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DETROIT – Thus far this pre-season, Notre Dame's returning All-American tight end Tyler Eifert has been put on the watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award (top offensive lineman or tight end), the Maxwell (top collegiate player) and the Mackey (top collegiate tight end) Awards.
You can now add to that honored list the Charley Molnar Award.
Molnar spent the past two seasons overseeing the Fighting Irish offense and is now the head football coach at the University of Massachusetts. He mentioned recently at the Mid-American Conference Media Day at Ford Field that he was of the opinion that Eifert was not just good, but spectacular.
“I really believed, even last season, that Tyler was the best tight end in the country,” Molnar said.
As a senior at Bishop Dwenger High School, Eifert was rated by one recruiting service as the 10th best prospect in just Indiana. Fast forward to today and he may be one of the top 10 prospects in all of college football.
“He has a unique blend of size and speed,” Molnar explained. “He is absolutely fearless going after the football. He runs like a wide receiver and has phenomenal hands.”
Wait, Molnar isn't finished with his assessment.
“Not only that, Tyler loves football,” Molnar continued.
So why did it take until an injury to former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph before anyone saw Eifert's potential?
Well, Rudolph was great in his own right for one thing. But a back injury early in Eifert's career also played a role in slowing his development. But Molnar explained that Eifert wasn't physically ready to perform like an All-American.
“We looked at him (at Dwenger) when we were (coaching) at Cincinnati,” Molnar explained. “To project him as a tight end, even at Cincinnati, we had our doubts.”
When Eifert signed with Notre Dame in February of 2009, he weighed just 220 pounds, but he reports to training camp on Saturday listed at over 250 pounds.
“We only saw him on film (at Cincinnati),” Molnar said. “But one of our coaches saw him at a camp and said 'No this guy can grow into a tight end.' But by then he had already moved on and committed to Notre Dame.”
As a junior last fall, Eifert led all tight ends in the FBS with 63 receptions and 803 receiving yards. Despite having to battle the legacies of multiple Notre Dame greats at that position, Eifert has already entrenched himself in the discussion as one of the all-time best at that spot for this program when he broke Notre Dame's record for most catches and receiving yards in a season by a tight end.
But Molnar said Eifert's level of excellence isn't limited to Saturdays.
“(Eifert) loves to practice,” Molnar said. “He loves to come out each and every day (and compete).”