Offseason Cheatsheet: Tight Ends

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The series continues with your Du Lac approved crib-sheet for the upcoming season. For previous entries, check out quarterbacks and running backs here.

POSITION OVERVIEW:

Many worried what the role of the tight end would be in a Brian Kelly offense. But if the Blue-Gold Game and the beginning of fall camp are any indication, the tight end will likely thrive in the new Irish offense, especially with the personnel the Irish have at the position. Kyle Rudolph is arguably the best tight end in the country, and while the junior battles a balky hamstring, he’s also giving back-ups Tyler Eifert and Alex Welch a chance to get noticed. Mike Ragone, who seemingly received a death row pardon from Res Life after his arrest on the Indiana Toll Road for marijuana possession, suffered from heat illness during the steamy fall camp, and has been slow to get back on the field after being hospitalized. Bobby Burger will spend some time as a tight end and H-back and sophomore Jake Golic is battling for playing time as well. None of the injuries will be enough to keep anyone off the field against Purdue, and the stable of talent at tight end makes it one of the deepest positions on the roster.

ROSTER READING:

Short a program? Here’s every tight end listed on the roster:

     No.    Name                   Yr.     Ht./Wt.     Hometown/High School
     41      Bobby Burger      Sr.     6-2/248    Cincinnati, OH (LaSalle)
     80      Tyler Eifert           So.    6-6/242    Fort Wayne, IN (Bishop Dwenger)
     88     Jake Golic            So.    6-4/235    West Hartford, CT (Northwest Catholic)
     83     Mike Ragone        Sr.     6-4/245    Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden Catholic)
      9      Kyle Rudolph        Jr.     6-6/265    Cincinnati, OH (Elder)
     82     Alex Welch           Fr.     6-4/240    Cincinnati, OH (Elder)

KELLY ON TIGHT ENDS:

Kelly on Ragone: “He’s going to move the chains for us and do some things that allow us to get in two tight ends as well. He’s very important in terms of what we’re going to be doing in the fall.”

Kelly on Eifert: “I had some good players at the other schools at that position, but he’s as good as I’ve coached. Now I’ve only coached Eifert. I really haven’t coached Rudolph yet and I hear he’s pretty good, too. But Eifert’s really a good player.”

Charley Molnar on Rudolph: “I think we have the best tight end in the country and in Michael Floyd we probably have one of the best wide receivers in the country. Those are great tools to have.”

CRYSTAL BALL:

For the Irish offense to be high octane, they’ll need a healthy Kyle Rudolph, something the Irish didn’t have as they collapsed down the stretch last season. Right now, Rudolph is a preseason All-American for the potential and ability he has, not necessarily for the numbers he’s put up in his two seasons. If there’s a player that’s forced himself into the limelight, it may be Tyler Eifert, someone many worried might not recover from a serious back injury. He’s pushed tight end Mike Ragone back to number three, where he’s battling true freshman Alex Welch, who was singled out for his great fall camp. That much depth is a nice problem to have if you’re offensive coordinator Charley Molnar. Also I expect multi-purpose weapon Bobby Burger to be utilized in some formations, either out of the backfield or attached to the line of scrimmage.

POSITION STRENGTH:

B+ The only proven commodity at the position is Rudolph, but if we’re to believe anything we’ve heard from the coaching staff, the depth — however untested it may be — could be the strength of the position.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.