The official announcement that Kyle Rudolph will forgo his senior season at Notre Dame and enter the NFL draft was positive and negative for Tyler Eifert.
The former Bishop Dwenger star took over as the starting tight end for the Irish when Rudolph's junior season was cut short by a hamstring injury. Eifert performed well enough to be the presumed starter this season, but Greg Eifert, Tyler's fahter, said his son and Rudolph had formed a strong bond in their two years as teammates.
"In practices and in the game, he was always talking to Ty and helping him with stuff," Greg Eifert said of Rudolph. "Just really, really helpful.
"Ty even said to me, I think it was back around Thanksgiving time, 'Hey Dad, I really hope that Kyle stays.' I said, 'You do?' And he says, 'Yeah, I really don't want him to go. I would really like to have him back there next year.' "
It wasn't just Tyler Eifert who formed a good relationship with Rudolph. The two tight ends' families also became close.
"We can't say enough good things about Kyle and what he has done for Tyler since he's been there," Greg Eifert said. "As far as, taking him under his wing and helping him understand both Charlie Weis' system and this new system they put in this past year with Coach Kelly."
Eifert was Notre Dame's fourth leading receiver – behing Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick and Rudolph – this season.
The 6-6, 242-pounder had 27 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns, starting in eight of 11 games including the last seven after Rudolph was injured.
"I think he has definitely grown up a lot as a person this year and a football player," Greg Eifert said of his son. "Something I was talking with somebody just the other day about was the fact that they did play him in so many different positions. I don't think people realize to be playing as a fullback or to be playing as a wideout and then be lined up as a motion tight end that those are all three or four different positions within the offense. For somebody to be able to grasp all of that is not an easy chore to do. I think that says a lot about how he has been able to take on this new system from Kelly and really understand it. And understand the different positions and the entire game. I think he has been very smart about that as far as trying to understand that whole offensive scheme that he has. I think that has been to his benefit.
"As far as his play, I think that kind of speaks for itself. I think he's done overall a pretty good job. I never really played football, so I'm sure there are areas for improvement. Overall, I think it was a good year for him. Especially, when you consider he was playing as a freshman as far as eligibility wise."
Eifert's ability to fill in for Rudolph, who had 28 catches for 328 yards and three touchdownst his season and leaves with 90 career receptions for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns, eases the loss of the tight end.
Notre Dame also has fifth-year Mike Ragone (three catches, 32 yards), sophomore Jake Golic, freshman Alex Welch and oral commitment Ben Koyack in the mix.
"When you look at the two that are looking at leaving, which would be Kyle and Floyd, it's definitely going to be a lot more difficult to fill Floyd's shoes, just because of his stature," Greg Eifert said. "(Floyd) is just so big and strong. Not that I don't think that Johnny (John Goodman) and TJ (Jones) and some of the other guys aren't going to do a great job, but filling Floyd's shoes is going to be a lot more difficult because they haven't had to do that this year as much.
"They have been able to see that Tyler can fill in for Kyle, and that they will be OK there at the tight end. I think with Welch will see some time next year, and I think Ragone, hopefully they will offer him a fifth year. He can help them out as well. I think they will be pretty well set there at the tight end."