As RB De'Anthony Thomas Is Set to Return, Trouble Finds Former TE Colt Lyerla

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIOctober 24, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas (6) celebrates with tight end Colt Lyerla (15) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

While one Oregon Ducks star made a promising announcement regarding his return to the field, another former UO star made headlines in a negative light.

Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas told Jason Quick of The Oregonian that he is ready to return to the field this week as the No. 3 Ducks prepare for a crucial contest with No. 12 UCLA. 

Meanwhile, former UO tight end Colt Lyerla, who left the program earlier this month with his sights set on the NFL draft, was arrested Wednesday night, as first reported by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

Miller later confirmed through the Lane County Sheriff's Office that Lyerla was charged with "unlawful possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer." The Oregonian also published a press release from the Lane County Sheriff's Office with full details of Lyerla's arrest.

Oregon receiver Josh Huff tweeted soon after the news of his arrest broke, expressing sadness for his former teammate:

While Lyerla is in the hearts of his former teammates, the Ducks have little time to dwell on Lyerla's situation.

At No. 3 in the first BCS rankings of the season, UO will be putting its national title hopes on the line every week from here out—and its two biggest roadblocks will come in its next two games.

UCLA, and ESPN's College GameDay, will be in Eugene this week. Then the Ducks have a bye the following week before their Thursday night tilt with No. 6 Stanford on Nov. 7. 

The Oregon offense will be back near its full strength with the return of Thomas. Once the Ducks see No. 6 darting around the field, it should assuage some of their current concerns.

Thomas was on his way to an enormous season before he sprained his ankle on the opening kickoff return of a 55-16 win over California in September. Despite missing the last four games, Thomas is still No. 4 on the Ducks with 338 rushing yards and six touchdowns. 

Quick reported that Thomas has been at full service during practice, though it is unclear how large his role will be once he makes his return:

Thomas said he did not experience any pain while cutting in Monday’s practice and said the ankle didn’t prevent him from making any moves or doing any activity. He said he does not yet know if Saturday’s return will also include him returning kicks.

Thomas told Quick that he nearly returned last week against Washington State but elected to take some extra time to ensure he was fully healed. 

“I just felt like I should wait one more week to be on the safe side,’’ Thomas said. “I’m ready. I’m hungry and ready to get back on the field."

While Thomas didn't say one way or another, that decision was likely made with two key games against the Bruins and the Cardinal looming. However, Thomas also told Quick that he isn't too concerned about being hit and re-injuring his ankle, contending that he does his best to stay off the turf as it is.

“When I’m in the game, I don’t really get hit that much,’’ Thomas said.

At 5'9", 176 pounds, that strategy has served Thomas pretty well, and as Oregon continues its run to the national title, DAT's health will be key.

This week, he'll need to avoid taking big hits from a talented UCLA defense led by All-American linebacker Anthony Barr and potential freshman All-American linebacker Myles Jack. Barr and Jack have combined for 75 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, four sacks, seven pass deflections, one interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

With the staunch Stanford defense waiting in the next game, the Ducks will have to focus fully on reintegrating Thomas in the offense, even despite the disheartening situation regarding their former tight end Colt Lyerla.