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The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
Getting to know the 2011 Oregon Duck newcomers: Colt Lyerla

Colt Lyerla
WR – 6-5, 225, 4.56
Hillsboro, Ore. (Hillsboro HS)
U.S. ARMY ALL-AMERICAN

2009 Stats: Rushed for 1,543 yards and 26 TDs, 843 receiving yards and 13 TDs, 40 total TDs, State MVP and a team State Championship

2010 Stats:  1,519 rushing yards, 352 receiving yards,  12.5 points per game; defense: 45 tackles and two sacks

He was born on Friday the 13th, but he’s been making his own luck ever since.  Although blessed by his Creator with incredible athletic gifts, Colt Lyerla has trained his body hard to make the most of them.

At 18 years old, he’s a chiseled 6-5, 225 lbs.  Nature made him tall, but he sculpted the body with the determination to become a great athlete.  Even as a high school sophomore Lyerla spent long hours in the gym, working chiefly at the Performance Training Center in Beaverton, a facility so sophisticated that they use a program called Omega Wave to measure the body’s responses to stress and training, maximizing its effectiveness.  Lyerla sprints dragging a 45-lb. weight behind him He takes a couple of steps and jumps 62″ to the top of a Plyo-Box.  White men can’t jump?  Lyerla’s been displaying freakish NFL potential since his sophomore year:

  

Some athletes with talent like this fulfill their destiny.  Others lose their way in a bottle or bad decisions.  They succumb to the temptation to take shortcuts, or cleats catch wrong in the turf and rob them of their promise.  With size, playmaking ability, quiet confidence, determination and a superlative work ethic, Lyerla has no natural limits.  He’ll be as good as he wants to be, and that’s very, very good.

The debate among Oregon fans over the last seven months was a frenzy.  Would he come? Would he visit?  Would he sign? Will he enroll early? Where will he play?  Can he play both ways?  Will he start as a freshman?

Lyerla announced at the Army All-America Game, graduated early from high school, enrolled at Oregon in time for spring practice.  The practice updates from Goe and Moseley included a daily Lyerla watch.  The interest was inevitable.  He and the coaches decided on tight end for his position, and there was anxiety about that.  Wouldn’t he be a stud at linebacker or drop end?  What about wide receiver?

John Hunt of oregonlive.com got the details of The Decision. Lyerla would take his talents to tight end, and he and quarterback Darron Thomas seemed fine with the possibility:

“That’s where Chip sees me right now,” Lyerla said. “And I have confidence in him that he knows what he’s doing.”

Thomas likes the fit.

“First he didn’t want to play tight end,” Thomas said. “Now that he sees how many balls he can get, he wants to go out there and do it.”

Receivers coach Scott Frost explained that in Oregon scheme, the 2nd tight end in two tight end sets runs the same routes and has similar responsibilites as slot receiver Lavasier Tuinei does in three receiver sets.  Lyerla would get a chance to catch the ball and be a difference-maker, provided he learned the offense.  At times in the spring it seemed very much a work in progress.  The freshman made freshman mistakes, lining up wrong, running the wrong route.

Tight end and special teams coach Tom Osborne told Hunt, “He’s going to be a really, really good player down the road. But he’s just learning.”

On the message boards fans were impatient.  Lyerla was The Chosen One, The Great In-State Hope, a five-star wunderkind.  Some were unsettled to see him struggle, forgetting even Joey threw passes in the turf when he first got in games.

By the spring game, the light was beginning to come on for the talented freshman.  He started for the victorious Green Team, lined up on most of the special teams.  The first play from scrimmage was a 6-yard completion, Thomas to Lyerla in traffic.  He grabbed a 20-yarder for a first down, and then a 10-yarder with a defender draped all over him, Thomas with the confidence in him now to zip it to him in a tight spot.  Three throws, three catches, 36 yards, and he looked solid to contribute in the fall.  Starting tight end David Paulson played well also, one of the stars of the game for the White with four catches for 42 yards.  Good thing, because the other two tight ends, Curtis White and Brandon Williams were banged up again and unable to play much.

Lyerla has game-changing potential,a mature body and good speed for his new position.  With a 40-inch vertical leap, he’ll be an especially difficult matchup in the red zone and on third downs, with go-to physical gifts.  His bests in testing include:

40 yard sprint: 4.56
Pro Agility Shuttle: 4.20
Vertical Leap: 40 inches
Bench Reps: 27

In one game against Glencoe last year Lyerla had four touchdowns, including a miracle 65-yard reception in the last second, covered by two defenders.  Here are video highlights from that game, and a link

 

Here is a link to his junior highlights.

What’s equally impressive about Colt is his groundedness.  The child of a single mother, he answers interview questions with “Yes sir.”  Teammate Joe Ashby told Dirk Knudsen of Duck Sports Authority, “The kid is humble. He rarely takes credit and yet we all know how amazing he is.”  A linebacker on the 2009 State Championship team, Ashby was Defensive Player of the Year himself.  It’s a mark of greatness to attain the respect of teammates and coaches, and Lyerla carries himself like that kind of player.  

His Oregon career should be something to watch.  With Williams and White nagged by persistent injuries, there’s immediate playing time available among the tight ends.  The Ducks are also breaking in four new receivers, so it’s likely Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will rely on the ig fellas a little more as well.

Especially if Lyerla and Paulson keep making clutch catches over the middle and rumbling free.