With Austin Seferian-Jenkins' status uncertain after breaking a finger, the title of best tight end in the Pac-12 passes to Colt Lyerla of Oregon, for the moment anyway.
Lyerla has the raw ability to match Seferian-Jenkins, injured or not. Lyerla has shown such flashes during his first two seasons with the Ducks, with 12 of his 45 touches resulting in touchdowns. But Oregon coaches are pushing Lyerla to maximize that talent on every play.
"I'm working to prove to the coaches every day in practice that they can trust and depend on me," Lyerla told the Oregonian.
Lyerla admits he previously struggled to reconcile the off-field demands of film study, team meetings and conditioning workouts that can enhance his on-field performance because the game has always come so naturally for him.
"That's something I'm trying to figure out," Lyerla said. "When you go from high school to college, everything changes. It goes from being just a regular football game to being pretty much a business."
Legitimate competition in the form of sophomore Pharoah Brown is also forcing Lyerla to step up. Oregon didn't have anyone to push Lyerla as the starting tight end last season, when he caught 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns, but Brown has comparable skills at 6-foot-6 and 241 pounds.
Even with Brown recovering from a leg injury, his mere presence should force Lyerla to be at his best.
Said Oregon tight ends coach Tom Osborne of Lyerla: "He could be really, really good."
And that could ultimately mean Lyerla matching Seferian-Jenkins on the field and in the draft.