Despite lower numbers, Eifert wins Mackey Award

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Despite lower numbers, Eifert wins Mackey Award

Tyler Eifert led all FBS tight ends with 63 receptions for 803 yards in 2011, his junior season. He was a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, but didn't win it.

It turns out the second time was the charm for Eifert, despite 19 fewer receptions and 179 fewer yards heading into his final collegiate game. The Notre Dame captain won the 2012 Mackey Award, adding to the laundry list of honors Irish players and coaches have garnered following their 12-0 season and bid to the BCS Championship.

Most coaches and scouts have seen Eifert develop into a complete tight end this season, improving his draft stock while his quantifiable production dipped. Coach Brian Kelly threw the phrase "complete tight end" around a lot this year, and as the season progressed it became clear Eifert's coach wasn't just pumping his own player.

"This isn't about numbers this year," Kelly said in November. "This is about a guy that's developing himself as a complete tight end."

Eifert and Tommy Rees developed an outstanding connection in 2011, one which often carried over to Rees' spurts in relief of Everett Golson in 2012. But it took Eifert and Golson about two months to develop a chemistry, which finally showed in November. Of Eifert's 43 catches, 22 came in November.

"We're growing, he's a young quarterback, and he's getting better every day along with the rest of the guys," Eifert said earlier. "More time together has definitely helped."

Eifert technically has one year of eligibility left, but would be a longshot to return for a fifth year given his first-round draft stock.

"If you asked the guys at the next level about Tyler Eifert, they really don't care about how many balls he caught because they know he can catch the football," Kelly explained. "They're looking at other things that he's developed. He's going to find himself in a pretty good position in April."

Kelly nets coaching honor

Brian Kelly was named the 2012 Home Depot Coach of the Year, as selected by ESPN and ABC analysts. He's the first two-time winner of the award -- Kelly won it in 2009, his final season with Cincinnati -- and is the second Notre Dame coach to win the honor, joining Ty Willingham in 2002.

Kelly is also up for the Eddie Robinson Award, another top coaching honor voted on by the Football Writers Association of America. That honor will be announced Dec. 13.

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Carl Edwards Jr. couldn't dream up a better pitcher to try to emulate than Mariano Rivera.

Not for a young right-hander who is still getting used to being a reliever with a cutter as his bread and butter pitch.

After picking up his first career save late in 2016, Edwards mentioned how he has been watching video of Rivera. At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Edwards name-dropped Rivera again in response to a fan question and went into more detail with exactly what he's aiming to accomplish by watching Rivera tape.

Let's be clear: Mariano Rivera is inimitable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent and there almost assuredly will never be a better closer in Major League Baseball.

But Edwards knows that. 

"He's great. He's a Hall of Famer," Edwards said. "He goes out there like he has the world in the palm of his hand. He's very competitive; I've never seen him back down. That's one [takeaway] for myself — I'm gonna go out and never back down.

"I don't really get into trying to be like him. I just look more into how he goes about his business. That's something that I can control — how I go about my business."

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Cubs coach Mike Borzello was there with Rivera in 1997 when the now-legendary cutter was born.

It's not fair to compare Edwards' cutter to one of the greatest pitches ever, but his version is pretty nasty in its own right:

The Cubs are still searching for long-term answers in the rotation, but don't have any intentions of moving Edwards back to a role as a starter.

Like Edwards, Rivera began his career as a starting pitcher coming up through the Yankees system. But Edwards actually has a leg up on baseball's all time saves leader: Edwards' first save came in his age 24 season while Rivera didn't tally his first save until age 26 in New York.

Edwards also struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2016 while Rivera never posted eye-popping whiff totals (a career 8.2 K/9 rate).

As Edwards gets set for what he and the Cubs hope will be his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, his maturation will be important in an age of baseball where relief pitchers have never been more valued.

Rivera pitched in the playoffs nearly every year, routinely working more than one inning and posting ridiculous postseason numbers: 0.70 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 42 saves while taking home the World Series MVP in 1999 and ALCS MVP in 2003.

The Cubs hope Edwards will be pitching in the postseason on a regular basis, too.

For now, the 25-year-old is still reveling in the glory following the 2016 Cubs championship.

He served as honorary drummer at the Carolina Panthers game in November.

"That was pretty amazing. That's a highlight of my offseason," Edwards said.

He grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite being a South Carolina native, but Edwards said he did get a pair of Cam Newton cleats to wear for 2017 when he and Cubs teammates like Addison Russell or Matt Szczur throw the football around in the outfield to get loose.

Edwards was also blown away by the reception from Cubs fans at the Convention — "This is my third year and every year as been better" — but still hasn't fully wrapped his mind around the ending of the 108-year drought.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks when I have a break, I can sit down and soak it all in."

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, for the first time ever in our “Viewers’ Choice” poll, we will have girls basketball as our focus:

Warren at Lake Forest, 7:00pm

Glenbrook South at Maine South, 7:00pm

Vernon Hills at Maine West, 7:30pm

Poll opens Monday at 12:00pm and closes Thursday at 4:00pm. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

**Follow @CSNPreps on Twitter.

**Note the “pinned Tweet” atop the @CSNPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.

**Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @CSNPreps just after 4pm Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other basketball news, scores and highlights this season.