The first thing you need to know about Tyler Eifert is that he is a wide receiver and not a tight end.
The second thing you need to know about Tyler Eifert is that he is a wide receiver and not a tight end.
Look at the man in the red circle in these pictures:
This is not a TE.
And this is not a TE.
C'est n'est pas un TE
Will Tyler Eifert turn into a tight end after the jump? (LOL no)
Not a tight end, though he does actually motion into the backfield here!
Getting the picture?
Probably "Yes." by now, huh?
Well, if he isn't a TE, then what is he? Tyler Eifert is an abnormally tall wide receiver, and the team would do well to treat him as one. Everett Golson's 9 attempts to Eifert in about 3 quarters of work vs Purdue provide some pretty clear do's and don'ts against ND's most targeted wide out.
Eifert is lined up at the bottom of the screen.
The Purdue CB presses Eifert. A Purdue DT has hurled his guard aside.
CB continues to press but has lost leverage. Golson is getting drilled after he releases this ball.
The ball's in the air and the CB is still trying to be physical with Eifert. Unfortunately for Purdue, this player should really be turning his head to look for the ball, because Eifert already has.
Eifert is able to use his awareness, along with his size and strength to box out the Purdue defender from a fairly 'jump ball' type of throw for a big gain. This is a throw I might expect Adams or Dennard to be able to make a play on.
Eifert is at the bottom of the screen, the CB is playing 7 yards off the LOS.
Eifert runs a curl (his head is underneath the NBC peacock)
Golson delivers the ball, but Allen shows great closing speed to break up the pass (note: these soft 7 yard zones that infuriate most fans are what allow cornerbacks to jump routes like these for INTs and PBUs)
A better look at Allen's PBU.
Eifert's in the slot at the bottom of the screen.
Eifert is running a slant-and-go ('sluggo') route. This is the 'slant'. Golson has drawn the LB who's supposed to be covering Eifert with a pretty weak play fake, to be honest.
And this is the 'go'. This LB is burned crispy, but he's probably got safety help over the top, right?
LOL nope. He's WIDE open for the big gain. Nice play call by ND, good execution by Eifert and Golson.
Eifert is motioning at the top of the screen.
Note that (I think?) Ricardo Allen, the CB, is shadowing Eifert here.
Golson has a rusher on the way. Eifert is bracketed high-low with defenders.
The LB steps up to attack Golson, but Allen is still glued to Eifert.
Golson throws the ball anyways, and Allen breaks up the dangerous pass for no gain.
Eifert is the outside receiver at the top of the screen.
Eifert runs a deep curl.
but the QB's arm strength isn't quite enough to zing the ball in there before the CB can break it up.
Eifert is the iso'd receiver at the bottom of the screen.
Eifert is streaking in the bottom right corner. Golson is like, "Alright, single coverage! Let's do this thing!"
But, uh, that's double coverage.
Definitely double coverage. Fortunately for Notre Dame, these two DBs clunk together and screw up what should probably be an easy pick.
Eifert is solo at the bottom of the screen again.
Golson rolls out to his left and Eifert seems to be running a streak again.
but Eifert pivots in front of the corner, finding space and making the cross-field throw easier for Golson.
and Golson puts the ball right on the money. This is a great route by Eifert.
Eifert is the sole wide out up top.
Eifert is running down-field, matched up with a LB who is keeping pace.
But keeping pace is not the same as lock-down coverage. Eifert turns and makes an acrobatic grab over the linebacker.
A different look at a nice catch. The LB doesn't get his head turned to make a play on the ball.
Eifert is one-on-one at the top of the screen.
Golson puts the ball in the air while Eifert and the CB are battling, forcing the refs to do that, "Well, they're both interfering with one another, so we're just gonna not throw a flag" thing. The hope is Golson can put this ball in front of Eifert where only he can get it.
But it's juuuuuust a bit outside.
What can we draw from these plays?
1. Purdue's successful formula is replicable.
In situations where Eifert was matched up with a CB, Golson was just 2-7 for 44 yards with several dangerous throws.
Playing Eifert like Purdue did requires fast, physical corner backs, who are capable of playing both man and zone coverages competantly. Luckily enough, MSU has two of these.
2. Purdue's unsuccessful formula is avoidable
In situations where Eifert was matched up with a LB, Golson was 2-2 for 54 yards.
The line that a player is 'too tall for corners and too fast for LBs' isn't true of Eifert. He's not fast enough to get much separation, particularly from Norman or Allen, but he's tall, strong, has good body control, and runs good routes, and that's often enough. That's a particularly bad recipe for a defender who's not used to playing good pass coverage.
I'd prefer to see MSU stick a CB or safety on Eifert at all times, because on the two plays he was matched up on LBs he pretty easily gained about 60 yards.
3. Golson will throw to Eifert, even if it's a bad idea
Everett Golson forces, like, two or three throws out of these nine attempts that almost get picked off because he's throwing the ball to a blanketed Eifert, or to a route that the CB is sitting on. I'm not sure those are things he'll get away with against the MSU secondary.
4. Eifert will be moved around a lot
He'll line up in the boundary, he'll line up in the field, he'll line up in the slot, he'll even line up in the backfield. Seemingly the only place he won't end up is at the traditional tight end spot (I don't think he's much of a pass blocker, though his run blocking seems decent enough).
Whoever is responsible will want to closely track him to avoid mismatches. It's also notable that Kelly will call a play for Eifert and then call another pass to Eifert on the very next play, often working off of the tendencies instilled in a defense from the previous play.
5. Though Eifert's a big deal, don't ignore everyone else
Sometimes you'll want to roll double coverage towards Eifert, but don't forget about ND's other playmakers. DaVaris Daniels (targeted 10 times through 2 games) is averaging 19.8 yards per completion, and George Atkinson III is averaging 9.9 yards per carry on limited carries. Riddick, Wood, Niklas; ND isn't short on explosive offensive skill players. But if you can cover Eifert with a single defender (and Purdue proved you could, at least sometimes) that will free up an extra defender elsewhere, and that might make all the difference.
Eifert is a talent, but isn't really the type to cut-block Gholston on a pass play, then pancake Norman on a run play, and then go out for a 30 yard reception later on. He is basically just a really tall, talented, wide receiver, and Kelly likes to deploy him as such. If Dennard, Adams, and the safeties can 'play above their heights', I like our chances of slowing him down.