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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Tyler Eifert is good, and the Boilers know it. They will game plan for him, which is what you do when you face an All-America, as Purdue will do with Notre Dame's senior tight end on Saturday night.
“They've got No. 80 (Eifert) all over the field,” Boiler defensive tackle Kawann Short says. “We have to keep an eye on him.”
Eifert has caught a pass in 21 straight games. No other tight end in America can say that. In last Saturday's 50-10 win over Navy in Ireland, the former Bishop Dwenger standout caught four passes for 22 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown.
Last year Eifert led the nation's tight ends in catches (63) and yards (803).
What makes him dangerous?
Everything, Purdue coach Danny Hope says.
“He's big and fast. He's a heck of an athlete. He's certainly one of the top players on the national level.”
Last year against Purdue Eifert caught four passes for 38 yards and a touchdown as the Irish won 38-10 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Hope tried recruiting Eifert to Purdue. It didn't work, even though Eifert's father, Greg, played basketball for the Boilers in the early 1980s.
“I remember we recruited him hard when he was a senior in high school,” Hope says. “We thought he would be an excellent tight end prospect. He was a developmental player. He needed to get bigger and stronger, and he certainly has. They do a great job of featuring him in their offense.”
In a lot of ways, the 6-6, 251-pound Eifert has become the big receiving target to replace Michael Floyd.
“Tyler Eifert is a great player and you want to get the ball in his hands,” Hope says. “Sometimes, when you're watching the film of Notre Dame, you're not sure whether he's a wide receiver or a tight end. So you have to get the depth chart back out and the roster back out and take a look.
“They have very big wide receivers. They're very, very big on the perimeter. They have lots of options and great players to get the ball to.”
Options include another former Dwenger standout, receiver John Goodman.
Purdue can counter with its own tight end talent in Gabe Holmes, Crosby Wright and Justin Sinz. They combined for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky.
“They have a good skill set,” Hope says. “Gabe Holmes is one of the top athletes I've ever coached at the position. Crosby Wright is one of the most low-rep players I've been around. It doesn't take a lot of instruction for him to do it right. He has a great football IQ. Justin has changed his body. He's a lot more athletic and become a lot more physical.”
Holmes and Wright lined up as receivers on some plays.
“We're not real big at the wide receiver position,” Hope says. “Our tight ends are very athletic. That allows us to flex them out and put them in position to be big receivers or big blockers on the perimeter. I like the idea that our tight ends are versatile and we can do anything we want with them.”