Apr 12, 2011, 5:11 PM EDT
The eighth of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. For more, check the previews of Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, Theo Riddick, Steve Filer, and Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Entering last season, Tyler Eifert wasn’t on anybody’s radar. Eifert only suited up against Nevada as a freshman before suffering a major back injury that had many curious if he would ever recover. But when All-American candidate Kyle Rudolph went down with an injury it was Eifert that stepped quickly into his place, becoming an immediate threat in the passing game with his route-running ability, speed, and hands.
Eifert’s 27 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns nearly replicated Rudolph’s stats from six games, with Tyler averaging 1.3 yards more per catch than Kyle, something just about nobody saw coming when they looked at the tight end depth chart heading into the season.
If you’re looking for someone that embodied Brian Kelly’s “Next Man In” mantra, look no farther than the Fort Wayne product.
In the six games that Rudolph played in, Eifert had only one catch for 17 yards. With Rudolph out, Eifert stepped in almost seamlessly, putting up an impressive stat line that included:
Western Michigan: 4 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD
Navy: 4 catches, 42 yards
Tulsa: 5 catches, 61 yards
Army: 4 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD
USC: 3 catches, 36 yards
Miami: 4 catches, 31 yards
Only once did Eifert not make three or more catches, and that was in the Irish’s 28-3 thrashing of Utah. While Rudolph’s loss obviously was a large setback for the offense, Eifert and Rees quickly clicked, opening up a great vertical game that was at its best in Yankee Stadium, where Eifert caught a touchdown and was ruled just short of a second on his way to 78 yards on four catches.
100 word preview for Tyler Eifert in 2011:
Elite tight-ends keep flowing out of South Bend and it looks like Tyler Eifert will continue a wonderful trend for the Irish. If 2010 had many fans wondering who No. 80 was, 2011 will see coaching staffs doing their best to keep Eifert in check. With Kyle Rudolph deciding to head for the NFL, Rudolph now takes over as the weapon of the position, with Mike Ragone providing the muscle inside and Alex Welch and Jake Golic fighting off incoming freshman Ben Koyack. There’s every reason to expect Eifert to be just as heralded as Rudolph, and probably much more dangerous.
Importance in 2011:
Putting Eifert and Ragone on the field allows the Irish to get physical at the point of attack in the running game as well as put two quick-footed tight ends into the passing game, creating plenty of mismatches in the creases of the defense.There’s every reason to believe that Eifert’s poised to have a monster statistical season, at a position group that’s probably one of the roster’s deepest.