Tight End has always been a position of strength for the Fighting Irish ever since Anthony Fasano graced the grounds of Notre Dame Stadium from 2003-2005. Each season Notre Dame since then the offense has featured one of the top Tight Ends in the country. After Fasano, John Carlson took over the position and was eventually drafted in the 2nd round by the Seattle Seahawks. At Notre Dame, Carlson snagged 100 passes for 1,093 yards. His total yardage was just short of Fasano who had racked up 1,112 yards. These two were followed up by maybe the best all-around Tight End at Notre Dame ever (although the statistics do not bare that out), Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph started from Day 1. Despite declaring for the NFL Draft after his Junior season and being injured for most of his career, he was still able to amass 1,032 yards. Having one of these Tight Ends would have been a blessing. A second and a third is icing on the cake.
Then what do you call Tyler Eifert? The cherry on top of the icing? Eifert stepped in for Rudolph after he sustained an injury in 2010 and he did not disappoint the Irish Tight End tradition. Coming into the 2012 season, Eifert has totaled 1,155 yards of receiving. There is no doubt that he is one of the best receiving Tight Ends that Notre Dame has ever had. His game is definitely a sign of the times. As the passing game expands in the NFL, the Tight End will continue to become a more flexible position.
Eifert will be used in different ways this season. This has already been demonstrated in Spring and Fall camps. He will most likely be flexed out, used as in-line blocked or as a Wide Receiver. It would not be too surprising either to see Eifert in the backfield as a decoy, blocker or even ball carrier. Eifert has put on the weight and has taken the mental reps necessary to be an all-star this year. Expect Eifert to go for over 1,000 yards receiving this year.
In Notre Dame’s great Tight End tradition or “Tight End U”, who will be the next great player? Notre Dame will need more than one player to set up this season. With Coach Martin moving to the Offensive side of the ball, two or more Tight End sets are expected. With the injury to Alex Welch, Notre Dame is left with the Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas. Ben Koyack has already shown several times in Spring and Fall Camp that he can be a great asset in the passing game. Koyack played in 12 games last year. Niklas played last season on the Defensive side of the football. He now makes the transition to the Offensive side of the ball. Although he still has a lot to pick up on, he can use his brute strength to assist the Fighting Irish in blocking, especially near the goal-line.
Notre Dame has three quality players at this position. Hopefully, what they lack in depth, they will make up in quality. Tyler Eifert is a potential 1st round NFL draft pick in next year’s draft. Koyack and Niklas could develop into quality players. Health is the key.