With Signing Day officially in the books, so is the 2012 campaign for Oregon football. However, as one chapter closes another one opens and it's never too early to take a sneak peek at the upcoming season. DuckTerritory's "Offseason Burning Questions" series takes a look at each position on the Oregon depth chart and addresses the biggest questions at each spot, priming Duck fans for what they can perhaps expect in 2013. Today, the series continues with an examination of the tight end position.
Colt Lyerla returns as one of Oregon's most feared weapons on offense in 2013.
Projected 2013 Depth Chart:
With the current depth at tight end, does someone make the switch to defense?
Over the past few seasons, the Ducks have done an outstanding job of stockpiling quality athletic talent at the tight end position. Junior-to-be Colt Lyerla is undoubtedly entrenched as the starter, but who backs him up is more or less a mystery. Sophomores Koa Ka'ai, T.J. Daniel, and Pharaoh Brown all played sparingly in 2012, but none of the three were relied upon as pass catching targets. Redshirt freshman Evan Baylis arrived on campus last spring and according to Oregon tight end coach Tom Osborne, was as quick a learner as any freshman he's ever had, however that never translated in to game action. Johnny Mundt is an incoming true freshman with a world of athletic ability, but he has a mighty climb ahead of him if he's to pass the upperclassmen positioned ahead of him on the depth chart. So what gives? Considering the depth, it's wise to assume that at least one of these players (excluding Lyerla) will ultimately make the switch to the defensive side of the ball. Formerly a defensive end, Ka'ai was switched from defense to offense during fall camp, thus he may be the most logical choice to return to defense. Brown, Baylis, and Daniel all have defensive backgrunds dating back to high school, but who is best suited at this point to make the transition back to that side of the ball? A clearer picture should develop with the onset of spring drills.
Does Lyerla's role continue to expand?
After an impressive true freshman debut in 2011, Colt Lyerla more than tripled his reception total in 2012, catching 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns. A true definition of a freak athlete, there is very little Lyerla can't do on the football field. Whether it's catching passes, holding the edge as a perimeter blocker, or running the football (which he did 13 times for 77 yards and one touchdown), one could argue that per touch, Lyerla is Oregon's most productive player. Entering his junior year, the expectation is that Lyerla will continue along his already impressive trajectory, but how much can be reasonably expected out of him in his third year with the program? Lyerla could no doubt lead the Ducks in numerous offensive categories, but similar to Oregon's "quandary" at receiver, Oregon's substantial offensive arsenal inhibits a player at Lyerla's position to receive the high number of touches he may otherwise get. Barring injury, expect Lyerla to turn in another very productive season, though not one that is markedly different than the one he experienced as a sophomore.