Remember Thomas Tyner? You know, the 4-star recruit who was the 6th-best RB in his entire class. Maybe you know him as the freshman who ran for more 700 yards in 2013, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 9 TDs. He was supposed to be the next great Duck RB, and man, was he on pace to be.
And then, just like that, it was over. Tyner had a slow start to last season, unable to break the 100–yard mark in any of his first six games. In his seventh, the game against UW, Tyner injured his shoulder, officially handing the rushing duties to Royce Freeman for good.
Later in the season, when the shoulder was on the mend, Tyner came back and showed he still had the ability to be the RB that Oregon believed they had recruited. This was most clear in the Rose Bowl when Tyner rushed for 124 yards and 2 TDs on only 13 carries. It was a flash of brilliance, but many believed that’s all it was — just a flash.
So now we enter 2015. Not only is Freeman the favorite to win the job, but he’s already being considered as a Heisman favorite. Freeman is great, don’t get me wrong. He could be, arguably, the best Duck RB since Jonathan Stewart (he certainly has a similar running style). But this is exactly what Tyner needed.
Tyner came in to 2014 assuming the job was his, but after the slow start and the untimely injury, he suddenly could be listed as the 3rd-string RB in 2015 behind freshman phenom, Taj Griffin. It’s unlikely, but perhaps all Tyner needed was a little competition. In the FSU game, his first game back in almost two months due to injury, Tyner came out with a fire the coaches hadn’t seen all year.
So, in short, will Tyner win the starting job this spring? It’s doubtful. But if one thing can be said, certainly don’t count the junior RB out. He’s an Oregon RB for a reason.
Top photo from Craig Strobeck