No. 2 Ducks get back to task at hand
Mark Helfrich wasn't interested in talking about the circumstances surrounding Colt Lyerla's departure from the Oregon football program after Monday's practice.
The first-year head coach said the athletic department's press release issued Sunday night, which quotes Lyerla as saying: "I love everyone at Oregon; everyone's on good terms, I believe," summed up his view of the situation.
None of the coaches or players who spoke Monday seemed shocked by Lyerla's decision to withdraw from school and presumably begin preparing for the 2014 NFL draft.
The physically gifted 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end missed the Ducks' victory over Tennessee on Sept. 14, because of what Helfrich would only describe as "circumstances." Lyerla told The Oregonian he felt the coach had "thrown him under the bus" by not simply informing the media he was sick.
After serving a one-game suspension during Oregon's 57-16 victory at Colorado on Saturday, Lyerla informed Helfrich he was leaving the program on Sunday afternoon, according to the athletic department.
"Every situation is so individualized. If he felt this was best for him, that's OK. We talked about it, we moved on," Helfrich said. "There's no smoking gun, so to speak."
Eugene Police Department records show that police have not had recent contact with Lyerla. However, the records search did reveal that police had investigated an April 27, 2012, incident in which Lyerla was accused of physically harassing three males, who told the reporting officer they were shoved to the ground by the former five-star recruit from Hillsboro.
On May 3, 2012, the alleged victims told police they did not want to pursue prosecution against Lyerla, and the case was dismissed. Lyerla missed the beginning of the 2012 fall camp for undisclosed reasons.
Inside the locker room at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, Lyerla was viewed as a good teammate and a friend.
"I really like the kid," starting senior safety Brian Jackson said. "I consider myself being a good teammate with him. I will definitely be a friend there if he needs it. "¦ It's sad to see him go, but he's gone. I don't really know what else to say about it."
Lyerla, a junior, had 34 receptions for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns during his Oregon career. He also had 16 rushes for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Entering the season, Lyerla was projected as a possible first-round pick. ESPN ranks him as the 40th overall prospect this year based on his rare combination of athleticism, size and big-play ability.
The No. 2 Ducks (5-0, 2-0), who are preparing for their first real test of the season Saturday at No. 16 Washington, will lean even more on true freshman Johnny Mundt and sophomore Pharaoh Brown.
"Athletically, yes. Performance, no," tight ends coach Tom Osborne said when asked if the team would miss Lyerla's presence on the field. "The other three guys have played really well for three weeks."
Mundt had a dazzling debut with five receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns in his first start against Tennessee. Osborne said Brown would have been "1A" on the depth chart with Lyerla after a strong fall camp, but a leg injury kept the 6-6, 241-pound Brown out of the lineup until Saturday when he scored on a two-point conversion and had one catch for 24 yards against the Buffaloes.
"We're all pretty disappointed about it but wish him nothing but the best," Marcus Mariota said of Lyerla's decision. "Obviously, he is a tremendous athlete that will be missed, but guys like Johnny, Pharaoh, Koa (Ka'ai), and Evan (Baylis) all work as hard in practice as anyone. Those guys will have opportunities, and I look forward to seeing what they can do."
Jackson said he learned Lyerla was no longer on the team through the media. Osborne addressed the situation briefly with the other tight ends.
"I said, 'You probably know Colt's left, he's quit. It doesn't affect what we do, we've got a game against Washington,'" Osborne said.
Helfrich said the Ducks reacted to the circumstances with a great practice on Monday.
"I think we've moved on and we've turned the page," Helfrich said. "I'd love "¦ we could talk about Washington or our preparations. It's not about any single one of us, myself included."