Oregon Football: How Mark Helfrich Can Get the Most out of Colt Lyerla
Every starting tight end for the Oregon Ducks since 1987 has played in the NFL. With the help of new head coach Mark Helfrich, Colt Lyerla looks to continue that tradition.
Fans familiar with the Oregon Ducks call him Bane (like the vicious character in the final Batman trilogy), but you can just call him Colt. This season, under the new leadership of Helfrich and with a more polished quarterback Marcus Mariota behind the gun, expect another monster season from the monstrous tight end. With his freakish athleticism, Lyerla will indeed be one of the most explosive weapons in not only the Pac-12 next season, but in all of college football.
With a naturally savvy approach to the game and blocking skills unparalleled in the conference, Lyerla could even establish an NFL résumé after completing his third year of elite NCAA pedigree. Even before the season begins, however, his potential NFL future already looks bright.
“One of the most athletic big men in the country,” writes Scott Kennedy of Scout.com, who compares Lyerla to Patriots tight end and former top prospect Aaron Hernandez. “Lyerla has the change of direction of a big wide receiver with the toughness of a linebacker.”
There’s a lot to love about Lyerla on the football field. As Mariota’s third favorite reception target last season (behind only De’Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff), I would only expect that relationship to flourish this season. With the help of offensive guru Mark Helfrich, however, Lyerla can reach improbable new heights for the upcoming season.
Receiving: Remind Him to Get to the Ball No Matter What It Takes
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If you’re not convinced that Lyerla makes an elite receiver as well as an elite tight end, watch this video of Lyerla walking three steps and then jumping to the top of a 62” pylo-box.
His unique leaping ability allows him to make ridiculous catches like this one, in which he emerges from nowhere and appears out of thin air for a score against the Washington Huskies. He went on to record three receptions and 71 yards in the game.
If those videos didn’t do anything for you, watch this video of Lyerla using incredible strength to force his 6’5” and 246-pound frame to jump out of a pool. That natural size was thicker as a freshman than NFL Super Bowl champion and former Oregon Ducks defender Spencer Paysinger weighed as a senior.
"We felt we had a guy that we needed to try to get the ball into his hands," said former coach Chip Kelly.
With a size advantage on nearly every defender in the country, Lyerla is someone you’re glad to have on your team rather than worrying about how to defend him. Don’t forget: he could not only squat max 450 pounds in high school, but he could also run a 4.55 second 40-yard dash.
Colt Lyerla 2012 Receiving Statistics: 25 receptions, 392 yards, 6 TDs
Running: More of the “Innovation” That Helfrich Boasts
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As one blogger suggests: “Colt could be used in a wildcat role in short yardage situations ala a Tim Tebow or Cam Newton. He also could be used to get a short yard in the passing game posting up a smaller defensive back. Or catching a jump ball that you see work in college so well. He’d even make a great lead blocker.”
In addition to the playmaking ability his athleticism offers, his size makes Lyerla a difficult candidate to tackle and a ridiculously viable running option on fourth down. Look at the way Lyerla can truck defenders and dash towards the end zone for a score.
“Colt has always claimed he’s a running back,” said Kenjon Barner. “He always comes to the running back meeting asking to get in.”
Don’t forget that Lyerla recorded over 1,500 yards at running back in multiple seasons when he played high school ball. With Lyerla, the Oregon Ducks boast a rare form of a “power back” that would be physically overwhelming to almost any defender in the Pac-12.
“He’s an absolute animal. Guys didn’t want to tackle him and I could see why. He ran like a maniac,” Barner continued. “I wouldn’t want to tackle him. I’m glad he’s on our team.”
This caused fans across the nation to speculate on why Colt Lyerla did not run the football more last season.
“Chip’s got a crazy mind,” said Lyerla, on how he will be used in the Fiesta Bowl. “Let your own mind wander to what he’s going to do.”
Do you know who else is going to need a crazy mind to use Lyerla to the maximum of his abilities? Mark Helfrich. Helfrich, meet Colt Lyerla. It's time to get creative.
Colt Lyerla 2012 Rushing Statistics: 13 attempts, 77 yards, 1 TD
Blocking: Continuity and Consistent Relief for Thomas, Marshall and Tyner
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While his size makes him difficult to tackle on fourth down, when not involved with the ball his blocking ability makes him a force to be reckoned with. He is a punishing blocker that could just as well play linebacker with his ruthless cuts on defenders. Lyerla is often credited for the unbelievable Kenjon Barner performance against USC (321 yards, 5 TDs) last season, and with good reason,
With his help, Oregon was the No. 2 overall offense (49.6 PPG) and No. 3 overall running game (315.2 yards per game) and looks to continue that impressive run this season.
Lyerla will provide a consistency and power needed to shut down opposing defenders, and use his physical frame to stop the
Oregon may be losing Kenjon Barner, but they’re gaining rising freshman Thomas Tyner as well as a more polished De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall.
Overall Talent: Freakish Athleticism That Proves NFL Draft Stock
At this point, Lyerla is listed as the No. 2 overall tight end in his draft class by NFLDraftScout.com.
“The last athlete that had this much physical size and talent while playing running back in high school was Julius Peppers,” wrote Barry Every, in 2010. “Lyerla could excel at multiple positions.”
Julius Peppers is just another player that Lyerla has drawn comparisons to. Others include Antonio Gates, Kenny Rowe and Brian Urlacher. His athleticism and agility are both off the charts, and consistently proves NFL-type talent at multiple positions even at the college level.
He’ll continue to play tight end next season, but the team will provide innovation for Lyerla at the position. In case you’re still not convinced, just look at his highlight footage from last season.
“Why fix something that’s not broke?” said Lyerla. “I bring a little bit of versatility to the position, so it’ll be exciting to see where that position will take me.”