Will Helfrich unleash the beasts?


Featured Photo © Kevin Cline Photography


There are a couple of players on Oregon’s roster that make people scratch their heads.  Not the players themselves, but the way they have been utilized; or underutilized, as the case may be.  For some reason, coach Kelly liked to keep some of his more high profile players like an ace up his sleeve; only using them in certain games at certain times.  Two players come to mind as being super talented, but very underutilized:  De’Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cline

Colt Lyerla

The 2012 season was a perfect example of this.  At times, it would seem like Lyerla and Thomas would disappear for 3-4 games, only to pop up and run rampant over the opposing defense.  I understand some of Kelly’s reasoning for this.  When you have such athletic freaks of nature who are also very smart football players, the less footage opposing teams have of these players the less they can prepare to stop them.  Just when teams forget how good Lyerla is, he is lining up as a running back and bull dozing through defenders that never saw him coming.

However, in my opinion Lyerla and Thomas are so good it doesn’t matter if teams have time to game plan for them.  Imagine if Lyerla was playing for Stanford.  He would more than likely have already been an All-American candidate.  Lyerla is far and away the most physically gifted tight end in the nation, bar none!  Have you seen his YouTube box jump, and have you seen the photo-shopped picture of him with a bane mask?  Not only is he huge, he has excellent hands and can run like the wind.  If Colt could get the touches he deserves, I have no doubt he would prove himself as the best tight end in the nation.  If he had been able to go to the combine this year, even with his low numbers, he would have been ranked the best tight end in this years draft — guaranteed!

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cline Photography

Thomas carries two defenders into the end zone

Some of you may be wondering why I consider De’Anthony as extremely underutilized.  Don’t get me wrong — his stats are through the roof in just two years.  However, last season he averaged a measly 10.54 touches a game.  That is ridiculously low for a player with such spectacular talent.  He is truly a one of a kind player and I don’t believe the “he’s too small to carry the load” comment.  We have all seen him get blown up while trying to block, but we have also seen him lower his shoulder and go through players, and he has yet to be injured.  I don’t think it would necessarily be smart for Helfrich to give him 35 touches a game, but 20-25 would not be out of question.  Imagine what he could do for the Ducks and how great his stats would be then!

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cline Photography

Lyerla causing havoc

In contrast to Thomas, Lyerla only averages 2.92 touches per game.  Are you kidding me?!?  How is that even possible?  He will more than likely be a first round draft pick no matter what stats he puts up.  Lyerla should be taking multiple touches in the backfield each game and getting the ball thrown his way at the very least 10 times a game.  We know Colt can take a beating; the question is can the opposing teams take the beating he is capable of delivering?  Very rarely do we see just one tackler bring him down, it usually takes at least 3 if not 5 people to wrestle him to the ground.


Photo courtesy of Kevin Cline Photography

The Black Momba

Another thing to remember is that both of these players could declare for the NFL draft after this season if they wanted to.  If that won’t make Helfrich use them any chance he gets, then nothing will.  In my opinion, I think they will both stay for the full four years.  Both played as true freshman, so we don’t have to worry about them graduating early due to a redshirt season.  They both have a good head on their shoulders and seem like the type of kids who would like to get that diploma first.  I think the only thing that would make them bolt early could possibly be an injury (knock on wood!).

With Helfrich taking the reins, this makes me question if — unlike Kelly — he will finally let these players loose.  Will Thomas and Lyerla be allowed to run rampant on the college football nation?  I hope Helfrich doesn’t keep them locked up in a special room at Autzen Stadium hoping that other coaches will forget about them, only to unleash them after even Oregon fans have started to forget they were on the team.  Oregon would do well to use every ounce of talent they have, every chance they get to help them “Win The Day” and then “Win The Year”.

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Sam Arney

Sam Arney

Sam was born and raised in Cottage Grove, Oregon and he has been a die hard Duck fan his entire life. Sam studied at the University of Oregon before moving to San Diego for 5 years. After moving back to Oregon, Sam decided to follow his passion for writing and started writing for various sports sites. To him, nothing is better than being in Autzen Stadium with 59,000 fans screaming their heads off!

  • Dean Pidloache

    I really hope they don’t “lock any players into a special room.”

    That said, great work Sam, you are an expert!

    “Oregon would do well to use every ounce of talent they have” <— what a revolutionary idea… Has this been forwarded to the U of O coaching staff yet?

    • Sam Arney

      Tell me, where can I go to read your articles?

  • Paul Morgan

    The beauty of the Oregon offense in the Kelly era was always “take what the defense gives you.” The Ducks don’t force, they flow. While I would love to see Bane and DAT get more involved, I don’t think we want to abandon a philosophy that has worked so well.

  • Pete

    A) Are you really complaining about the Duck offense and how the staff utilizes its assets? Seriously? This is why fans are obnoxious. I am so sick of people who don’t know what they are talking about criticize an offense that has been as successful as this one. The concept of spreading the ball around based upon what the defense can’t cover is at the core of the Ducks’ philosophy. Let’s change that so we can get some more impressive stats for a couple players.

    B) DAT has been injured. He got knocked out cold. I believe it was against UCLA in the Pac12 Championship game in 2011.
    C) I am relatively certain (90% sure) that, barring an injury, Lyerla is going pro after this season. You better get used to that. He’ll be a first round pick.

    • Sam Arney

      Your right, 2.92 touches per game are more than enough for the best tight end in the nation. Also, Chip Kelly’s philosophy is not the only way to win a game, there are thousands of ways to win the national championship, just ask Nick Saban. When did I criticize the offense, and I don’t think that anybody at Oregon really cares what I think or listens to what I say, so I will say what I want. I am not saying change the system, or change it to get better stats for a couple players, I’m saying let’s get two of the top players in the nation, to maybe combine for at least 20 touches a game. WOW! that would change the entire offensive structure sooo much, and we would probably lose more games if we did right?


        “Whateva, I’ll do what I WAAANT”

  • TommyStun22

    So let ne get this straight, make sure DAT has “20-25 touches” and throw to Colt a “minimum of 10x”???

    You would be the worst offensive coordinator ever.

  • Tim Berelli

    This is a brutal read, Mr Arney. Laughable. TB

  • I couldn’t agree more. Allowing these two to be more involved doesn’t mean changing the system, just allowing them to be more a part of it. If keeping them as secret weapons is such a great idea then maybe we should bench Mariota and only use him as a secret weapon.
    Less than three touches per game for an NFL caliber player is a joke. Turn the beast loose.
    If DAT is a threat to score every time he touches the ball then give it to him 20 times a game. He can handle it.
    Too bad the Kool-Aid drinkers think we’re already as good as we’ll ever be, so don’t change anything. I say take this great team up one more notch by getting these two more involved and get to that NC game…and win it.

    • Sam Arney

      I could not agree more!

  • ducktd

    Sam, don’t listen to the boys who have no imagination. DAT and Colt have to be more involved to pick it up for the loss of Barner. In fact, since we seem to have a very good corps of tight ends behind Colt, and the perception is that we are now thin/questionable at running back until Marshall/Tyner prove themselves, I hope the coach(es) use the weapon of Colt as a primary running back. Solves the depth problem there in a hurry. Again I say, was Toby Gerhart any good behind a good line?

    • Sam Arney

      That’s a very good point. They will be needed to pick up the slack with a young backfield

  • Ol’CodgerDuck

    I would LOVE to see both of these players get more touches! With the departure of Kenyon I see that as an inevitable development. I have also thought (tho’ way unlikely to happen) how much fun it would be to see Colt line up at middle linebacker and DAT at corner! Ah, the stuff of dreams…

    • Sam Arney

      Haha! I agree, Colt would be a hulk at MLB. When he first signed with Oregon, I was hoping they would put him at that position. Too dangerous for other teams I guess, lol.

  • Sam, FINALLY someone has said what I have been saying all along, indeed, get these guys the tricking ball more!

  • Coach Taylor

    It’s tough to complain about anything about an offense that scores 50 ppg. There is only one football and there are too many athletes at Oregon. So, if DAT and Colt get the ball more that means guys like Huff, Allen etc get it less. The great thing about Oregon’s offense is that Marcus doesn’t force throws into people, he throws to who his reads tell him to throw to. I think that people forget that fans write most of these articles and that it’s from a fans perspective. Ask Fish what he has learned about fans since he started this website and he will tell you that they don’t even know what they don’t even know. I do wonder how many people on this board have ever called a game before? I think if you have this experience you have a better understanding of why certain plays get called and others don’t.

    • Coach Sam Arney

      Hey look at that, Im a coach now too, lol. Who knew it was that easy? I have played plenty of football in my life and know all about QB reads and not forcing throws. I also know all about designed plays. Plays specifically designed to target a certain players strength. Something that Kelly did a lot of. But not enough. Huff and Allen are guys you get the ball to when they are open. DAT and Lyerla are guys you get the ball to when they are open, but they are guys you specifically design plays for to get them open. Lyerla can’t get open if he is blocking 80% of the time. DAT can’t get the ball if he is on the sideline. You sound like you know a lot, so you must know all about writing. I write OPINION editorials for Fishduck. That means it is my obligation to write about MY opinion. Of course we are all fans at this site, this is a site dedicated to the Oregon Ducks, not hard to figure that one out. If you are actually a coach, you should stick to what you do, coaching. I am a writer, so I will stick to what I do, write. Unless you would care to tell me where you coach and I will come watch your games and critique you and tell you from all of my many years of coaching experience on what you are doing wrong, that is all. Thanks for your comment though

      • Coach Heinrich Schwischwaschki

        Here, here!