Nic Weishar has faced much bigger challenges than a fight for playing time.
As a junior at Marist High School on the south side of Chicago, Weishar lost his brother Andrew after a multi-year battle with colon cancer. Andrew died on a Friday morning in October, hours before Marist’s rivalry game against Benet Academy. In a losing effort, Weishar made 13 catches for 133 yards, looking every bit like a future Notre Dame tight end.
He committed that next spring.
Now a full year into his Notre Dame career, Weishar will battle in training camp to separate within a tight end field that’s, well, tight. The entire position has one career catch to its name. It also has more four-star talent than it can use. Where Weishar slots into that mix in August could shape the rest of his career.
Weishar is next in Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z series.
Weishar holds off Alize Jones while Durham Smythe develops into a better blocker than Tyler Luatua. That combination makes Weishar the clear No. 2 tight end as the Irish need an “detached” threat on the outside that can create mismatches against corners and safeties. If Smythe can handle the in-line part of the job, it opens an opportunity for Weishar or Jones on the perimeter. Weishar will face a serious challenge from the five-star freshman, but if he can beat Jones back, there’s a chance to be a solid role player within Notre Dame’s offense.
Alize Jones isn’t just as good as advertised, he’s better. Jones jumps Weishar in training camp, reducing the sophomore to a bit player. The staff may view Jones as another flex tight end like Weishar, just more athletic. That could block Weishar’s path to playing time for multiple seasons with Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua not going anywhere either. It all makes this training camp a critical one. Any kind of step back or injury could leave the Midwest athlete in a tough spot on the depth chart, which would say more about the Irish roster than Weishar himself.
Notre Dame’s recent history is loaded with tight ends who red-shirted, then faced fights for playing time as sophomores. Anthony Fasano, John Carlson and Tyler Eifert all sat as freshmen before growing into stars, although Eifert got a medical after playing in the opener in ‘09. The best parallel for Weishar might actually be teammate Durham Smythe, who red-shirted and was a clear backup to Ben Koyack last season. The gap between Koyack and Smythe last season shouldn’t be as big as the gap between Smythe and Weishar this fall. Yet Smythe got raves from the coaching staff during spring ball while Weishar worked quietly in the background.
Weishar was a consensus four-star recruit out of high school and ranged between No. 5 at his position (ESPN, 247) and No. 13 (Scout). Considering Weishar has yet to see the field and has four years of eligibility remaining, it’s impossible to know where he actually slots within those rankings or if the recruiting world missed entirely. For the sake of Irish comparisons, Weishar’s ranking at his position on Scout was below Alize Jones (No. 2), Durham Smythe (No. 6) and Mike Heuerman (No. 10). He slotted ahead of three-star Tyler Luatua, however.
“He's the finest pass catching tight end that we saw. You could argue about who it is, but we think he is. We love his ball skills, we love his ability to use his body to control defenders, has a knack of catching the football in the air and taking it away from people. He's a guy that will have a great career here at Notre Dame.” – Brian Kelly on National Signing Day in 2014