During a game that many thought offense would be everything and defensive stops a rarity, the raucous Autzen Stadium crowd instead saw a first half defensive slugfest with Oregon leading by a slim 13-0 halftime margin.
The second half would not produce many of the trademark explosion plays out of the running game, but it would give fans something to drool over while giving opposing defensive coordinators Excedrin Headache number 15; that is Oregon Duck number 15, Colt Lyerla.
Lyerla first garnered national attention at the end of his sophomore season in high school. Already 6-5 and 225 pounds, Lyerla attended the Schuman's National Underclassmen Combine in Salem in June of 2009. He put on an incredible show of sheer athleticism. Some folks at the time thought not to worry about his vertical leap because he was so big; then he jumped 38.5 inches. That was the highest vertical jump all year out of over 18,000 competitors in 2009. He followed that up with more impressive numbers on his way to an event record total.
When Lyerla committed to the Ducks during his senior season at the Army All America Bowl, there were quite a few Duck fans that cheered at the news. One of the best pure athletes in Oregon history, an athlete Rivals compared to former North Carolina great Julius Peppers, had committed to a program on the cusp of perennial elite status.
Lyerla addressed this when he committed to Oregon saying, "Oregon is recruiting me as an athlete for offense" Lyerla said earlier in the week. "They have a high-powered offense and I like the coaching staff. Chip Kelly has the program headed in the right direction." He had seen himself as an offensive player and, though there was some original hesitation on knowing for sure which position he was going to play at Oregon, there seemed little doubt that he was headed for offense.
As a freshman, though, he did not see the impact of fellow freshman De'Anthony Thomas. Playing behind David Paulson at tight end, blocking was a bigger deterrent to playing time than ability. Blocking at the Pac-12 level is a difficult task for a 225 pound tight end. In high school, 225 pound athletic tight ends can have their way with defensive linemen. Not so in Division I NCAA football.
Despite the limited playing time, anyone who watched Colt Lyerla in 2011 could see the potential he brought to the football field. He caught just 7 passes in 2011, but made those catches count as he gained 147 yards and scored 5 touchdowns. Those were impressive numbers for such limited touches.
It would seem that the 2012 season would open up for Lyerla. Paulson was graduated and there were no other tight ends with any playing experience. Lyerla had worked hard in the off season, but missed the first 9 days of fall camp while attending to undisclosed personal matters. Colt had added 20 pounds to his frame and looked the part of a Pac-12 tight end at nearly 250 pounds.
Early in the season, small hints of the emergence of Colt Lyerla as a multi-purpose threat would begin to surface. During...
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