Tyler comes in this year as the feature threat in a stagnant at best Notre Dame Offense. Standing 6 foot 6 and nearly 250 pounds, he brings prototypical size and strength to a weak Tight End class. As a True Freshmen, Tyler injured his back and was placed on a Medical red-shirt. He filled in part time in 2010 for another injured Fighting Irish Tight End in Kyle Rudolph and took advantage, pulling in 27 receptions for 352 yards and 2 touchdowns (11 total games played). Becoming the secondary target in 2011 only behind from Irish Receiver and First-Round pick, Michael Floyd, Tyler pulled in 63 receptions for 803 yards and 5 touch downs, playing in all 13 games and breaking the single season yardage and receptions record(s) for Tight Ends for an Irishmen (formerly held by Ken MacAfee). Tyler was also named a finalist for the Mackey Award in 2011, however did not win the award.
Size and Speed: As noted earlier, Tyler comes into his Redshirt Junior year as a 6’6 250 pound two way player (Receiving and Blocking). He shows prototypical size and strength for a hybrid Tight End. He uses his size to play both inline and also in the slot, where he can post up and off of defenders to keep position. Used more often inline, Tyler has well developed blocking skills and can use his size to stone and move defenders off the line and out of the play. Projected to run in the 4.78-4.82 range, Tyler doesn’t have break away speed, but does a good job of getting to top speed faster than other Tight Ends in the class.
Release: Given his position and other threats on the Irish Offense (previous years) whether he was lined up out wide or inline, Tyler was given a soft zone or off coverage where he had a clean release off the line. Tyler has shown he can play with and has the strength to get off a press, but doesn’t have the speed to break away and get open, the defender remains close by.
Route Running: Due to a more pro-style approach in philosophy, Tyler has a well developed and deep route tree. Tyler has shown he can break route and sit in the soft coverage in the defense. He runs several out routes a game, where he is called on to make a first down, and is able to capitalize. Tyler does a good job of using his size to block out and take the defender out of the play, however, doesn’t have the speed to break a big play.
Hands: Tyler has great hands and is one of his best qualities. He can catch in traffic and when he is open. However, he does struggle from game to game with mental lapses, where he will drop easy passes or will turn his head the wrong direction. Tyler does a good job of tracking the ball and can “high point it.”
Body Control and Traffic Ability: Tyler shows great body control and can make the tough catches will in traffic. While he doesn’t have the freak jumping ability, he is able to take it into the defenders and take the large hits in the middle of the field and in the end zone. Tyler struggles on occasion with turning himself the wrong way on the quick pass but will make up for it in going for every low or high pass, no matter how open the Quarterback leave his body open for the large hit. Tyler has shown time and again his toughness and determination in making the catch, and will put himself in a poor spot to make the play.
YAC: There isn’t much with Tyler. Like I have mentioned, he doesn’t have the speed or elite moves to shake a defender and break free. What he does bring is a sure catch and reliance to make the play at the appropriate place.
Blocking: Arguably the best blocker in the class, Tyler brings elite strength and technique to the inline position. He plays very similar to a Tackle, and can take on the edge rusher one on one, winning each battle. He does a great job of moving and sealing the edge (setting the wall) to spring the Irish ball carrier. Tyler utilizes his leverage to his advantage and can play on an “island”. Tyler keeps his head on a swivel and can move as the lead blocker, scanning and looking up field to put a helmet on a helmet. He gets to the second and third level very quickly and can move and block/pull the defenders from the play.
Final Word: Tyler comes into this season as the top rated Tight End prospect in the draft and a potential top-50 player. He is a mauling and intense player both in the run game (blocking) and in traffic (receiving). Tyler’s all around game resembles that of a former first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, Todd Heap. Tyler wont overly impress anyone with freak athleticism or speed, but will bring a complete game where he can be a 3 down player.