Reviewing the Redshirts is an off-season series meant to resurrect discussion around the current Irish freshmen who did not play in 2014.
There were 11 players this past year who retained a year of eligibility and today we take a look at a growing pass catching tight end looking to carve out some minutes in 2015.
TE, Nic Weishar
Hometown: Midlothian, Illinois
247Sports COMPOSITE RANKING:
4-star, No. 7 TE, No. 9 IL, No. 247 USA, 0.9037 Score
Need at Position: Medium-to-Low
Expected Spot on 2015 Depth Chart: Fourth String
Weishar is in an interesting spot heading into his second year on campus. Before we get into it here's what I had to say about the Illinois tight end following National Signing Day last year:
As a receiving tight end he looks to have great ball skills. He makes a lot of catches by simply being bigger than everyone else in high school but it's great to see a tall kid with that much hand-eye coordination. I like his speed but I'm not blown away by it. He might be sneaky fast with a long stride, though. That's something to keep in mind. His frame seems perfect for what Notre Dame is looking for out of a tight end: tall but still skinny with plenty of room to add muscle. We'll see how his strength holds up early in his career. That'll be his biggest knock but that's not any different than 99% of high school tight ends. He has the look of someone who is going to be a factor on the field in his second year.
The common theme with Weishar when he signed last year was his ability to catch the ball and his need to put on weight. Irish head coach Brian Kelly pulled no punches during his NSD press conference last year calling Weishar 'the finest pass catching tight end that we saw' and that he'd have a 'great career here at Notre Dame.' Even in an arena during the NSD presser where hyper-positive talk about freshmen flows freely that's still impressive accolades from Kelly.
However, he mentioned a need for better strength and size too. Rivals, 247, and Scout all pegged Weishar at 230, 233, and 235 pounds respectively. Even if you are well over 6 feet tall it's not easy to get up to that weight with skinny chicken arms and not a very muscular physique. ESPN had Weishar at 210 and when he was introduced during last year's National Signing Day, Notre Dame put him at 215 pounds.
The good news is that Weishar is making progress and looks a little bigger now. By the time last August rolled around he was listed at 237 and came into this spring ball at a healthy 241 pounds. That current number could be a little inflated but at least the days of looking like a basketball player are in the past.
Kelly said Nic Weishar continues to get bigger and stronger, very impressive pass catcher, just needs to get stronger and bigger still
— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 25, 2015
There isn't a ton of experience at tight end, especially in Weishar's wheelhouse of catching passes. As such, you wouldn't be completely insane to envision a big leap and a decent role for Weishar this fall. However, when Kelly mentioned his progress earlier this spring the size/strength issue came up yet again.
While there have been some positive things said about Weishar during the media viewings he's clearly third in line right now behind Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua. Furthermore, the only thing that may hold back incoming No. 1 tight end Alize Jones is a lack of ideal college size and according to Jones it looks like he's mitigating that factor as much as possible.
Kelly said Nic Weishar is a talented pass catcher that is getting bigger and stronger. "I think he's going to be a really good TE for us"
— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) April 8, 2015
This week Kelly mentioned Weishar in his Wednesday post-practice press conference and brought up the size and strength again. Still, Kelly could just as easily leave it at that and no one would worry too much about the progress of a redshirt freshman, but he keeps saying Weishar is going to be good. In this situation I tend to believe what Kelly says.
Nevertheless, some long-term patience may be required with Weishar. He may end up being a very good tight end, as Kelly says, but absent injury he's likely to be stuck behind Smythe until 2017 as the starting tight end and I'm not sure he'd start over senior Alize Jones in 2018 either. Obviously, injuries can open the door to more playing time but for now I think Weishar's future is one as a highly valued backup.