By Rob Moseley
Freshman tight ends Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt will be thrust into the spotlight for Oregon’s Alamo Bowl appearance Dec. 30 against Texas, after UO coach Mark Helfrich announced Monday that five-game starter Pharaoh Brown was suspended for the bowl game.
Brown, who started the final four games of Oregon’s 10-2 regular season, was suspended after an on-campus snowball fight Friday escalated into harassing behavior by several students toward motorists. The sophomore from Lyndhurst, Ohio, finished the season with 10 receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns, finding the end zone in the Ducks’ losses at Stanford and Arizona.
“I was one of the many UO students involved in the snowball fight on Friday and my actions escalated to an inappropriate level and for that, I sincerely apologize," Brown said in a statement Monday announcing his suspension. "We never should have engaged innocent people and I deeply regret my actions and will accept the consequences.”
The statement added that “all football student-athletes involved in the incident have been disciplined, and like the other students involved are subject to further discipline from the Dean of Students.”
Given the absence of Brown, following the midseason departure of junior Colt Lyerla, Oregon’s depth chart at tight end is now topped by the freshmen Baylis and Mundt.
Baylis, a redshirt freshman from Centennial, Colo., made his first career start against Oregon State, in a formation along with Brown. He has three receptions for 44 yards, having crashed the Brown-Mundt two-deep with an exceptional few weeks of practice in late October and early November.
Mundt a true freshman from Modesto, Calif., caught a 17-yard pass during the Ducks’ game-winning touchdown drive in the Civil War, giving him 15 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns on the year. He had a breakout game when Lyerla didn’t play against Tennessee, with 121 yards and two touchdowns, and started five times before hitting a late-season wall in November.
The other tight ends on the roster are sophomore Koa Ka’ai, who has practiced primarily with the scout team this season but could be up for a promotion in Brown’s absence, and walk-on Davaysia Hagger. Offensive lineman Brian Teague and outside linebacker Christian French started their UO careers at tight end, so could conceivably be emergency options if necessary.
Heisman Trophy votes were due Monday and six finalists were announced, none of them UO quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Joining presumed favorite Jameis Winston, the Florida State quarterback, in New York for Saturday’s trophy presentation will be Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, Auburn RB Tre Mason, Alabama QB A.J. McCarron and Boston College RB Andre Williams.
Mariota’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 30:4 was better than all four of the other quarterbacks’, and his 9.1 yards per play on offense were better than all but Winston (9.4).
Oregon junior Hroniss Grasu was named a finalist Monday for the Rimington Trophy as college football’s most outstanding center.
Joining Grasu as finalists were Auburn’s Reese Dismukes, Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, Utah State’s Tyler Larsen, Florida State’s Bryan Stork and Arkansas’ Travis Swanson. The winner will be announced Thursday.
Grasu, a first-team all-Pac-12 selection, anchored an offensive line that led the Pac-12 in rushing for the eighth year in row (278.3 avg.), in addition to pacing the league in total offense (573.0) and scoring (46.8).
Grasu and Mariota announced last week that each intends to return to Oregon for another season in 2014.