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Eagles' Kelly draws much praise from Oregon

INDIANAPOLIS -- Chip Kelly was not reluctant to add Oregon players to the Eagles' roster last season, and that trend could continue with another talented class of Kelly's former players in the draft. Oregon has six players at this week's NFL combine, and they fit the Eagles' needs.

There are 33 Oregon players in the NFL, and six on the Eagles' roster. No other team has more. It's also more than the combined total that Seattle's Pete Carroll, San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh, and Buffalo's Doug Marrone have of their former college players.

Kelly has not been available for comment at the combine, but the Ducks here have been praising their former coach. The Eagles did not select an Oregon player in Kelly's first draft, although he was active adding former Ducks in free agency and via trade.

Among the best of the group in this year's draft is the one who carries the most risk: tight end Colt Lyerla, whose 4.61-second 40-yard dash on Saturday was the third-fastest of any player at his position. The big test for Lyerla came when he met with teams and needed to explain his dismissal from Oregon and how he was later arrested for cocaine possession and spent a day in jail.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just to be honest and to show remorse, where remorse is due, and just do my best to prove that I've changed and I'm changing and I've matured since I made those mistakes," Lyerla said. "As much as I hate to say it, I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably is the best thing that's happened to me because it really ... gave me time to self-reflect and just really helped me realize exactly what I want out of life and what I need to do to get it."

Lyerla, who is 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds with 323/4-inch arms and 10\-inch hands, led the Pac-12 with 15.7 yards per catch as a sophomore under Chip Kelly in 2012. He's considered talented enough to go early in May's draft, but the off-the-field issues sunk his stock. The Eagles carried four tight ends on the roster at times last season, and Lyerla has the versatility that Kelly often craves.

The other Oregon players at the combine are running back/receiver/returner De'Anthony Thomas, wide receiver Josh Huff, defensive lineman Taylor Hart, linebacker Boseko Lokombo, and cornerback Terrance Mitchell.

Thomas said the ideal way to use him is the way Kelly did at Oregon, maximizing Thomas' speed in the open field. At 5-9 and 174 pounds, Thomas lacks a true position, but his speed and dynamic ability would be a valuable addition to the Eagles.

Pay attention to Lokombo for the Eagles. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Canadian-born prospect scored four defensive and special teams touchdowns in 2010 and 2011, and his athleticism will be on display when he works out on Monday. Lokombo is not expected to be a high pick, but he could be tabbed in later rounds as a special teams contributor. The Eagles will have roster spots available for linebackers.

"I love Chip, man," Lokombo said. "If I get an opportunity to play in Philly, I would definitely embrace it. Chip was great at Oregon, as everybody knows. If I could be in his system again, it would be lovely."

Clowney defends work ethic. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney came out of high school as the No. 1 recruit and wants to enter the NFL as the No. 1 pick. The 6-5, 266-pound pass rusher has rare physical tools, but he found himself answering questions about his work ethic and decline in production in 2013.

"I believe I did work hard," Clowney said Saturday. "You pull out any practice tape from last year, you'll see that."

Clowney said he would have left college after his sophomore season if allowed, and he likely would have been the No. 1 pick then. Clowney finished with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2012. He recorded only three sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss in 2013. Teams played Clowney differently, but he said the expectations were also unrealistic.

"A lot of people expected stuff that was impossible, like 10 sacks a game, 30 tackles-for-loss," Clowney said. "I knew that wasn't going to happen, of course, but a lot of people expected it."

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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