Monday, October 17, 2011
Bye week grades: tight ends
By Matt Fortuna
Summary: What more can you ask for from a group that has been forced to play a true freshmen and a sophomore who had never seen game action following another ACL tear from fifth-year senior Mike Ragone? The starter isn't too shabby, either. Tyler Eifert is second on the team in catches (32) and receiving yards (363) and is tied for second in receiving touchdowns (three). Eifert is fourth among tight ends nationally in receiving yards and even garnered midseason first-team All-America honors from Phil Steele.
Eifert is as reliable a target as you will find, and he has been huge for the Irish on third downs this season. The junior's bond with Tommy Rees is evident each and every week, and it seems defenses always forget about him over the middle, something that has proven to be a big mistake time and time again. Eifert has done a tremendous job building off last season, when he was forced to start the final seven games after Kyle Rudolph went down with a season-ending right hamstring injury.
The backups: Ragone was a senior leader known for his blocking, something tough to replicate as a first- or second-year player. But freshman Ben Koyack and sophomore Alex Welch have done a solid job so far. Ragone himself has done everything he can to contribute off the field, traveling with the team to road games and acting as an extra coach on the sidelines for the young group.