Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert appears to be ready to make a big contribution this season. See today's story in The Journal Gazette.
The former Bishop Dwenger standout enters this season as the backup to Kyle Rudolph in coach Brian Kelly's spread offense, which is very tight-end friendly.
Last season, Cincinnati tight end Ben Guidugli had 27 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns, and Kelly has said he likes to use two-tight end sets.
"It's a great offense to be a tight end and we are used in a lot of different ways," Eifert said. "It's been a great time."
And more importantly, it has been a lot better time physically for Eifert, who came to Notre Dame last season with a nagging back injury he said he thought started while he was playing basketball at Dwenger.
Eifert said the pain never got so bad that he couldn't get out of bed, but he had to cut his freshman season short after appearing in only the fourth quarter of last year's season opener.
"It's not really an injury where I did something and I hurt my back," Eifert said. "Some days I could barely bend over and touch my thighs or my knees, and some days it felt great. It was just kind of nagging me. It was just something I just had to try to get better. It was sort of annoying."
Eifert had surgery in January to shave back a bulging disc in his back to relieve the pain, and after being somewhat limited in spring practice, he impressed the coaching staff during fall camp.
"Once that back issue cleared, we were able to get him stronger physically," Kelly said. "So what you saw previously was a young man that really couldn't be the kind of player he could be coming out of high school because of that back injury.
"He got stronger. He developed a toughness, fighting through some back stiffness in camp, and still answered the bell.
"He now can be as good as he wants to be. He has great size, can catch the football. He is good at the point of attack. I just think we are seeing a player that got over an injury and is now maturing in an offense that suits him pretty well."
Eifert will have plenty of friends and families in the stands at Notre Dame Stadium, especially for the home opener against Purdue.
Eifert's father, Greg, played basketball for the Boilermakers, and Eifert said he has numerous aunts, uncles and cousins who went to Purdue or are currently Purdue students.
"I'm just sick of getting asked for tickets," Eifert said.