His Best Impression

Ben Koyack has perfected an impersonation of his position coach, Scott Booker. Irish fans, Booker, and Koyack himself will be pleased if the senior tight end instead mimics a continuous string of distinguished Notre Dame football alumni this fall.

Two in 42 is the answer.

The question: how many No. 1 Irish tight ends over the last 42 seasons have failed to play at least one season in the NFL?

It's been a nearly unbroken chain beginning with Hall of Famer Dave Casper in 1971 through (and technically pending) current rookie second-round selection Troy Niklas in 2013. Some switched to the position, some switched from it. But Tight End U continually puts players in position to play at the next level.

2014 starter Ben Koyack will likely follow in those hallowed footsteps next fall, and the senior insists he's already on par with his most recent predecessor Niklas in one respect -- the ability to work a room.

"I think people would honestly be surprised to find out I'm a similar way," said Koyack of Niklas' well-documented, ever-present humor. "Me and Troy were kind of a two-guy show in (tight end) meeting rooms last year. Troy would come in (to the media) and do it where I'm more of a quiet person around media outlets. But in a meeting room, I joke around."

Koyack offered he has a gift for impersonations, his most recent example is mimicking position coach Scott Booker. Koyack apparently authored a camp rendition that drew applause from the third-year tight ends tutor, but a more important impression, one that closely resembles the work of recent predecessors Niklas, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, and Anthony Fasano, is desired.

"He’s getting comfortable in the role of playing every single down," said Booker. "He’s not coming out of the game. (Playing) attached or detached and being in the backfield, all that type of stuff. He’s going to have to continue to be comfortable and perform at an elite level.

“You guys can see the improvement that Troy (Niklas) made from 2012 to 2013, you saw the improvement that (Tyler) Eifert made from 2010 when he took over for Kyle (Rudolph) and then in 2011 and 2012," Bookder added. "It really just takes game reps, and (Koyack's) a smart kid and he’s going to pick it up quickly. He’s played before. I don’t want to make it seem like he hasn’t played. He’s played and made key catches. He had a key catch against Pittsburgh down there, pass interference, and he got a key touchdown against Arizona State to get us started.

"So, he’s made key plays for us. It’s just a matter of key plays in and out, being the guy we depend on to work for us. And he will excel in that role.”

Booker will depend on Koyack for more than on field production. The senior is the unit's unquestioned voice at the position as well. He has to be -- no other member of the tight end quintet has played a college down. Two redshirt-freshmen and two true freshmen seek their first action this fall.

"This spring and really the last half of the spring, he realized looking around our group and realizing ‘Wow, there’s nobody else in our position group,'" said Booker. "He also looked at the offense as a whole. We can use him to be more of a vocal leader. Coach (Brian) Kelly talked to him a little bit about the role of a senior. That’s what our program does –- it prepares guys to be leaders, both with the Leadership Council and other stuff. So that’s the progression.

“I think in order to be great, you have to be able to multi-task. And to be a leader you have to be able to be the guy who’s doing everything he’s supposed to. And Ben does all that.”

The staff expects play commensurate with those that came before him.

"It's nothing we dwell on," said Booker of the position's legacy at Notre Dame. "I don't talk about it because we know it. They came here in part because of that reputation. It's standard operating procedure that you're going to play that position here, you have to be a diverse player who's an impact player for us."

After three seasons as an understudy, Koyack appears ready for prime time.

His best impression awaits.


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