The Ducks will kick off practice for the 2013 season on Monday, Aug. 5. Over the next two weeks I'll preview each position group, offering my own analysis and projected depth chart, keeping in mind that the team doesn't actually have an official depth chart at this point.
Projected depth chart
TE: Colt Lyerla, Jr.; Pharaoh Brown, So.; Koa Ka'ai, So.; Evan Baylis, RFr.; Jimmy Musgrave, So.; John Mundt, Fr.
KNOWN QUANTITIES: The headliner is junior Colt Lyerla, a Mackey Award candidate and potential all-conference performer who is drawing early buzz as a candidate for the 2014 NFL draft. The former five-star recruit was something of a phenomenon among Oregon fans in 2012 for his freakish size — along the lines of 265 pounds — and nimble feet. Lyerla started nine times in 13 appearances as a sophomore trying to fill David Paulson's shoes, catching 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns. His average of 15.7 yards per catch led the Pac-12, and he now has 11 touchdowns on 32 career receptions, a remarkable rate.
Entering 2013, Lyerla had the goal of getting faster. His bulk last fall made him tough to bring down, but his hope is not to get caught in the first place this season, by dropping a few pounds for the sake of increased quickness. That would obviously make him more dangerous in the open field after the catch, but could also enhance his value out of the backfield, should the Ducks again choose to employ him in that role. Last season Lyerla rushed 13 times for 77 yards and a touchdown, during a stretch of midseason games in a special package with former UO quarterback Bryan Bennett.
A breakout spring puts sophomore Pharaoh Brown in the "known quantity" category as well. He caught just two passes as a true freshman but got his feet wet in a few offensive appearances, and also as a key member of the kick return team (he fielded many of those short kickoffs by opponents not wanting to put the ball in the hands of De'Anthony Thomas). This spring, Brown was Oregon's most improved player at any offensive position. That opens up the possibility for Brown to pair with Lyerla in more frequent two-tight-end sets, or even to spell the UO starter at times.
NEW FACES: New to the mix is incoming freshman John Mundt, a four-star recruit per Scout.com and one of the nation's top 10 tight end prospects for 2013, according to ESPN.com. Like all freshmen, Mundt will have the chance in August to prove himself worthy of playing time right off the bat. But given the numbers in front of him — despite the move of T.J. Daniel to the defensive line — it won't be surprising to see Mundt redshirt this fall.
TO BE DETERMINED: Along with what Brown's emergence could mean, we'll see how Koa Ka'ai and Evan Baylis impact the rotation as well. Ka'ai is a versatile lineman who moved from the defensive line a year ago, then filled in back there on an emergency basis late in 2012. He's a big body to have blocking on the line. Baylis arrived for the spring of 2012 and turned some heads with his aptitude, but ultimately ended up redshirting last fall while classmates Brown and Daniel played, a decision that might have come down to special teams contributions as much as anything.
ESPN's Pac-12 blog says: The Ducks are in great shape at tight end.
Coming up tomorrow: Wide receivers
BASKETBALL - M
BASKETBALL - W
GOLF - M
GOLF - W
TENNIS - M
TENNIS - W
TRACK & FIELD
Sat, Jan 25
at San Diego State or North Carolina