SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame is in search of its next great tight end.
Tyler Eifert, a former Bishop Dwenger star, is with the Cincinnati Bengals now after setting records for receptions (140) and receiving yards (1,840) by a tight end.
"I think as a whole, our offense will end up filling his shoes," junior tight end Troy Niklas said of making up for Eifert's absence.
Niklas moved to tight end last year after playing linebacker as a freshman.
He said playing a year behind Eifert taught him what it takes to play the position.
"He's just a freak, and the way he attacks his day is really impressive," Niklas said. "Just to kind of look to him as a mentor was awesome for me, because now I know how it's done and what it takes to get to that level."
As Niklas said, it will not fall on him to replace Eifert's production. Eifert had 50 receptions for 685 yards with four touchdowns last season, while Niklas had five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
It isn't even all on Niklas to replace Eifert at tight end. Senior Alex Welch is back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out last season, and junior Ben Koyack, who had three receptions for 39 yards, is back.
"Tyler's gone, we had all spring to get used to that," Welch said. "We are just trying to go out there and make plays. The tight end has to catch the football and block. That's what we are doing. We are doing whatever the coaches ask us to do."
Koyack said the tight ends are not focusing on the extra chances to catch passes with Eifert no longer with the team, and they are all helping each other get ready for the season.
"We are a pretty tight-knit group," Koyack said. "We are just going out there and trying to do what can. We are all trying to help each other out."