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Running back Armand Shyne on comeback trail at Utah

(AP Photo/George Frey, File)

By JOHN COON

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) For the second straight year, Utes running back Armand Shyne has entered spring camp trying to bounce back from a major injury.

But he's not letting it deter him from trying to carve out a major role in Utah's backfield.

Shyne redshirted last season after breaking his left arm in fall camp. Two years ago, a knee injury sidelined him after only five games.

Going through the rehabilitation process a second time has taught the redshirt junior what it takes to keep moving forward.

"I just know that I got to be mentally tough in order to get back to where I want to be and be better than I was before I got hurt," Shyne said. "So I just now gotta keep working at it."

Shyne entered spring camp as the no. 2 running back behind Zack Moss. Before his knee injury two years ago, Shyne appeared poised to break out as Utah's top runner. He played in five games and made one start as a sophomore before going down with the injury.

At the time, Shyne led Utah in rushing and averaged 74.6 yards on the ground per game. He rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against Arizona in his first career start. Shyne finished the season with 373 yards on 78 carries. He ranked third in rushing yardage and fourth in carries for Utah in 2016.

"Don't forget how good he was two years ago," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Zack Moss is a terrific back, but Armand Shyne is capable of being a No. 1 back in the Pac-12 as well."

Indeed, Shyne showed enough promise in fall camp last season that he had a favorable shot to fill Joe Williams' shoes as the lead back in Utah's offense in 2017. The broken arm derailed that goal.

In Shyne's absence, Moss emerged as a star in the backfield. He led Utah last season in rushing yards (1,173) and all-purpose yards (1,416).

Shyne puts a positive spin on his setback now and feels like it opened a door for him to improve in other areas.

"Honestly, I felt like it just wasn't my time yet because I felt like I was cool, but I didn't feel like I was as good as where I needed to be at the play anyway," Shyne said. "In a way, it was a benefit for me because it gave me the time to work and get better than where I was."

Shyne's determination to get better hasn't gone unnoticed by his coaches. He spends extra time in the film room. He has also tried to take on a bigger leadership role.

His hunger to come back, coupled with his skill set, has Utah believing it can have a true one-two punch in the backfield that will make the offense much more formidable in 2018.

"Armand is a little bit more versatile than what people think," running backs coach Kiel McDonald said. "He can catch the ball. He can run it. And he's really savvy in pass (protection). He can really lock on guys and move his feet. He's a five-tool running back and I don't know if people really know that about him."

The main obstacle left for Shyne is overcoming the fear of getting injured again. Whittingham notes that Shyne has shown some reluctance in some situations in camp. He is working hard, but the coaches want to see him get to the point where he doesn't hold back regardless of how much defensive pressure he is facing as he hits the line.

"It's as much of a mental thing as physical when you're coming off those type of injuries," Whittingham said. "He's just got to gain confidence. The more reps he takes out here and the more he gets hit and is OK, the more confident he'll get."

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Updated March 16, 2018

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