Heading into the 2012 season, Notre Dame was expected to use several multiple Tight End sets. The Irish had an All-American Tight End in Tyler Eifert to anchor the group. However, who would step up as the second Tight End? Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack were the only two players who were available to step up after injury to Alex Welch. How did the Irish Tight Ends fare this season?
In 2011, Eifert had 63 receptions and 803 yards with 5 touchdowns. This season could be seen as a step back for Eifert since he only had 44 receptions for 624 with 4 touchdowns. However, this season Eifert demonstrated further why he is an All-American. Notre Dame threw the ball 97 times less this season. This would explain the drop off in Eifert’s production. Eifert demonstrated that he is tremendous blocker this season over last. Primarily in 2011, Eifert was a receiving Tight End. Several times this season, he was used as an inline blocker. He is versatile. Eifert will be an All-American again. Will he win the Mackey Award? The finalists for the award are Seferian-Jenkins from Washington and and Zach Ertz from Stanford along with Eifert. His statistics are not as good but hopefully the voters will notice his improved blocking skills. These skills will help him in the upcoming NFL Draft. He will most likely be drafted in the 1st or 2nd round.
Overall Grade: A
Last season, Niklas played Outside Linebacker but moved in the Spring to the Tight End position. It was believed that Niklas could become a better Tight End than an Outside Linebacker. Niklas progressed well throughout the season as both a pass catcher and a blocker. He ended up with 5 receptions for 75 yards and 1 touchdown. Niklas was used primarily as a blocker for the Fighting Irish. He struggled at times in this endeavor. However, he really progressed as a blocker during the season. Eventually, he will be a tremendous Tight End when he develops as a pass receiving Tight End. He has excellent athleticism.
Overall Grade: B+
Koyack only played in 10 games this season. As a 5-star talent from Pennsylvania, he was expected to step up as the second Tight End in Notre Dame’s Offense. This season, he only had 3 receptions for 39 yards. Koyack’s Sophomore campaign was a tremendous failure. He definitely has the potential to be an outstanding Tight End. He will need to step up next season or risk being surpassed by Troy Niklas and incoming Freshman Mike Heuerman.
Overall Grade: F