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Tyler Eifert hasn’t caught a single pass this season yet, but that doesn’t mean that expectations aren’t rocketing for the Bishop Dwenger High School graduate.
Eifert joined Notre Dame teammates (offensive tackle) Zack Martin and (linebacker) Manti Te’o as nominees for the 43rd Annual Rotary Lombardi Award on Tuesday.
The Lombardi Award is given annually to the nation’s top college lineman, linebacker or tight end.
As a junior last autumn, Eifert was named first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He also was recognized as a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and third-team All-American by both Rivals.com and Phil Steele.
Eifert has 90 career receptions for 1,155 yards and is tied with Kyle Rudolph for the fourth-most career receptions by a Notre Dame tight end. He ranks second all-time in receiving yards by a Fighting Irish tight end.
The senior needs just 39 receptions and 605 receiving yards to break Ken MacAfee’s school records for career catches and career receiving yards by a Notre Dame tight end.
In addition to the Lombardi Award, Eifert is also in the running for both the Maxwell (top collegiate player) and Mackey (top collegiate tight end) Awards.
He led all tight ends in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 63 receptions and 803 receiving yards last season and broke Notre Dame’s record for most catches and receiving yards in a season by a tight end.
Also being nominated for awards were Te’o and Fighting Irish wide receiver T.J. Jones.
Jones was nominated for the Biletnikoff Award, while Te’o has an opportunity for the Butkus Award.
The Biletnikoff Award is presented annually to the nation’s best wide receiver and the Butkus Award goes to the country’s top linebacker.
Jones has started 19 of his 25 career games and has recorded 61 catches for 672 yards and six touchdowns over his career. He has collected at least one reception in 23 of those games and enters 2012 with the third-most career receptions among active players and the most among the wide receivers.
Jones played in all 13 games and started 12 in 2011 and set career highs in both receptions (38) and yards (366). He also hauled in three touchdown passes.
Te’o has now been tabbed a candidate for the Bednarik (top defensive player), Nagurski (top defensive player) Lombardi and Butkus Awards, as well as highlights just about every preseason All-America squad. He led the Irish with 128 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He has collected 100 or more stops in each of the last two seasons.
Te’o became the 10th player in Notre Dame history to record 300 tackles for a career and currently ranks eighth in school history with 324 tackles.
Walter Camp, Rivals, Phil Steele, SI.com and Associated Press named Te’o a second-team All-American. He was named Capital One Academic All-America second team. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award and Lott Trophy in 2011.
In the case of Martin, who has already been named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, he has started all 26 games for Notre Dame over the last two seasons. The Bishop Chatard High School graduate has won the Guardian of the Year Award, which goes to the top Irish offensive lineman in each of the last two years.
In 2011, Martin had the highest grade of any offensive linemen and recorded the most snaps. He led the team in knockdown blocks, extra individual effort and allowed only one sack plus permitted the fewest defensive pressures.
Martin was a key component to an offensive line that improved its rushing attack by 33.8 yards per game from2010 to 2011. The Irish allowed only 17 sacks all season and yielded one sack for every 27.8 pass attempts.