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.
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.”
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.
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.