Notre Dame will finish the rest of the season without one of its top offensive threats.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph will have season-ending surgery to repair a hamstring injury, coach Brian Kelly announced Tuesday.
Rudolph, who was slowed by a hamstring issue during fall camp, had battled the injury again the last couple of games and hit a breaking point in last weekend's 23-17 win over Pittsburgh.
"There was evulsion of both tendons on his hamstring. In other words, it came off the bone," Kelly said. "That's going to require surgery. Right now, his family is putting together who is going to do the surgery, the rehab, all of those things."
Kelly said the surgery will be done in the next few days, and the rehab process is typically six months. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior had 28 catches for 328 yards and three touchdowns this season.
This is the second consecutive season Rudolph, who entered the season as a potential first-round NFL draft choice, has been slowed by injury. He missed multiple games last season with a separated shoulder that required off-season surgery.
"He felt very good before the game," Kelly said. "Exertion caused the injury. He tried to play through it. We had to pull him out late. He's a courageous kid. He tried to fight through it. Unfortunately, it's led to him being sidelined for the season."
The Irish will turn to Tyler Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger standout who is dealing with a shoulder injury, Mike Ragone and Jake Golic to replace Rudolph.
"Certainly, you lose one of the best tight ends in the country," Kelly said. "One player is not going to stop what we do. It's a next-man-in philosophy for us."
Eifert hasn't played in the last two games because of a ligament sprain in his shoulder that occurred two weeks ago in practice, Kelly said.
The 6-foot-6, 242-pound sophomore will be listed as Notre Dame's No. 1 tight end for Saturday's home game against Western Michigan. Eifert has one catch for 17 yards this season and played in the first four games.
"It is a sprain that I think is different from what we see as, you know, the joint, the AC joint sprain." Kelly said. "This is more of a ligament sprain, which is very painful. It's a painful injury. More so than, 'Man, I can't move my arm' or 'I have no strength.' He has good strength. He has all of the things. This has been a management of the pain more than anything else."
Ragone is still playing catch-up in Notre Dame's offense after missing part of fall camp after suffering a heat-related illness.
He caught his first pass of the season, an 11-yarder, against Pitt last weekend, but he also dropped what looked like a sure first down late in the game.
"He just needs, you know, more playing time, in an offense that is obviously a bit different from what he's used to; you know, splitting out, being in different kinds of throws and different angles," Kelly said. "It's a departure for him.… He'll get a lot of work this week. I think he'll be a lot sharper with that work."
Kelly said he doesn't plan on needing to use freshman tight end Alex Welch this season.