CORVALLIS, Ore. — Last time fans got a look at Oregon State’s Ryan Nall, he was bounding into the end zone against the rival Oregon Ducks.
That 34-24 victory in last season’s final game is still fueling the Beavers as they prepare to open fall camp Tuesday.
“It was positive for us because we’re going in (to camp) knowing that we can compete,” Nall said. “We’re ready. This offseason was definitely a shift in attitude and momentum.”
The victory in the Civil War snapped an eight-game losing streak for Oregon State in the series. Nall, then a sophomore who had been dogged by a foot injury, ran for 155 yards — and those four scores — against the Ducks.
Afterward, fans stormed the field at Reser Stadium and a few hoisted Nall on their shoulders to celebrate. His four TDs were the most for a Beaver in a single game since Jacquizz Rodgers ran for three and caught another against Washington in 2010. Steven Jackson had the last game with four rushing TDs in 2003.
The Beavers finished 4-8 overall, a two-game improvement over the previous season, and won three Pac-12 games after going winless in the conference in 2015.
Nall, a native Oregonian who played at Portland’s Central Catholic High School, finished last season with 951 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the ground and also caught a pair of TD passes. The 6-2, 237-pound back who fans have dubbed “Wrecking Nall” had four 100-yard rushing games.
He’s clearly the leader of the team’s running back corps heading into this season — and it’s a position where the Beavers appear to have made a significant improvement.
One reason? The surprise signing of Thomas Tyner, who left rival Oregon on a medical retirement after missing all the 2015 season because of a shoulder injury.
In two seasons with the Ducks’ speedy “blur” offense, Tyner rushed for 1,284 yards and 14 touchdowns. The last live game he played was the national championship in January 2015 against Ohio State.
He’s also something of a legend in Oregon. His senior year in high school, Tyner smashed Oregon prep records with 643 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in a single game. At the time, it was the third-most rushing yards nationally for a prep player.
NCAA rules prevented Tyner from returning to the Ducks because of his medical retirement.
“At first I thought it was a joke. I saw it pop up on ESPN on my phone and I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ I texted coach and said, ‘Is this for real?’ Nall said. “Because I know how good of a player he is: He was incredible in high school and he did great things at Oregon. So seeing him coming in — and now working with him a little bit — I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to help us out with.”
Nall and Tyner are joined by TCU graduate transfer Trevorris Johnson , a 6-foot, 237-pound back who rushed for 789 yards and eight touchdowns in 36 games over his career at TCU.
And there’s Artavis Pierce, who rushed for 523 yards last season as a freshman. The group has tried to get together at least once a week over the summer.
“I’m excited. It’s nice to know we have depth. Last year, obviously, we were a little thin, especially toward the end of the season when AP started to get dinged up. So it was difficult at times, but now that we have depth we can use some of these guys, experienced guys, too,” Nall said.
Coach Gary Andersen is excited, too.
“I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to have at least three quality running backs to have a solid running game the way we want to run the ball and play with toughness,’ Andersen said. “We should have that, and possibly then some.”