The third of 14 storylines as we approach the 2014 football season...
In the podcast following the Senior Day victory over BYU I blithely threw the thought out there that Troy Niklas might leave early for the NFL. Why did I say it? I don't even know. It crossed my mind but I didn't really believe it. Alstein disagreed (rightly I thought at the time, didn't we all?) that there was no way Niklas would bolt early.
On January 10th Niklas sent a small shockwave through the Notre Dame community by declaring for the NFL Draft.
So now Notre Dame heads into 2014 with only one tight end with any experience, senior Ben Koyack. The Oil City, Pennsylvania native was one of the highest rated recruits of the Kelly era as a Composite Top 50 National Player and while it may not be fair to say he's had a disappointing career Koyack has had a somewhat quiet career so far.
Koyack was thrown into the fire as a true freshman due to injuries on the depth chart and was forced to be a blocker (remember Michigan 2011?) before he was really ready, finishing the season in a role he wasn't comfortable in and with just 1 reception. Prior to 2012, Niklas converted to tight end and surpassed Koyack on the depth chart who was still playing a lot but only grabbed 3 more passes as a sophomore. Last year, Koyack took on his biggest role yet and made 9 out of his 10 season catches over the last 6 games of the season.
14 receptions, 215 yards, 3 touchdowns. Koyack has improved as a blocker since his freshman year and his size (6-5, 261) is about as good as it gets but those career numbers do leave a lot to be desired. His time has finally arrived in 2014. Koyack is the No. 1 tight end, enormously more experienced than the other tight ends, and primed to showcase his talent.
Will he emerge as one of the country's top tight ends and continue the legacy of primetime pass catchers at his position at Notre Dame?