In the past 8 years the Irish have seen their fair share of great tight ends. Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert are all in the NFL. After relying on Eifert heavily last season Notre Dame will be looking for Troy Niklas to step up.
The 6-6 270 pound Niklas worked as a compliment to Tyler Eifert and started in seven games. Niklas had just 5 receptions and one touchdown as a sophomore.
More important than his stats last season was the experience he gained from watching Eifert. Troy described Eirfert as a "freak" in the way he attacked his day and prepared for games, something he hopes to emulate now.
"Just being able to look at him as a mentor was awesome for me because now I know what it takes to get to that next level," said Niklas
In coach Brian Kelly's eyes Niklas was a little rough around the edges in 2012. Saying that in order to be a great tight end you must be able to catch the ball but also be a really accomplished inline blocker. Kelly described Niklas as just "okay" in both of those categories last year.
This season things seem to be different according to coach. "We are seeing an improvement in this big young man at the tight end position every day and it is pretty exciting."
Niklas says he is also noticing the changes, saying "I think I have made strides everywhere. I think coming in I had the physical ability but I didn't have the technique with blocking. I was naturally pretty good at catching the ball but I would cut my route at 10 yards instead of 12 yards. I think the things I have improved on is those minor details."
Irish fans will get their fist good look at the tight end August 31st when Notre Dame hosts Temple at 3:30 pm.