Tyler Has Changed-and He's a Game Changer

Marc Tyler has changed. You can see it in the way he carries himself, in the way he talks to people, and in the way he celebrates. But until he becomes the Trojans' dominant back again, one game won't change peoples' minds.

A few months ago, Marc Tyler was a tailback more famous for being on TMZ than the USC Trojans' leading rusher in 2010.

A few stupid comments, a few careless summer nights and a few student judicial hearings later, Tyler practically ruined his football career along with tarnishing the Trojans' already-stained image.

A week ago, Tyler had been reinstated to practice with the team after suffering a one-game suspension that also kept him out of fall camp. Seven days ago, he was still the tailback that players wanted to distance themselves from. He was still the Oaks Christian product labeled as a guy with character issues.

A day ago, Tyler was bonding with his team, aware that he'd get time in the Trojans' Pac-12 opener against Utah after his coach made public comments saying as much. He didn't know how much time, though.

"I wasn't really sure how many carries I was going to get, the [coaches] weren't really [informing me]," he said. "I know I had some goal line plays and short yardage but I didn't know I was going to be in there like that, no."

All Tyler knew was he was ready to play. After private workouts with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu during his time away from the team, Tyler was physically and mentally prepared for Saturday.

But until a few hours ago, Tyler had no clue this game would change everything.

"This is something I've dreamed about doing when I got in trouble, just coming back and being a big impact to the team. I feel like I owed them and the fans this, and definitely my coaches, and it feels good," Tyler said.

Tyler's reputation won't dissipate with one solid game (he had 24 carries for 113 yards and caught a pass for another 19 yards).

But this game did do something for the 5-11, 230-pound back. Aside from helping the Trojans' hold onto a 2-0 record, those 60 minutes let whoever was watching know that Marc Tyler isn't finished.

At one point in Saturday's game, midway through the third quarter, the senior tailback brushed over a pile of Utes defenders. It took at least 5 guys to bring the power back down, and alas, finally he hit the green.

Some could call the play an analogy, a metaphor or, perhaps, a symbol. Whatever it was, it represented Tyler's resurgence as a vital member of this Trojan offense.

"When I can't see him you have to trust in your backs that they're getting those blocks and I can trust in him. He just runs hard," junior quarterback Matt Barkley said. "I'm glad he's back."

"He went through a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff that people don't know, and I'm just really proud of him that he can come back and have a first game like this and take care of the ball. It's a pretty good story," USC head coach Lane Kiffin said.

The spark Tyler brought Saturday can't be said in so many words. But to teammates, like wide receiver Robert Woods who almost single-handedly helped the Trojans win their season opener last week, Tyler's presence can be felt.

"Yeah he took off a lot of pressure [from me]. Marc, he's a pounder," Woods said.

When he hits the hole with the strength that he does, you realize Tyler isn't a guy made for the sidelines.

The future of USC's ‘RBU' looks stronger with Tyler in the backfield, but the Trojans have plenty of viable options for a smaller scat back in D.J. Morgan, Curtis McNeal or Dillon Baxter.

Trouble is, USC is 2-0 in escape wins and 0-0 in dominant wins. For this team to resemble a smidgen of what it was when the name "Bush" was seen on jerseys more than campaign posters, the Trojans need one player to see an alley and go all the way.

"Someone has got to step up and just dominate in all phases so that the playcaller is not worried," Polamalu said at practice ahead of the Utah game. "You want a guy out there that's going to give it to you and make sure they protect the quarterback, protect the ball and then make plays with the ball in their hand."

Since July, Tyler has avoided attention, avoided the spotlight on and off the field. He has made amends with his teammates and continues to repent for his offseason actions.

"He knew he was wrong, he felt terrible," Kiffin said.

If Tyler can become the dominant back the Trojans' offense so badly needs, he won't be able to avoid attention any longer.

Luckily for USC, it's the "feel good" kind.

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