Jordan Ingram reporting for FishDuck.com from Autzen Stadium at Oregon Football Media Day.
The news of Oregon Ducks running back Thomas Tyner‘s recent shoulder surgery has definitely changed the playing field in Eugene. Tyner will almost definitely miss the entire 2015 season, which is tragic for Oregon’s very own five-star recruit from Aloha High School.
But just like an army supporting their fallen brother, a talented group of young running backs including Taj Griffin, Kani Benoit, and Tony Brooks-James continues marching forward into fall camp.
When FishDuck.com caught up with Brooks-James at the 2015 Oregon Football Media Day, the Ducks’ redshirt freshman seemed confident in himself and his teammates despite the loss of a veteran.
“The team is hurting because we lost a teammate, a beloved player and a friend,” Brooks-James said. ”Nonetheless, we still gotta move on and play football.”
While Duck fans may mourn the lost notion of an intriguing one-two power punch of sophomore Royce Freeman and Tyner, Brooks-James continues his preparations for that newly open slot.
“Losing a teammate is never good, it’s always a downer,” Brooks-James said. “But it’s definitely an opportunity for me to showcase what I got and what I can do.”
Indeed, tragedy often means opportunity. That’s especially true at Oregon, where the “next man up” slogan remains a proven and successful tradition.
At 5’9″, 185 lbs., Brooks-James is a smaller back than Tyner or Freeman, but his speed and versatility at receiver are reminiscent of former Oregon standout De’Anthony Thomas and current running back turned receiver Byron Marshall.
The ability to create options for a “spread ’em and shred ’em” offense could push someone like Brooks-James to the front of the line. After all, success at Oregon comes in all sizes but at one pace: peddle to the metal.
If you haven’t already noticed, the line is getting longer for a starting gig with the national college football powerhouse and that fact isn’t lost on the southern sprinter from Gainesville, Fla. Brooks-James is proud to be surrounded by a group of fast, dedicated, and motivated players vying for a place in the west coast sun. ”We are all capable of making big plays out of the backfield,” Brooks-James said. “But you just have to give it your best in your opportunity to make them.”
How much horsepower does Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich actually have hidden under the hood at Hatfield-Dowlin? Probably more than any previous Ducks team. The time is now for a new favorite candidate to emerge to line up behind Freeman’s potential Heisman Trophy campaign. But keep your eyes peeled for a bolt of lightning appearing from the shadows of “Rolls Royce.” It could be “Fast Tony.”
Top photo by Kevin Cline