Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, one of the most talented players at the position in all of college football, has shockingly withdrawn from school five games into his junior season.
Lyerla did not play in the Ducks' win at Colorado on Saturday, serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules, head coach Mark Helfrich said. They had previously clashed after Lyerla missed the win over Tennessee because of illness, but Helfrich attributed Lyerla's absence to "circumstances." Lyerla was upset and went public with his displeasure at Helfrich's phrasing.
However, a statement released by the school indicated that Lyerla departed on good terms with Helfrich and the football program.
"I love everyone at Oregon," Lyerla said. "Just for my own benefit, it was time to move on."
"We wish Colt nothing but the best in the future, and will support him in any way we can," Helfrich said. The UO release said that Helfrich will not offer further comment on Lyerla's departure.
Lyerla arrived at UO as a five-star recruit and immediately showed flashes of his immense potential by catching five touchdowns in limited action as a true freshman in 2011. Last season Lyerla caught 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns and also rushed for 77 yards and one touchdown in a special jumbo package, despite missing the start of fall camp.
In three games this season Lyerla caught three passes for 17 yards and one touchdown and ran for 26 yards on two carries.
At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Lyerla has the athletic ability to be a special player at the next level in the mold of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham and was widely expected to be a prime candidate to declare early for the 2014 NFL Draft at the end of this season. If and when Lyerla does try his hand at playing professional football, scouts and executives will demand a full accounting of what led to this decision, but that seems to be the furthest thing from Lyerla's mind at the moment.
The explosive UO offense shouldn't see much, if any, drop off after Lyerla's departure. True freshman Johnny Mundt started the game against the Volunteers and erupted for 121 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Sophomore Pharaoh Brown is also well regarded within the program and played in two tight-end packages with Mundt against the Buffaloes.
Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.