Opportunity knocked for tight end Johnny Mundt in a surprising freshman year. Entering the spring of his sophomore season, Mundt is a potential breakout star in a loaded Oregon Ducks offense.
Mundt first appeared on the radar early, seeing playing time with All-American Colt Lyerla suspended in Week 3. Mundt's five-reception, 121-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 59-14 rout of Tennessee was a possible glimpse into the future.
"He’s just one of those guys you can’t help but like," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said in his postgame press conference following the win, per GoDucks.com. "Just works really hard, the team was going crazy for how well he played. Again, another young guy, a true freshman who has a bright future."
Though he never quite duplicated those numbers again—Mundt scored only once more on the season—he was a consistent part of the passing game with receptions in eight of the subsequent 10 games.
"If I get my chance again I’ll do what I can. If I get the ball or don’t get the ball,” Mundt told The Oregonian last September following his breakout Tennessee game.
Certainly he'll contribute without the ball as a blocker. But Mundt's field awareness and steady hands are too valuable for him to not find his niche as a dangerous receiver next season.
Mundt is intriguing because Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost have only scratched the surface on how he can contribute, whereas other weapons in the Oregon offensive arsenal are well known. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is a Heisman Trophy favorite, wide receiver Bralon Addison is primed to take over as the top receiving target and the running back tandem of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner power a potent ground game.
With all that talent around him, Mundt can be an X-factor using his size and welcoming defensive attention up the middle of the field—a stark contrast to the speed and peripheral playmaking for which Oregon is synonymous.
For as long as the Ducks have operated under a hurry-up spread offense, big-bodied receivers have routinely played a prominent role. Tight ends are especially integral to the scheme Chip Kelly introduced in 2007 as offensive coordinator and later as head coach.
Ed Dickson was quarterback Dennis Dixon's second-most productive target in 2007, and again for Jeremiah Masoli in 2008 and 2009. David Paulson spent the next two years as a primary receiving weapon before Colt Lyerla took on the role in 2012.
As defenses spread and send smaller, quicker personnel on the field in response to Oregon's sideline-to-sideline play, a sizable target like Mundt can exploit the seams and mismatches these shifts create.
Lyerla's suspension and subsequent departure from the team last season left a difficultly filled void. Pharaoh Brown was injured early in the season, and Mundt was a surprise option to emerge, perhaps ahead of schedule.
But with both Brown and Mundt back for 2014, and late-season starter Evan Baylis in the mix, tight end play will be of little concern for the Ducks—especially if Mundt evolves into a game-changing playmaker during the offseason.
Statistics compiled via CFBStats.com.