Thomas Tyner off to a running start at Oregon

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 10, 2013
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.) By ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports Writer It's fitting that Thomas Tyner's nickname is Dash. The freshman running back made his highly anticipated debut for No. 2 Oregon last weekend against Virginia and scored the first time he was handed the ball. Oregon went on to defeat the Cavaliers 59-10 and Tyner had a coming out party as the latest speedster for the Ducks' vaunted offense. ''For me to get in the end zone on my first carry as a Duck was exciting, I can't even explain the feeling,'' he said afterward. The Ducks introduced Tyner late in the game. He first scored on a 3-yard run to make it 52-10 then added a 31-yard touchdown dash for the final margin. He only carried the ball four times, gaining 51 yards. ''A natural runner,'' Ducks coach Mark Helfrich said. ''I thought that zone cut on his longer touchdown was a natural cut. Either guys have that or they don't. Gary Campbell is an incredible running back coach, but you can't teach that feel, so that was amazing'' Tyner sat out of the opener after an apparent ankle injury in fall camp. Oregon doesn't discuss injuries as a policy, so it was difficult to tell whether it was serious or whether the Ducks were just waiting for the right time. Tyner showed no signs of pain during his debut. ''I felt good,'' he said. ''I felt healed up and I was 100 percent.'' Tyner is homegrown recruit from Aloha High School, west of Portland. He rushed for 3,415 yards as a senior, setting a new single single-season rushing record for the state. He scored 47 touchdowns, 43 on the ground. On his 18th birthday last September, Tyner smashed state records with 643 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in an 84-63 victory over Lakeridge High School. It was the third-most rushing yards ever for a prep player, behind John Giannantonio's record of 754 yards in a game for Netcong High School in New Jersey in 1950, and Paul McCoy's 661 yards rushing for Matewan High School in West Virginia in 2006. This Saturday, when the Ducks host Tennessee, he'll turn 19. Oregon (2-0) leads the Pac-12 in total offense, averaging 664.5 yards a game, and rushing offense, with 425 yards per game. The Ducks also lead the league in total touchdowns with 17. Nationally, Oregon ranks second in rushing offense and third in total offense. They're fast, too. Seventeen of Oregon's 19 scoring drives this season have taken less than two minutes. Junior running back De'Anthony Thomas led the way against Virginia with 11 carries for a game-high 124 yards rushing and three touchdowns to earn Pac-12 player of the week honors. Like Thomas, Tyner is known for his speed. He holds Oregon's prep record in the 100-meter dash with a 10.35 set in the 2011 Metro League Championships. The addition of the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tyner is one more thing for Tennessee (2-0) to worry about. ''It makes it extremely challenging. That's the thing. Not only do they have great backs, great receivers, athletic tight ends, but they have a running quarterback,'' Vols coach Butch Jones said. ''Now you talk about discipline from a defense and executing your assignments. One missed assignment can be catastrophic to a defense. ... It's going to challenge our discipline.'' Tyner, who was a five-star prospect and considered one of the top five players in the nation at his position coming out of high school, is just happy to finally get his college career rolling. ''I feel like I'm ready,'' he said. ''I feel like whatever they throw at me, I think they've prepared me well, and I'll handle it.'' And as for the pressure of being the ''next big thing'' for the Ducks? ''I never like to put pressure on myself,'' Tyner said. ''As long as I know what I'm doing, there's no pressure.''
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