SOUTH BEND – Tyler Eifert is on the radar of Notre Dame football fans, award presenters, National Football League scouts, but most importantly, his coach.
“We've got four established playmakers,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said, “with Michael Floyd, Tyler Eifert, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. So to have four established playmakers … that makes you feel pretty good about where you are.”
A year ago, Eifert was in the shadows of anonymity. He was one of several reserve tight ends simply waiting for an opportunity to take a few snaps when All-American Kyle Rudolph needed a break. Entering camp this year, Eifert is a candidate for several national awards and is being counted on to be an offensive force for the Fighting Irish.
“Just because I'm on preseason (award) lists, you still have to prove yourself,” Eifert said. “Those really mean nothing as of right now.”
Eifert began to shine when Rudolph suffered a season-ending injury and the Bishop Dwenger graduate was inserted into the starting lineup for the final eight games. He emerged as a reliable target for freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, who replaced starter Dayne Crist for the final four games after Crist was injured. Eifert finished the year with 27 catches for 352 yards, which ranked third on the team.
“Tyler's playing with so much more confidence,” Crist said. “I think that just came from him being able to play in games.”
After his strong sophomore season a year ago, Eifert has been recognized nationally and placed on the pre-season watch list for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the top tight end in the country. At 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, Eifert has a unique combination of strength, athleticism and glue-like hands, all of which make him an intriguing pro prospect. This summer, Eifert made a concerted effort to get stronger, but still recognizes the need to be agile enough to be a receiving threat.
“I tried to get in shape the best I could,” Eifert said. “I put on some weight and got stronger. But that was along with keeping my (football) skills.
Eifert spent two days each week working through 7-on-7 drills with his teammates, and that drive has helped him enhance his stature on this year's squad.
“He's a leader amonghis unit (of tight ends),” Crist said. “He knows now that he can go out and make some plays that maybe he wasn't sure he could make at this point last year.”