By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Oregon held its first practice without junior tight end Colt Lyerla following his decision to leave the team Sunday. Given that both Pharaoh Brown and Johnny Mundt started at Colorado on Saturday, when Lyerla was suspended, there was no need for depth-chart shuffling this morning.
“It’s a bummer to hear that he left,” Mundt said. “We’re going to wish him the best of luck. We’re thankful for everything he’s done here. But this program’s got to go forward. We’re going in a positive direction.”
That means looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown at Washington, a game with enough national significance to attract the presence of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Seattle.
Mundt said Lyerla’s decision didn’t affect the way he approached today’s practice, and Brown said the same.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but we’ve still got a season to play,” Brown said. “I wish him the best of luck in his near future, but we’re trying to prepare and get ready for Washington.
“My mindset has always been coming out and doing what I’m doing, so it really doesn’t change anything.”
Since the season began, Oregon’s two-deep at tight end has listed, in order, Lyerla, Mundt, sophomore Koa Ka’ai and Brown. I’d assume for Saturday’s game it will be Mundt or Brown on top, followed by Kai or redshirt freshman Evan Baylis, who got his most significant playing time yet at Colorado, his home state.
“He’s improved tremendously in the last three weeks,” position coach Tom Osborne said of Baylis. “He’s played very physically; made a couple assignment errors last week, but he’s been very physical and he’s been doing some real good things.”
Like the other tight ends, Baylis said the absence of Lyerla from practice today didn’t affect his mindset.
“I just prepare how I’ve been preparing, doing anything I can do in practice,” Baylis said. “It’s next man up.”
Highlights: The day ended with a clutch scenario in which the offense needed a touchdown to win. The No. 1 defense was all over Marcus Mariota and kept the No. 1 offense from getting even a single first down. But the No. 2 offense evened the score, Jeff Lockie getting the ball into the red zone with a completion to Blake Stanton, and then into the end zone with a pass to Thomas Tyner. Mark Helfrich called timeout on behalf of the defense to ice Alejandro Maldonado’s “game-winning” extra-point attempt, but the kick was good. …
The tempo drill to start the day went better for the No. 1 offense, with Mariota hitting Bralon Addison deep down the field for a touchdown. Lockie had completions to Stanton and Tyner in that period, too, but the No. 2 defense kept them out of the end zone. … Terrance Mitchell had an interception on a short route during team drills, along the lines of his second pick at Colorado. … Rahim Cassell made consecutive stops on run plays, as the defense absolutely swarmed the scout offense for a few minutes there. The defenders are constantly looking to rip the ball out after stacking up backs, who either suffer the ignominy of fumbling, or hang on while being thrown to the turf.
Other observations: De’Anthony Thomas did not have a protective boot on when leaving practice, as reported by local media on hand. … Helfrich had a little fun during one-on-one punt block drills. When 6-foot-7 DeForest Buckner took a rep, Helfrich joked it was "like kicking over the Empire State Building.” Brown followed and grabbed the ball right off the punter’s foot, prompting Helfrich to wag his finger. “Dikembe,” he said. …
Freshman Torrodney Prevot is a great pass rusher, but tackle Jake Fisher is a beast himself, and the veteran won a couple of head-to-head battles during pass-rush drills today. … Alex Balducci and Hroniss Grasu fought to a couple of intense draws. … It was a productive drill for Cameron Hunt. Christian French worked him over a little on one rep, but Steve Greatwood offered some coaching tips and had the two face off again, with Hunt holding his ground that time. A few minutes later, Hunt moved inside from tackle to guard, where he played Saturday at Colorado, and held his own against Jared Ebert.