Back in the Lou Holtz era, people following Notre Dame closely would often say “why don’t they throw to the tight ends more?” That will certainly not be an issue this year as ND can boast of Kyle Rudolph, a 6-6 265 lb junior from Cincinnati. Of the eight semifinalists for the 2009 John Mackey Award (nation’s top tight end) he was the only sophomore, and of those eight semifinalists, he’s the only one who returns in 2010. So it’s safe to say he’s the early favorite for the award this fall.
“Kyle is certainly a gifted athlete, not only athletically as far as his ability to run and catch the football and block, but he has an understanding of the game of football that I think is very advanced. There are very few things you can throw in Kyle Rudolph’s direction that he isn’t prepared for therefore, making him a pretty valuable guy to have.”
Shoulder surgery limited Rudolph in the spring and summer, but as a freshman in 2008, he set school rookie receiving records, and also became the first Irish freshman ever to start every game at tight end. At Media Day I asked Rudolph what he’s working on to take his game to the next level.
“Technique, you can’t substitute technique for anything, especially in the run game, and being able to perfect my blocking in the run game will allow me to play a bigger part in our game,” he responded.
“It (tight end) really is a multi-faceted job, especially in the scheme that we run,” said Denbrock.
“They have to be physical as an offensive lineman in the run game and have to be able to get out in space and create plays as a wide receiver. I think it’s a position that is a lot of fun to play in our offensive system. I think the guys take on the challenge of being physical when they need to be and having the ability to make big plays.”
In addition to football, Rudolph was a very accomplished basketball player in high school. I asked him if we’ll see those skills in action this fall. Will we see Rudolph “posting up” opposing linebackers/defensive backs?
“Every once in awhile you’ll see basketball stuff. For me it was all about competing, and taking my competitiveness to the football field.”
Rudolph isn’t the only Irish tight end who is expected to hear his name called on NFL Draft day. 6-4, 245 pound senior Mike Ragone is also on the pro scouts’ radar.
“Both Mike and Kyle possess the ability to run really well for their size,” Denbrock said. “Mike’s a very physical blocker, very good in the run game. They’re similar in a lot of ways, but they each have their own individual things that they bring to the table.”
Written by Paul M. Banks, president and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest-focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network and Fox Sports.com
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