One of the more underrated and overlooked positions in the Oregon Ducks offense is the tight end position. Lost in the field of explosive running backs and wide receivers that have donned the Oregon uniform are the big targets that create the biggest coverage mismatch in football.
Over the past decade Oregon has featured some remarkable talent including, but not limited to, Josh Wilcox, Dante Rosario, Ed Dickson, David Paulson and now Colt Lyerla.
The man behind the success has been legendary Ducks tight ends/special teams coach Tom Osborne, now in his 12th season with the Oregon program. Coach “Oz” has been key to the devolvement of key offensive playmakers in the Oregon offense, but also is the primary head of special teams.
With the Ducks having one of the worst years statistically on special teams in 2012, the area will definitely be in need of improvement for the upcoming season.
Oregon was out-returned 2,079 yards to just 699 yards on kickoffs last season. Granted, Oregon had just 36 attempts to the 96 they allowed, they were still below in yards per return by nearly an average of two yards per return.
Punting was also a major issue for the Ducks last season. Punter Jackson Rice had a poor senior season for the Ducks, punting just 40 times for an average of 40.0 yards per. Oregon ranked 81st out of 125 FBS teams for yards per punt, a number they’ll look to improve. Coming in to replace the departed Rice is junior Dylan Ausherman.
We also have to address the elephant in the room that is kicker Alejandro Maldonado who has missed two crucial late-game kicks in back-to-back seasons costing the Ducks a shot at a potential national championship. Maldonado went 3-of-6 on kicks last season and will compete with true freshman Matt Wogan who is looking to step in and start from day one.
Some of Coache Oz’s accomplishments include being listed in CBS Sportsline’s top-5 tight end coaches nationally in 2008 and American Football naming Osbourne 2003 Special Teams Coordinator of the Year. Osbourne has also put 12 former Oregon tight ends into the NFL.
Coach Oz has been with the team since his return back to Eugene in 2007. He has also been with Arizona State, Portland State, Boise State and his alma Mater Washington State.
Osbourne will continue to play a crucial role in the Oregon offense. With a new offensive coordinator and head coach, it will interesting to watch how much change their is to the use of tight ends. Will Oregon rely heavily on Lyerla or will they try incorporate more two tight end formations with youngsters Koa Ka’ai and Pharaoh Brown seeing more playing time?
Expect both special teams and tight ends to have bigger and more important roles during the next few seasons in Eugene. That may include even seeing De’Anthony Thomas bringing in a return man of the year award like Cliff Harris did in 2010.