With Notre Dame tight ends Kyle Rudolph (hamstring) and Mike Ragone (heat illness) either limited at practice (Rudolph) or sitting out (Ragone), former Bishop Dwenger star Tyler Eifert has gotten the chance to play more.
Coach Brian Kelly reached into baseball's history to describe Eifert's current practice situation.
"Wally Pipp. It's Wally Pipp," said Kelly, referring to the former Yankees first baseman who sat out one day because he was sick allowing Lou Gehrig to begin his streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games.
While there is little chance the Rudolph will become the Wally Pipp of Notre Dame tight ends, Eifert is taking advantage of his opportunity to show his ability.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound sophomore worked with the first-team offense Friday.
"There really isn't a whole lot different between the ones and twos, there isn't a big leap in talent," Eifert said. I mean we are a well rounded team. It's just been a good opportunity."
Eifert could have more opportunities to play this season in the Irish's new spread offense, which plays well into his ability with the tight end getting a little more space to operate in then the pro-style offense Notre Dame was using.
"Obviously, he has that type of ability," tight ends coach Mike Denbrock said. "You want to try to find a place for guys like that to play. He's got his opportunity now. Obviously we are in a situation depth-wise right now where he is getting a lot of work. He needs every rep he can get and all the experience he can gain here."
Just as important as Eifert's opportunity to get more work in now is the strides he has made since a back injury stopped his season midway through last year.
Denbrock said Eifert has become a more physical player who can be counted on in blocking situations, and it appears offseason back surgery has all but eliminated concerns that Eifert will be slowed physically.
"He has not had to miss any time or sit out of any practice reps at this point. We are optimistic of being over that hurdle," Denbrock said. "He's got a lot more learning to do. I think he would be the first one to tell you that. Every rep he takes when they change the look and throw him a curve ball, he doesn't react quite as fast as he needs to from time to time. That's natural for somebody who has missed some time and is trying to catch up. But he is doing some really good things. I look forward to some really good football out of him."
For more on Eifert and his fellow former Bishop Dwenger teammate John Goodman, check out The Journal Gazette's print and on-line editions Sunday.