Step right up Armand Shyne. It’s your chance to steal the spotlight for the No. 24 Utah Utes (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12).
Shyne was named the starter at running back for this weekend’s game against the Arizona Wildcats (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12). He’s a 5-foot-11 sophomore running back from Oakland who joined the team in preseason camp after playing a season at American River College in 2015.
Shyne was a standout a the JUCO level, earning All-Nor-Cal League honors. He rushed 28 times for 734 yards and eight touchdowns — averaging a healthy 5.7 yards per touch. He notched three 100-yard touchdown game sand put up a season high of 131 against De Anza in 2015.
Joining up the past offseason with the Utes, Shyne was undoubtedly expected to make an impact. So far this season, he has. He’s rushed 59 times for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Last weekend against California, he led the team in rushing with 25 carries for 95 yards and two scores. Though freshman Zach Moss currently leads the team in rushing yards with 309, Shyne has found the end zone more than any other Utah running back.
Though the Utes are having a good season and currently remain in the Top 25, it has been interesting to see what Kyle Whittingham has decided to do in the backfield. Utah has used the “running back by committee” approach for much of the season, which Shyne now becoming the third starting running back the Utes have used.
Moss has also started for Utah, and senior Joe Williams started the year as the starter at running back. Unfortunately, he ended up retiring after two games due to physical problems.
The revolving door at running back exists in stark contrast to what the Utes got out of the position last season, with senior Devontae Booker leading the way: 268 carries for 1,261 yards and 11 touchdowns. Booker was a mainstay for Utah, finishing his career with 2,773 yards and 21 touchdowns in two seasons with the Utes. He was taken by the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Replacing Booker was always going to be an issue for Utah, but Shyne could take over and make his mark as a full-time starter. It is expected that he’ll split carries with Moss, and junior running back Troy McCormick is another option in Utah’s backfield when healthy, but a start against Arizona could be all Shyne needs to earn a lion’s share of available carries.
“We have three that have completely separated themselves from the pack,” Whittingham said in his weekly press conference. “Troy McCormick is banged up and so we have two. Armand Shyne will get the start this week. He had an excellent week and was just shy of 100 yards. He is running with a lot of violence and good vision so he starts.”
Shyne is a big, stout back at 5-foot-11 and 214 pounds. As Whittingham pointed out, he plays with the type of intensity and power one would expect. He hits the hole hard and is extremely tough to take down when he gets momentum. He’s not afraid of contact and is especially efficient when he’s able to lower his shoulder, pick up his knees, run his legs, and power himself forward.
At the very least, Shyne should be option No. 1-A when Utah gets near the goal line, because he can pound between the tackles and play “in a phone booth.” Defenses always tighten up in the red zone and sometimes just a few yards can be tough to pick up as a result.
Shyne can counter those goal line defenses for Utah, but that’s not to say he can’t be effective between the 40s, either. Utah can use him to control the tempo of a game, and he’ll be the first part of a very strong one-two punch with Moss.