2013 review: Troy Niklas stepped in for Tyler Eifert and caught five touchdowns, all the while proving to be a solid blocker too. He learned how to leverage his 6-foot-7, 270-pound frame, boxing out defenders and becoming an excellent red zone weapon for Tommy Rees.
Ben Koyack's emergence was important, too, as his improvements as a blocker allowed Notre Dame to run plenty of two tight end sets throughout the season. Koyack caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns, too.
Departures: Troy Niklas, Alex Welch
Arrivals: Nic Weishar, Tyler Luatua
2014 outlook: Koyack returns as the only tight end with collegiate experience, though coaches and players raved about Durham Smythe during bowl practices. If the Belton, Texas native can add some weight over the next few months he could emerge as a viable pass-catching threat and possibly allow Notre Dame to go back to using two tight ends.
[UNIT BREAKDOWN: Quarterbacks]
Koyack will be counted on more as a pass-catcher, though he showed significant improvement in that area of his game in 2013.
X-Factor: Notre Dame hasn't been lacking at tight end in years. Kyle Rudolph gave way to Eifert, who gave way to Niklas. Recruits have noticed the tight end progression -- who can be traced all the way back to Anthony Fasano -- and want to play for the new Tight End U.
Despite Niklas' departure for the NFL, there's still plenty of talent on the depth chart with Koyack, Smythe, Heuermann and the two current verbal commits. And as the cliché goes: never bet against a streak.