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.
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!
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!
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.
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”.