If De'Anthony Thomas was the first-generation, all-in-one running back, wide receiver and game-changer then Oregon sophomore Thomas Tyner is the 2.0 version.
Thomas left after the 2013 season with career marks of 26 rushing touchdowns and 15 through the air. After entering this month's NFL draft, Thomas left Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost with the question of how to replace his many contributions.
Tyner put on a performance in Saturday's spring game that proves Thomas' departure will not leave Oregon with such a hard-to-fill void after all.
In his three years with the program, Thomas gave the Ducks numerous options whenever he was on the field. Anytime he touched the ball, he could go for six points—and often did.
Tyner will have the same explosiveness in 2014, only with a twist. Whereas Thomas was an X-factor, a wild card the Ducks unleashed at the right moment, Tyner has the ability to be a cornerstone of the offense.
Tyner arrived at spring workouts last month 14 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight in 2013, Matt Prehm of 247Sports.com reported. Now packing 215 pounds, Tyner is nearly 40 pounds heavier than Thomas.
Tyner has the size to be a durable feature back, a trait the smaller Thomas lacked. With that added muscle, Tyner can overpower defenders, much as he did in his highlight-reel carry Saturday—perhaps reminiscent of a certain Pro Football Hall of Famer.
"He's a little bit of an Eric Dickerson-type mold—a little bit of a high runner," Helfrich told Tyson Alger of The Oregonian.
Combine that dimension of his game with a burst of breakaway speed, and Tyner is able to fulfill any number of roles for the Ducks in the ground game. Indeed, he'll be one of the team's most dangerous weapons.
Teammate Dominique Harrison learned just how dangerous in the spring game:
Tyner brought the same kind of versatility at receiver that made Thomas such a unique fit for the Ducks offense, scoring the game's first touchdown on a reception from quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota has a history of connecting with his running back in the pass game. In his two seasons paired with Thomas, the duo hooked up 67 times for 691 yards. Tyner showed flashes of having the same kind of chemistry with the quarterback in 2013, hauling in 14 passes.
On Saturday, the Mariota-Tyner tag-team looked ready to take another step as a one-two punch in the Ducks' aerial assault. B/R national lead writer Adam Kramer may have summarized the pair's dynamic best:
Not safe for work, and not safe for Pac-12 defenses. Tyner's all-around game is a match-up nightmare and should prove to be an invaluable part of the arsenal in 2014.
This is one upgraded version from its predecessor that will prove to be a big hit.
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.
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