Eight times an Irish tight end has led the team in receiving over the last 37 years. John Carlson (2007), Pete Chryplewicz (1996), Mark Bavaro (1984), Tony Hunter (1982), Dean Masztak (1979) and Ken MacAfee (1975-77) all hold that distinction, and there’s a good possibility senior Tyler Eifert will be the next to join that group.
Tyler Eifert is on pace to break several career tight end records at Notre Dame in 2012
It’s a statistic that doesn’t necessarily translate to success, however. Notre Dame had a combined 59-34-1 record (.633 winning percentage) in those seasons. The Fighting Irish did post an 11-1 record in 1977 and won the national title after beating top-ranked Texas, 38-10, at the Cotton Bowl.
Based on Eifert’s 4.8 receptions per game in 2011, the senior will break Ken MacAfee’s career record of 128 catches in the eighth game of the year on Oct. 27 at Oklahoma. He needs nine touchdown receptions to break MacAfee’s career mark of 15 and 604 receiving yards to top MacAfee’s record of 1,759. If Eifert were to average 61.8 yards per game for the second consecutive season, he’d claim that record in the 10th game of the 2012 campaign at Boston College on Nov. 10.
Clemson’s Dwayne Allen claimed the 2011 Mackey Award, an honor given to the nation’s top college tight end. He was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round (64th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. Though he finished with nearly 200 fewer receiving yards than Eifert (803), Allen pulled in eight touchdown passes to Eifert’s five. He also played in 14 games, while Eifert and Notre Dame competed in 13 contests.
Worth noting is that Allen was allowed time to rest with Brandon Ford behind him. Ford caught 14 passes for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season in preparation for the starting role in 2012.
Following Eifert’s 63 receptions for 803 yards were a combined three catches for 23 yards by the rest of Notre Dame’s tight ends. Fifth-year senior Mike Ragone caught one pass for 10 yards, sophomore Alex Welch snagged on pass for eight yards and freshman Ben Koyack added one catch for five yards — none for scores.
Georgia’s Orson Charles, the other Mackey finalist along with Eifert, had 45 catches for 574 yards and five touchdowns. In relief, the Bulldogs had ample trust in senior Aron White, who finished last year with nine receptions for 101 yards and four scores.
After lining up as a reserve outside linebacker as a freshman in 2011, which included 20 tackles, Troy Niklas has moved back to his recruited position of tight end for the Irish this year. The last time Niklas played that position was as a junior in 2009 at Servite High in Fullerton, Calif., when he caught 16 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns.