Oregon's options to replace RB Tyner
The Oregon Ducks received unpleasant news with the confirmation that junior running back Thomas Tyner will miss the 2015 season as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Tyner was likely to have a sizeable role in the offense as the key alternate to Royce Freeman, possibly greater than his 2014 role when he was on the field for 39.1 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
Tyner’s best performance came in the College Football Playoff against Florida State, when he turned 13 carries into 125 yards and two touchdowns, earning his highest rushing grade of the year. In Tyner’s absence Freeman will continue to shoulder the load, but a new support rusher must be found.
Oregon could simply move down the depth chart, potentially giving former four-star recruits Tony Brook-James and Taj Griffin a chance to establish themselves. Both fit into the shifty complementary back category that Oregon uses so well in space. However, they lack Tyner’s strength, making them less suited to the between-the-tackles role. Sophomore Kani Benoit is built bigger and appears to be the more natural replacement if the team looks to its current RB depth.
However, the best option may be to look elsewhere on their roster. RB-turned-WR Byron Marshall could certainly take snaps at running back again, having led the Ducks with 1,038 rushing yards in 2013. Marshall saw spot duty at RB in 2014, averaging an impressive 3.7 yards after contact per carry, and is capable of handling a hybrid role in 2015. That in turn could see Charles Nelson, another talented jitterbug who is slated to play corner this season, play both ways by taking over some of Marshall’s snaps at WR.
This is an unfortunate development for Tyner, but the Ducks have enough talent that they can shuffle the pack and remain loaded – so long as Freeman stays healthy and productive.