Few positions have evolved over the years in the game of football more so than tight end. The classic tight end was primarily an in-line blocker who could occasionally catch a short pass and break a few tackles.
The great tight ends of the ‘80s and ‘90s, however, such as Ozzie Newsome, Shannon Sharpe and Kellen Winslow, were primarily receiving tight ends who blocked only out of necessity. The position changed further in recent years, thanks in large part to Stanford at the college level and the New England Patriots in the NFL. The tight end has now become a legitimate downfield option, often times a team’s primary deep threat.
Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert fits the new-age tight end mold exemplified by former Stanford star Coby Fleener and current Patriots Pro Bowler Rob Gronkowski. Eifert, a senior, turned down the NFL after the 2011 season to return to South Bend for a final college season and to improve his stock for next year’s NFL draft (he's eligible for a fifth year in 2013, but a return is unlikely).
He was a finalist for the Mackey Award last year, given to the nation’s top tight end, but Clemson’s Dwayne Allen took home the trophy. Allen, as well as finalist Orson Charles (Georgia), are off to the NFL, and Eifert finds himself as the unquestioned best tight end in the nation.
How did a little-used sophomore in 2010 become the best in the country at his position in just over one full season? Let’s take a look at what makes Eifert such a valuable weapon for the Irish.