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Last updated: Sat. Jan. 05, 2013 - 01:23 am EDT

Eifert presents unique challenge to Tide defense

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BCS

Notre Dame

vs. Alabama

When: 8:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Miami

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM, 107.3 FM

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Alabama hasn’t seen a tight end like Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert before.

At least that was the general consensus when Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart and five defensive players met with the media Friday to talk about Monday’s BCS championship game between No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) and No. 2 Alabama (12-1).

“The guy is a special player,” Smart said of the Bishop Dwenger graduate. “People don’t give this kid enough credit for his blocking ability. He blocks with great toughness and effort. He really forces you to play different defensively because he’s so multiple. And they do a great job as an offensive staff of managing their players and using their skill players in the right way. I mean, they put he and (running back Theo) Riddick on the same side, makes it hard to cover, they put them opposite and empty.

“They do a great job with what they do of getting No. 80 the ball.”

Eifert, a 6-foot-6, 251-pound senior, has a team-high 44 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s a great athlete, a guy that makes plays all over the field,” Alabama safety Robert Lester said. “It is just someone that you got to keep an eye on and locate when he is on the field or in different positions and play him.

“I don’t think we faced a tight end that can line up at receiver and play the receiver position as well as he does.”

Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said while there was no tight end that Alabama faced this year such as Eifert, the Mackey Award winner did remind Milliner of a former Southeastern Conference foe.

“He’s built a little like the receiver from South Carolina, Alshon Jeffery,” Milliner said, referring to the Chicago Bears receiver.

“Just that type of size and height.”

Milliner was a little off on his comparison between Eifert and Jeffery, as the former Dwenger star is three inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than the 6-3, 216-pound Jeffery.

But Milliner wasn’t any different from his coordinator and fellow defensive players in saying Alabama will have to keep tabs on Eifert on Monday night.

“He’s done every play for them,” Milliner said. “He can line up anywhere on the field, wide receiver, tight end; … he can even come out of the backfield.

“He’s just a great player for them to make plays for them. That’s the person on their team that they always look for to make plays in big-time situations. We are just going to try to keep his big plays to a minimum.” Alabama has kept big plays to a minimum this season.

The Tide has the sixth-best pass defense, giving up 166.2 passing yards per game, and it is the No. 1 overall defense, giving up 246 yards per game.

Opponents average 11 yards per catch, and the Tide has given up only seven passing touchdowns.

Eifert understands Alabama has a good defense, but he also believes every defense can be beaten at times.

“They’re not perfect. They are not Superman,” Eifert said.

“They are a really, really good defense. But they have their weaknesses, too.”

And as far as Alabama ever seeing someone like him, Eifert said …

“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”

tkrausz@jg.net


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