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Niklas adjusts to new position

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, November 1, 2012

At 6-feet-7, 260 pounds, sophomore tight end Troy Niklas is a big guy, even for football. His monstrous size has made way for a historic nickname – Hercules.

“It’s whatever,” Niklas said of the nickname. “[My] name’s Troy but if you want to call me that, it’s fine.”

After playing offensive tackle in high school, outside linebacker as a freshman, Niklas transitioned to tight end last spring.

Niklas said he was optimistic about the switch.

“[My mentaility] was just roll with it, I was pretty excited about it,” Niklas said. “I felt like it was a good position for me.”

As an offensive tackle in high school, the Anaheim, Calif., native was ranked in the top 25 nationally at his position by Rivals.com. He also played tight end in high school. Niklas said his background on the offensive line helps him in blocking.

During Notre Dame’s 20-13 win over Stanford, Niklas struggled at times to handle the Cardinal pass rush, giving up a sack. But Kelly said the sophomore’s experience against a good pass rush helped him develop.

“He was challenged and wasn’t taken out of the game at any point. He was right in the thick of it. We put him in a role that some could argue was a difficult one for him to succeed in,” Kelly said in the week leading up to the BYU game. “But he was there when we won late and contributed greatly to the success in the last drive where we were able to run the football effectively.”

Niklas has been used primarily as a run blocker this season, but he said he does not consider himself a sixth offensive lineman.

Niklas said he expects his involvement in the aerial attack to increase in 2013 with the departure of senior tight end Tyler Eifert.

“I think that this year I’m being used a lot as a blocking tight end just because we have Tyler,” Niklas said. “It’s easy for me to protect and block. I think that next year I think I’ll be able to get out there and run more routes.”

Through eight games this season, Niklas has four catches for 68 yards, including two receptions of more than 25 yards. His production has dropped off recently, with just two catches for nine yards in his past six games.

Despite his dip in numbers, Niklas remains an integral part of an Irish offense that relies on the rushing attack to generate points and wins.

“I’d say it’s been a pretty smooth transition,” Niklas said. “The entire position is very natural for me. I’ve just steadily progressed throughout the year.”

 

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu