If speed kills then Oregon Ducks RB Thomas Tyner might be the deadliest back in college football. The Oregon native is one of the fastest players in the country. Far more than a mere sprinter, Tyner is also a talented football player with a good blend of power and vision. He showed glimpses of exciting potential during a successful freshman season with the Ducks and is poised to become one of the most dynamic running backs in the nation as a sophomore.
Thomas Tyner's athletic achievements are the stuff of legend in Oregon. He ran a 4.30 40-yard dash in middle school, broke the state record in the 100-meter dash as a sophomore in high school, helped lead Aloha High School to its first state football championship, rushed for 634 yards and 10 touchdowns in a single game as a senior, and once even leaped over a tall building in a single bound.
Tyner is gifted athlete whose explosiveness pops off the screen. Watching his high school highlights is like watching a cheetah racing 11 tortoises. He's so much faster than the other players on the field that it's unfair. He was almost unstoppable at the prep level, rushing for 3,415 yards and 47 TDs in his senior season alone. Scout.com ranked him as a five-star prospect and the No. 2 running back in the 2013 recruiting class. National recruiting expert Brandon Huffman has touted him as "quite possibly the best back ever to come out of Oregon."
The unanimous blue-chip recruit wasted little time showing that his special talent could translate seamlessly to the college level. After missing some early fall practices and the first game of the season with minor injuries, Tyner debuted for Oregon in a blowout win over Virginia, scoring a 3-yard touchdown on his first career carry before breaking through for a 31-yard score just a couple minutes later. Tyner finished the season with 115 carries for 711 yards (6.2 yards per carry), including an important 140-yard performance in a narrow late-season win over archrivals Oregon State. His impressive debut campaign earned him various Freshman All-America honors and offered a tantalizing glimpse of things to come.
Tyner is known primarily for his speed, but he's not a one-trick pony. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Tyner has uncommon size and strength for such a fast back. He displayed a nice ability to run inside and gain yards after contact last season. According to Huffman, "He's a strong runner, running low and able to bounce off tackles, has very good speed, even elite speed, but his balance is what sets him apart." Tyner has reportedly added weight in the offseason and should be able to run with even more authority this year. He has also flashed very good hands in the passing game and could find himself lined up in the slot occasionally. His speed and soft hands make him a dangerous weapon on vertical routes.
Although he could probably stand to improve his elusiveness in the open field, Tyner's skill set is extremely promising. He has all of the tools needed to become a consistent impact player and should only get better with more experience and development. Now that De'Anthony Thomas has left Oregon for the NFL, expect Tyner to assume a more prominent role in the offense and form a lethal one-two punch with teammate Byron Marshall. Tyner is already a minor folk hero in Oregon prep sports and a familiar name to those who follow college football recruiting closely. But this year, he could take the next step and become one of the elite backs in the entire NCAA.