Nic Weishar came to Notre Dame as a four-star recruit, but someone who needed to add weight before he could be considered a legitimate option in the Irish offense.
The Midlothian, Ill. native played basketball in addition to football at Marist High School, so he didn’t really have an opportunity to aggressively weight train before coming to South Bend. When Notre Dame announced its 2014 signing class, Weishar was listed at 215 pounds — weight that works for a boundary-side wide receiver, but not a tight end.
“I tried to get in the weight room when I could but I couldn’t focus as much time and effort as I needed to and wanted to,” Weishar said. “The big difference was just finally doing it, spending a lot of time day after day in the weight room.”
Weishar redshirted last fall and gradually added what he estimated to be 15-20 pounds to his frame. By Notre Dame’s measurements, it was more — Weishar is listed at 241 pounds on the team’s official roster, up 26 from February of 2014. He studied run blocking technique, too, knowing he’d need to improve as a blocker to see the field in 2015.
[ND CENTRAL: Notre Dame season preview: Questions loom at tight end]
It’s all added up to Weishar firmly planting himself in the middle of Notre Dame’s crowded tight end depth chart heading into Sept. 5’s primetime season opener against Texas.
“We knew he was a pass-catcher,” coach Brian Kelly said. “He was prolific in high school, he caught everything. … It was in-line blocking that was going to be the question and whether he could put on the weight necessary to compete right away. He had a terrific offseason in putting on the weight and getting stronger in the weight room. He’s still got a ways to go, but he’s got to the point where that coupled with a toughness and a resolve that he’s put himself right in the mix here to play a lot for us.”
Weishar is in the group of tight ends designated as strong pass catchers, which also includes redshirt sophomore Durham Smythe and freshman Alize Jones. With Smythe and Jones banged up at times during preseason camp, Weishar took plenty of first-team reps and showed himself to be a difficult red zone matchup given his height (he’s 6-foot-5) and athleticism.
Tight ends coach Scott Booker said Weishar’s ability to catch contested throws is similar to that of some of Notre Dame’s previous top tight ends.
“That’s one thing from tight ends you’ve seen since we’ve been here, Kyle Rudolph, Tyler (Eifert) for three years, Troy (Niklas) for a year, Ben (Koyack) for a year — being able to catch contested balls with a linebacker draped on you, with a safety draped on you over the middle, that type of stuff,” Booker said. “Nic has shown the ability to do that so far. He showed that on his film in high school, he’s showing that now in fall camp and he needs to continue to show that.”
Between Weishar, Smythe, Jones, sophomore Tyler Luatua and graduate student Chase Hounshell, Notre Dame doesn’t have an obvious No. 1 tight end or pecking order on its depth chart. There isn’t a lone successor to the Rudolph-Eifert-Niklas-Koyack lineage, and only one of the five current tight ends (Smythe) has a catch at the college level.
[SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear]
Combined, though, Weishar feels he and his fellow tight ends can still be an effective group.
“I don’t necessarily think we need that clear-cut star just because we have so much depth at the tight end position,” Weishar said. “As a unit, our goal is to just to be able to give coach Kelly and the offensive coaches the confidence that they can put as many tight ends in the game as they need to and want to. So that’s our goal, just to try to keep working hard to prove that we can get as many tight ends on the field as we need to.”