SOUTH BEND – Credit John Goodman for his football scouting ability, he obviously has an edge over his Notre Dame teammate Tyler Eifert in that regard.
The two current Fighting Irish players have spent seven of the past eight autumns lining up near each other on the football field (both were teammates at Bishop Dwenger High School) and on Saturday in front of 80,795 fans, they did it again in glorious fashion, as both contributed in a 38-0 thrashing of Wake Forest.
Goodman (a 50-yard catch) and Eifert (a two-yard reception) each scored first quarter touchdowns, as the third-ranked Irish (11-0) jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back.
In the process of exorcising the Demon Deacons, Eifert became the most productive tight end in school history, as he caught his 129th pass (the record was 128 by Ken MacAfee).
“Yeah,” Goodman responded when asked if he ever envisioned this level of play from Eifert. “He’s such an athletic person. It just all came to him at the right time.”
It’s good that Goodman isn’t surprised by Eifert developing into America’s best tight end, because Eifert himself never saw that happening.
“Honestly no,” Eifert answered when asked if he ever envisioned reaching this level of play. “I just (wanted) to come in and contribute where I’m asked, be a good teammate, be someone that works hard, and just to be someone that is a good person to have on this team.”
Well then, he met his aspirations, because there isn’t anyone within the Irish program that doesn’t admire Eifert for what he’s achieved on the field, and doesn’t respect him for his humility off of it.
“In Tyler, looking at what he’s done, that’s amazing,” Goodman said. “To be one of his best friends, I think about it more from that aspect than rather just his teammate.”
Notre Dame has had 16 tight ends drafted into the NFL and not one has caught as many passes as Eifert. In addition to his receptions, he is now approaching MacAfee’s career yards record as well. With 50 yards against USC on Saturday, Eifert will hold that record as well.
But as amazing as Eifert is as a pass catcher (he had six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown on Saturday), it is his all-around skills that left Demon Deacon coach Jim Grobe impressed.
“What we find so often in tight ends is that they are one or the other,” Grobe explained. “They are either big guys who are really good blockers or they are undersized guys that can run and catch the football. (Eifert) is the perfect combination.”
Eifert has been dominant against most opponents over the past three seasons, and on Saturday he demonstrated his uniqueness against Grobe’s guys. The first attempt to have him catch a touchdown pass went awry as Irish quarterback Everett Golson overthrew him. So Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly called the same play again on the next play because he knew it would work eventually, as Wake Forest (5-6) had no answer defensively for Eifert.
“We tried to get (Eifert) the football and he made incredible plays,” Kelly said.
Eifert wrestled with the decision 11 months ago whether or not to turn pro and Kelly said his sticking with the program captures what Notre Dame is all about.
“Coming back, not going into the (NFL) Draft,” Kelly said, “coming back to get his degree says so much about the Notre Dame football player… but to also play at the level he’s played, to break the kind of records with the great tight ends that have been here at Notre Dame is an amazing feat.”