Everything You Need to Know About the Ducks' Phenomenal Freshman, Thomas Tyner
It's no secret that Duck fans have high expectations for running back Thomas Tyner in 2013.
The five-star recruit has a unique combination of size and speed which could allow him to contribute immediately to a team with some question marks over their depth at running back.
Sure there's De'Anthony Thomas, a top-tier Heisman candidate and one of the most electrifying players in the country. There's also Byron Marshall, a talented sophomore who looks ready to take over as an every down back.
But most of the intrigue, at least during preseason, surrounds the highly-touted recruit from Aloha, Oregon.
Step number one in getting to know Thomas Tyner is recognizing that he loves his hometown, which makes his decision to stay in-state all the more exciting for Duck fans.
Here is everything you need to know about Oregon running back Thomas Tyner.
Who He Is
6'0", 220 pounds according to this 247sports piece. Initially listed at closer to 200 pounds, Tyner added on some extra bulk in preparation for the upcoming season
Thomas Tyner plays running back, though anybody familiar with his speed wouldn't be surprised to see him utilized in the return game as well.
Statistics from High School
His goducks.com profile takes a look at some of his statistical accomplishments during his high school career at Aloha. Tyner amassed 6,796 yards in his career which included a whopping 3,415 his senior season. He set two state single game records as well with 643 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns in a win over Lakeridge as a senior.
Tyner was a first-team Parade and USA Today All-American, and was rated the 12th-best overall prospect by Brandon Huffman of Scout.com. A two-time Oregon state player of the year at the 6A level, Tyner was also one of just a handful of prospects to earn a five-star rating
Tyner committed to the Ducks early in the recruiting process, but briefly opened up his recruitment last fall. After a day of mulling it over, he reaffirmed his intentions to sign with the Ducks, and did so on national signing day in February. Among the many other schools vying for Tyner were Oregon State, UCLA, and USC.
Word on the Street
It's one thing to hear fans get excited about a major recruit, but message board chatter can be taken with a grain of salt.
What matters more is what coaches and analysts are saying, because they're the ones studying his game tape and watching him in practice each day.
Thomas Tyner has been a known commodity in the state of Oregon for quite some time after he led his team to a championship as a sophomore. But he really exploded on the national scene after his 10 touchdown performance last September.
In this Sports Illustrated Recruiting Roundup from a year ago, author Mike Farrell labels Tyner as a "budding star." He goes on to say that "when healthy, there is no running back in this class who has a better combination of size and speed."
It's precisely those skills that have fans so excited about what he might do for the Ducks' offense. But it's the beginning of the quote that caused some to worry, as Tyner was hampered by injuries throughout his junior season.
Still, Aloha head coach Chris Casey makes it a point to mention his heart and determination in this profile of Tyner from The Oregonian.
"He's a lion," Casey said. "He goes hard all the time, no matter what. That won't change."
This statement rings especially true considering Tyner routinely carried the ball upwards of 25 times a game throughout high school.
So far, it appears that Tyner has lived up to his hype in fall camp. Of course, seven days of practice doesn't mean a whole lot with two more weeks and an entire season ahead of him, but a solid start is a welcome sign for Duck fans.
In this recap of Friday's practice, Mark Helfrich talked about the young guys learning to persevere through the pace of practice and heat of the summer sun. He then mentions that he was pleased with Tyner, noting "he got better."
Beat writer Rob Moseley offered his own observation in a report from yesterday, citing Tyner's hands as something that has stood out during camp thus far. Moseley also adds that he didn't see Tyner drop a single pass over the past couple practices.
So what does Tyner himself have to say about his journey, which may still be just beginning?
"Nothing will ever replace home and all the friends I have in it!"
He's also provided us with further evidence that Oregon may have the most physically taxing practices in college football, at least from a conditioning standpoint.
Tyner tweeted, "That conditioning test was no joke lol".
And finally, even with his affinity for his hometown, it appears that Tyner is settling in quite nicely to the Oregon Ducks' way of doing things, offering up these words that former coach Chip Kelly would be proud of:
"We don't win games if we don't win the day every day."
How He Fits into the Ducks' Offense
Oregon runs an offense that is designed to open up big holes for running backs and let them make plays with their speed and athleticism.
It sounds like a simple label that can be applied to most offenses around the country, but considering the Ducks' string of 1,000-yard backs, it's safe to say Oregon runs its offense better than most.
With Tyner's track speed, he should fit into the offense rather seamlessly.
When a running back is given the ball on an outside zone read, he runs towards the sideline while looking for a hole to cut upfield. The faster he can accomplish this, the better the run will typically be. In effect, as the defense shifts toward the sidelines, the running back will sometimes cut early and fly past linebackers into the secondary.
At that point, it's all about speed. But what makes Tyner so intriguing is his size at 6'0" and 220 pounds.
Running backs that big typically get the "bruiser" label and are seen as players who can dive into a pile and gain four to five yards based on strength alone. If Tyner can develop that level of physicality to go along with his speed, he'll give the Ducks a combination of strength and quickness they haven't seen before.
Many reports also indicate that Tyner is quite adept at catching the ball out of the backfield, so one should look for him to make plays in that area too, should he start out the season third on the depth chart.
Oregon recruits speed above all else on offense, and Tyner has afterburners and then some. Aside from everything else he brings to the table, that alone should allow him to fit quite well into the Ducks' offense.
Adjustments He Needs to Make at the College Level
It's hard to pinpoint what Thomas Tyner needs to improve on given his outstanding high school career.
If you watched every play of his senior season, would there really be anything you could look at and think "well, he needs to get a lot better in that area"?
He didn't have a ton of catches, though that was due in large part to the fact that he carried the ball so often. Against good teams in the playoffs, he had a few struggles, but that's bound to happen when you're the main option in an offense going up against a decent defense.
The biggest adjustment he'll need to make is in the mental department of his game. In this regard, if he expects to play as a freshman, he'll have to get a decent grasp on the playbook before the season begins.
Tyner will also need to adjust to the speed of the game. It will be worth his while to realize now that despite the fact that he's still faster than most of the players on the field, simply finding a hole and beating everyone to the end zone isn't going to work every time.
To touch back on the mental aspect for a moment, he'll also have to learn to handle the spotlight. Sure, the recruiting process probably gave the young freshman some stress, but now he'll actually be playing for the Ducks, and every move will be scrutinized one way or another.
Overall, Tyner didn't have any apparent weaknesses in high school. However, nobody is flawless, and we should have a much better idea as to what he needs to work on after the first few games of the season.
Michael Felder Scouting Report
Here is a brief scouting report on Tyner, courtesy of one of Bleacher Report's best, Michael Felder.
Tyner has some world class speed. He posted a 10.35 in the 100m dash, and he brings an effective one-cut running style to the college game.
He enters college as one of the legitimate fastest players in the game, and if there is daylight, Tyner has the ability to take it the distance.
Cut from the same cloth as LaMichael James, Tyner is best suited for zone runs that allow him to cut across the formation, catch defenses off balance and use his elite speed.
The biggest thing to watch for in Tyner will be how well he adjusts to the college game. He did not play in an extremely talented high school league and getting up to the speed of pay, where everyone is fast, will certainly be a challenge.
Predictions for Freshman Season
We've made several predictions about Tyner's freshman season before, though the topic is definitely worth revisiting.
With a lack of depth at running back, there's no question that Tyner will play a role at some point. De'Anthony Thomas has never really carried the load for an entire game, and Byron Marshall is still relatively inexperienced. Even if both those guys are improved and ready to become every down backs, Tyner will still see the field.
But how big will his role be exactly?
It's tough to say, but I think anywhere from 5-10 carries per game is a fair estimate. Note that Marshall had 24 in last season's opener and another 13 against Tennessee Tech. It's completely realistic to think that Tyner may get 15+ carries a game to begin the season if the Ducks are rolling.
However, that number should drop when conference play arrives, unless he's too spectacular to leave on the sideline.
He'll get his big plays against teams like Nicholls State and Colorado, but I think anything more than 800 yards for the season would be a stretch. Last season, Marshall averaged more than seven carries a game and totaled more than five yards per carry, and that still amounted to less than 450 yards.
With uncertainty on the depth chart and Tyner's home run ability, he should have a bright rookie season.
But expecting him to leap into the realm of the nation's best backs right away may be a little premature. I predict that he'll have a very good freshmen season, but nothing near the level of what a guy like Adrian Peterson did at Oklahoma.
Note: According to this official practice report, Tyner left practice today on crutches with a protective boot. Helfrich declined to offer much on the situation. Speculation is sure to run rampant until we know more information, but I would advise a bit of caution of assuming anything about his playing status, one way or another. After all, tight end Pharoah Brown left yesterday's practice in similar fashion and stated today that he hoped to return to practice as soon as next week.