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Tight end issues

Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph's statistics are about what you would expect from an All-American candidate.

Rudolph has 28 catches for 328 yards with three touchdowns, but in the last couple of games, you could tell something is holding him back.

Rudolph, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury since fall camp, was not on the field for Notre Dame's final drive in Saturday's 23-17 win over Pittsburgh, and coach Brian Kelly said it might be time to give the tight end a break.

"I think that we all know that he is struggling out there," Kelly said Sunday. "He is trying to play and help his football team, and he is not 100 percent. He is a tough kid who wants to help in any way he can.

"We just want to see him get better. If that means we have to shut him down, we will shut him down. We haven't made that decision yet, obviously, because that is something we will decide during the week. Clearly he is not at 100 percent, and if he can't go, hopefully, Tyler Eifert is at a position now physically where he can help us out with (Mike) Ragone."

Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger standout, has been talked up by the coaching staff all season.

He gained Kelly's confidence during fall camp with Rudolph and Ragone, who suffered a heat illness and missed time before the season, limited and was seeing playing time early.

Eifert, who has one catch for 17 yards, isn't in top shape either as he is dealing with a shoulder injury.

"We got to get him ready this week," Kelly said. "It is one of those things where he's just got to manage it a little bit better. I think going into seven weeks, nobody is 100 percent. We got to get him out there."

Ragone has started playing more in the last couple of games, and he caught his first pass of the season against Pitt, an 11-yarder.

But the senior did drop what looked like a sure first down with 1:52 to play that could have iced the game against the Panthers.

"He hasn't played a lot, and it showed," Kelly said.