Why Oregon Ducks' Offense Will Be Better with Thomas Tyner Leading the Charge

Kyle KensingContributor IJanuary 16, 2014

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Oh, to be Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

The Ducks rushing offense in 2014 is like the showroom of a luxury car dealership, stocked with plenty of high horsepower options able to get the ball to its destination in style.

The engine primed to drive Oregon to the promised land next season is running back Thomas Tyner.

In his true freshman season, Tyner was the No. 2 rushing option, rushing 115 times to sophomore Byron Marshall's 168. With junior De'Anthony Thomas also getting 96 carries and quarterback Marcus Mariota's dual-threat capabilities, opportunities to stand out were limited. 

In the same vein, the many layers of Oregon's run game also allowed Tyner, a 5-star prospect coming out of nearby Beaverton (Ore.) Aloha High School, to acclimate to the college game without being overwhelmed. 

In his first year, Tyner just started to rev his motor. His 711 rushing yards set an Oregon record for true freshmen. 

He started with a bang, scoring two touchdowns in his injury-delayed debut at Virginia and crossed the goal-line in six of his first seven games, though he appeared primarily in clean-up situations with the Ducks holding insurmountable leads.  

After the routs of Virginia, Tennessee, Cal and Colorado, all games in which Tyner scored, he saw a more prominent role against Pac-12 counterpart Washington State.  

Tyner provided a sample of what to expect from him as a focal point of Oregon's offense against the Cougars. In addition to a 66-yard touchdown rush, Tyner was a key component in the passing game with three receptions for 42 yards. Among those who took notice was the Ducks' offensive leader, Mariota. 

"To see that out of a young guy like him is pretty special. He is still trying to learn the offense," Mariota said per GoDucks.com. "He is able to catch out of the backfield and make plays. He’s a huge asset for our offense.”

With a season facing college defenses and learning the playbook now to his credit, and another offseason to continue to improve, Tyner will be an even more invaluable asset to the quick-attack scheme.  

The junior Thomas was Oregon's primary pass-catching weapon out of the backfield in his three seasons in the program and a key target for Mariota the last two seasons in particular. Tyner can be a threat to contribute as that receiver on the perimeter, but is equally capable of taking the handoff to run off-tackle.  

Mariota summarized Tyner rather succinctly following the Washington State win: "He is going to be special."

That Tyner eventually would be the next special Oregon running back was no newsflash, even before his first appearance. He garnered national headlines as a prep star in 2012 when he rushed for 10 touchdowns and 643 yards in one game.

Still, "going to be special" looked a lot more like "is special" by season's end.

Those repetitions in blowout situations throughout September readied Tyner to take on the bulk of the workload in late November when Marshall went down with injury. 

His best performance was a 22-carry, 140-yard effort in the Ducks' 36-35 defeat of rival Oregon State, Tyner's first time reaching the century mark on the ground and the most thorough look at his potential as a No. 1 back.  

Oregon's offensive garage is still well-stocked heading into the 2014 offseason. Marshall is back, Mariota closed 2013 with his most impressive rushing performance of the campaign in the Ducks' Alamo Bowl rout of Texas and incoming freshman Royce Freeman has star potential.

Tyner won't be a 300-carry back. But then, he doesn't need to be—why drive the Ferrari to the grocery store?