Oregon TE Colt Lyerla
The Oregon Ducks have become known for finding versatile athletes and putting them into a variety of different positions, often with positive results.
Current tight end Colt Lyerla, whose picture actually appears next to the definition of "versatile" in most dictionaries, is somebody that Mark Helfrich must continue to utilize in as many ways as possible.
Last year we saw Lyerla getting more looks in the downfield passing attack as well as some time at the running back spot. At 6'5" and 238 pounds, he has the physical tools to create mismatches against NFL linebackers.
So in what new ways will Helfrich use the freakishly athletic tight end during his remaining years in college?
Last season, against the Arizona Wildcats in a game that saw the Ducks' offense struggling for much of the first half and into the third quarter, then-coach Chip Kelly inserted Colt Lyerla into the running back position, which led to 63 yards and a touchdown for the tight end.
While we didn't get to see the formation more than a handful of times throughout the rest of the season, the move sparked plenty of discussion amongst fans about Lyerla's potential as a runner.
Why not move Lyerla into the backfield pre-snap, and then hike it directly to him? Mariota could run out wide as a decoy receiver, or he could simply stand next to Lyerla and pretend like the snap came to him anyway while Lyerla began to bulldoze ahead.
Either way, forward momentum for a guy rarely brought down by the first tackler is something that could gain yards in bunches.
Putting him in the backfield to handle a direct snap is something that could bring a little more power to the Ducks' rushing attack.
I know this particular play is hidden somewhere within the holy script that is Oregon's playbook, but the Ducks haven't run the tight end screen over the middle very much since former tight end David Paulson graduated.
Would Colt Lyerla not be the perfect candidate to bring this play back to life?
The play works on a couple levels. First, screens are typically run toward the sidelines. The running back will pretend to block, slip out wide and await a pass while his linemen set up in front of him. This version has the receiver (in the case, Lyerla) set up for the catch over the middle instead of to the side.
Second, Lyerla is a guy who's nearly as dangerous as the Black Mamba in the open field. Why? Because he's so darn difficult to bring down! He's fast for his size and drags tacklers seemingly every time he touches the ball.
So if the play works, Lyerla would be set up in the open field, with blockers ahead of him. What's not to love?
This may not be the most popular option, but putting Colt Lyerla at fullback every now and then could reap major benefits for the Oregon offense.
First, the guy could absolutely dominate at the position given his size, speed and strength. Second, it couldn't hurt to have your hulking tight end be a lead blocker for lightning-fast backs like De'Anthony Thomas or the incoming Thomas Tyner.
Lastly, he would be in a position to carry the ball as well, which just gives the defense another thing to worry about before the play.
Obviously, this probably isn't a place Lyerla would like to call home and most fans would rather see him in the open field. But just as a way of potentially opening up the running game (should it ever struggle), moving Lyerla to fullback could be very sneaky indeed.
No, Colt Lyerla will probably never play defense.
If he does, it means the linebackers are severely underperforming or a rash of injuries has left the Ducks without many options. Still, you can't help but wonder how good Lyerla might be on defense, stuffing the run and getting after the quarterback like a newer, perhaps even better version of Kiko Alonso.
This won't happen, but the thought of it is probably enough to make Nick Aliotti work on a cloning invention immediately so he could put Lyerla on defense too.