns and take home the Heisman Trophy, well, you have me to laugh at.

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