Picture a workhorse running back, and someone akin to former Boise State star Jay Ajayi comes to mind, not a guy a few inches shorter and nearly 50 pounds lighter.
At San Jose State, the Spartans boast one of the nation’s best do-everything backs in 5-foot-10, 177-pound senior Tyler Ervin.
Only potential Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey at nearby Stanford has touched the ball as many times or contributed in as many ways in the FBS this season.
“He could play wide receiver on our team tomorrow if we wanted to, but we just selfishly put him at running back because he gets the ball more in his hands, and he’s so good at what he does,” San Jose State coach Ron Caragher said. “It really is a treat to have a guy like Tyler in our program.”
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Ervin has rushed 253 times for 1,417 yards and 13 touchdowns, caught 40 passes for 307 yards and two more touchdowns, plus has three punt returns and averages 24.7 yards on 22 kickoff returns. His 206.7 all-purpose yards per game and 318 total touches reflect his versatility and vital importance to the Spartans’ offense.
“Elusive, he has good vision, he has good feet,” Boise State defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said.
Before Caragher arrived before the 2013 season, he knew he had a weapon in Ervin, then a junior, but hardly got to use him. The Colton, Calif., native hurt his foot after two carries in that year’s opener, but received a medical hardship that gave him another year of eligibility.
As a freshman, Ervin played cornerback, running back and on special teams. He has 27 total touchdowns in his career — 19 rushing, four receiving, three kickoff return and one punt return. His variety shows off the field, too. He’s a skilled barber and a communication studies major, and is working on his real estate license outside of school.
“He’s a tough, hard worker. He does a lot of preparation. This season, he really dedicated himself to be in the best physical shape he could,” Caragher said. “He’s very strong, even though he’s under 180 pounds, he runs physically, behind his pads.
“The best part about him is he’s a great ambassador for San Jose State.”
A gracious ambassador makes his guests comfortable. On Friday, the Broncos hope to make him anything but settled. Tackling will naturally be a big emphasis, especially with Ervin’s big-play ability.
“If they get a seam, they’re gone,” Yates said.
Ervin has posted two of the top four rushing performances in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season. He had 300 yards Sept. 26 against Fresno State and 263 yards Oct. 24 against New Mexico.
The Broncos have yielded 523 yards on the ground the past two weeks — 41 percent of their total allowed this season — no doubt a product of playing option-based teams in New Mexico and Air Force. But with Ervin and a speedy quarterback in junior Kenny Potter (second on the team with 300 yards), the Spartans may have taken notice.
“We’re putting in the triple option for Friday, because I know it’s been a tough one for them,” Caragher said with a laugh. “We’re probably more of what they face every day in practice. I think they’ll match up with us and vice versa.”
Boise State at San Jose State
- When: 1:30 p.m. Friday
- Where: Spartan Stadium, San Jose, Calif.
- TV: CBS Sports Network (John Sadak, Sed Bonner, Melanie Collins)
- Radio: KBOI (670 AM), KTIK (93.1 FM); Bob Behler, Pete Cavender
- Records: BSU 7-4, 4-3 MW; SJSU 5-6, 4-3
- Series: BSU leads 11-0
- Vegas line: BSU by 7 1/2