Ducks Downplay Injury To RB Tyner
By John Baker
If there's one thing Oregon freshman Thomas Tyner has in his favor, it's speed. Oregon track fans have known all about the Aloha High School star since his freshman year when he routinely ran 100 meters in the mid 10-second range. And if there's one thing the Oregon football coaching staff lusts after, it's offensive skill players with speed.
You can see how Oregon Nation might be excited to the point of bursting now that Thomas is in Oregon's fall camp. The possibilities, everyone feels, are endless.
Unfortunately, real life often intrudes. Oregon got a dose of that earlier this week when Tyner left practice and showed up Tuesday in a protective boot. As usual, the Duck coaching staff is downplaying the injury on all fronts and offering little, if any, information on the specifics of Tyner or his injury. Suffice to say time away from the practice field equates to lost opportunities to impress and be part of the scheme early.
However, we're going to take head coach Mark Helfrich at his word and categorize this as a blip on the road to seeing plenty of playing time this season. Oregon is blessed with a wealth of playmakers and an offense that will spread the ball all over the field, creating mismatch after mismatch for guys whose mentality is to get to the end zone. Enter Tyner, a football player who is also a sprinter, clocking a best of 10.35 (auto) for 100 meters during his high school career — just this side of being world class (think former Florida running back Jeff Demps, who left the NFL to compete for Team USA). Incorporating Tyner into this offense creates more gaps, seams and big play possibilities, which makes the Ducks salivate.
Tyner's injury may not be serious, but his potential to make an impact on this offense — for himself and others — is real. That's what makes his injury and the now-infamous protective boot such a big story in Oregon. Can he run? How much practice will he miss? Will that affect his ability to get into games early this season? Oregon's coy responses to inquiries don't offer much in the way of perspective, but it's fair to say that as a true freshman with a real chance to play a role in the offense, any practice time he misses is setting him back.
In an earlier piece I noted Tyner isn't the only freshman running back who could impact this season. On Wednesday, Helfrich noted the good play of Kani Benoit.
The end game? We'll buy what the Oregon staff is selling. Tyner isn't seriously hurt and will be back to practice soon. That should get Tyner fans feeling better about things. If it's true, it could turn the Oregon offense into the track meet it has always wanted to be.