Arizona football: Back on the straight path

USC's Tyler overcomes issues off the field to become leader of the Trojans' running attack
2011-09-30T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:19:16Z Arizona football: Back on the straight pathPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 30, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Kids playing football in Lincoln, Neb., don't have this problem.

USC running back Marc Tyler approached a TMZ camera in July while standing outside the Voyeur nightclub in Hollywood.

Tyler, appearing drunk, told the gossip website a series of cringe-worthy nuggets: that the Trojans were "breaking bread," or paying players, that Arizona State had the cutest girls and that USC stood for "the University of Sexual Ballers."

He made an inappropriate reference to Kim Kardashian.

Even Harvey Levin, the show's cynical host, was aghast.

Being caught on a TMZ camera was an Oh-So-L.A. problem, but a problem nonetheless.

"Yeah," Tyler, 22, said this week, "you probably never see that happen anywhere else."

Fresh off a two-year postseason ban after the Reggie Bush payment scandal, USC suspended Tyler, who had also been involved in two April off-field incidents involving alcohol.

Tyler didn't practice until Aug. 31 and missed the season's first game.

He's emerged as the Trojans' star running back entering Saturday's home game against the Arizona Wildcats, but that's not what coach Lane Kiffin praises.

"He's doing things right and representing us the right way," the coach said. "I'm most proud of him for that."

Quarterback Matt Barkley is quick to say he's "really proud of Marc and how he's handled himself off the field" since the incident.

"You can tell he was working his butt off," Barkley said. "When he was allowed to be back, he was full speed.

"He's not messing around - at all - outside football."

Tyler said he needed to slow down.

"I know not to put myself in those positions, and to stay away from certain places," he said.

"Staying in. I always felt I had to go out and do something."

Tyler, the son of former NFL running back Wendell Tyler, leads the Trojans with 303 yards on 61 rushes.

More important is his number of carries.

The Trojans have historically shared carries among their running backs. Tyler led the team in rushing attempts last year, but still accounted for only 36 percent of the total.

Becoming the centerpiece of this year's rushing attack has more to do with pass protection and knowing the offense than rushing ability, Tyler said.

"I know coach Kiffin likes to stick with one or two guys, which is fine - if you're one of those two guys," Tyler said. "We can all run. We're all equal there.

"Some of us are faster, but I'm the bigger one."

Barkley said Tyler is built for the work.

"He can pretty much last the whole game when we ask him to," he said. "I don't know if those guys below him can."

Tyler should be excited to see the Wildcats. Last year, he set career highs with both 31 carries - the most by a USC runner since 2001 - and 160 rushing yards in a 24-21 win at Arizona Stadium.

This year, the UA is No. 114 in rushing defense. The opposition's past three starting running backs have posted career highs in rushing yards.

"He's running with really good vision," Kiffin said. "His vision and his ability to get positive yards at the line of scrimmage has really showed up."

Asked which running back he tries to mimic, Tyler praised the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson because "he runs so violent."

Not his father?

Tyler laughs and relays a far happier videotape story.

He watched Wendell Tyler's old game films as a boy until they were accidentally erased.

"My sister taped over all of them," he said. "Probably cartoons."

Up next

• What: Arizona at USC

• When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV; radio: FSAZ; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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