by Rob Moseley
In future games, Oregon's riches at tight end may yield new personnel groups, new formations and prolific production.
For now, the Ducks are just happy to have everybody on the field at the same time. Saturday's fourth game of this season, a 55-16 win over visiting Cal, was the first in which the top three tight ends on the UO depth chart all played.
Junior Colt Lyerla took the field for the first time in three weeks, after missing the Tennessee game due to illness prior to Oregon's bye week. Sophomore Pharaoh Brown made his season debut after recovering from a lower leg issue, and breakout freshman Johnny Mundt continued to play a prominent role in the rotation.
"It's great having everyone back healthy, practicing just like it was in the beginning," Mundt said. "It's a lot better to have all the tight ends full-go."
Mundt was the only UO tight end with a reception against the Golden Bears. He rebounded from a blocking penalty to haul in a 28-yard pass on the next play, early in the second quarter as Oregon was marching to the touchdown that made it 34-0.
With rain falling and the Ducks facing Cal's Pac-12-worst rush defense, Mundt didn't replicate his big day against Tennessee. But he also may have drawn more attention from the opposing secondary.
"It's hard to say; I didn't get out on a whole lot of routes, because the rain was coming down," Mundt said. "But yeah, I think they respected me a little more."
Lyerla was targeted on one Marcus Mariota pass, late in the second quarter, but couldn't hang on after a jarring hit by a Cal defender. He started the game, however, and split time fairly evenly with Mundt and Brown.
"It felt good to be back out here," Lyerla said. "I felt like the coaches did a good job cycling me back in, not just bringing me back in full-go right away."
Brown suited up for the third straight game, and finally made his 2013 debut in the first quarter. Oregon's most improved offensive player during spring drills this year, Brown poses a big, mobile target in the passing game.
Combined with Mundt's emergence and Lyerla's versatility, there seems no end to the possible ways the group could be deployed in future games. But on Saturday, it was just a positive step to have them all available for the first time.
"You see what Johnny can do, and Pharaoh's a big body," Lyerla said. "He hasn't had a breakout game yet, but it's coming. So I'm excited."