Junior tight end Ben Koyack enters the 2013 season looking to find consistency and live up to his potential. Koyack will need to step up this season after underachieving in his first two campaigns as a member of the Irish or he will find himself buried on the depth chart.
Koyack came to Notre Dame as an Under Armour All-American and was ranked by some recruiting services as the number one tight end prospect in the 2011 class. Koyack was one of the prize recruits for the Irish in the 2011 class and was expected to continue the tradition of superstar tight ends at Notre Dame, unfortunately that has yet to happen.
Koyack spent the 2011 season primarily in a blocking role as Tyler Eifert carried the offensive load at the tight end position, totalling one reception for five yards. Koyack appeared in 12 games that year and started one, which created optimism he could expand his role in the 2012 season.
However, instead of expanding his role in 2012, Koyack’s role diminished. The Pennsylvania native struggled mightily blocking and former linebacker Troy Niklas excelled at his new position of tight end, forcing Koyack to third on the depth chart. Koyack tallied three catches for 39 yards while appearing in 12 games and starting one for the second consecutive season. Koyack’s performance was especially frustrating in a year in which most of the Irish roster was experiencing the best level of play in their careers.
Entering the 2013 season Koyack will backup Troy Niklas but will be on a short leash with plenty of talented and dependable players behind him. Senior Alex Welch comes off a knee injury that caused him to miss all of last season and will have a great opportunity to take Koyack’s job as he is a dependable blocker and steady receiver. Freshman Mike Heuerman and Durham Smythe will also put pressure on Koyack as both are very talented and possess the size to step into the college game immediately.
If Koyack can realize his potential he can make the Irish extremely dangerous in double tight end sets with both he and Niklas possessing the ability to stretch the field, as well as adding another weapon to the offense which will free up space for playmakers such as DaVaris Daniels and T.J. Jones to do damage.
Koyack has been named to the Mackey watch list largely based on reputation and the recent string of success Notre Dame tight ends have had. Niklas, also on the Mackey watch list, was a perfect fit at the backup tight end slot last season providing consistency and timely contributions in the passing game, if Koyack can do the same it will be a tremendous help to Tommy Rees to have another playmaker over the middle of the field to attack linebackers.