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Niklas could add to Notre Dame's tight end legacy

Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas hasn't caught many passes so far in his career, but his receptions have made an impact.

The 6-foot-6, 270-pound junior has caught 12 passes with three of them resulting in touchdowns.

Niklas scored on a 20-yard catch in Saturday's 41-30 loss to No. 11 Michigan, and as the No. 21 Irish (1-1) get ready to play Purdue (1-1) this week, coach Brian Kelly said Niklas is in position to join the long list of successful Notre Dame tight ends.

"He can be that guy that can dominate at the line of scrimmage in the run blocking game; can vertically be an asset to any passing game," Kelly said Tuesday. "And I think what we saw was a guy that can catch the ball on those linebacker matchups at 5 to 7 yards and get you 10 to 12. I think that's what tight ends are born to do, and he's starting to show that.

"So, consistent improvement. He's still learning the game. Every day is a learning experience for him. I like his maturity. I like the way he's growing as a football player."

Niklas has seven catches for 142 yards with two touchdowns, including a 66-yard score in the season opener against Temple.

While the former defensive player-turned-tight end has a ways to go to join former Bishop Dwenger star and current Bengal Tyler Eifert, as well as the long list of former Notre Dame tight ends currently in the NFL, Kelly said it is possible that Niklas will follow in those footsteps.

"You know, I think success begets success, and you start to have it; and recruits look at it; and then we've done a nice job of featuring the tight ends within the offensive structure," Kelly said. "You know, you get one, and then it just starts to kinds of snowball a little bit. And it helps out that obviously you get a guy (like Niklas) that wanted to play tight end who is recruited as a defensive lineman. You get a little lucky along the way, too."