College football watch lists are now starting to come out at a fast and furious pace. A handful of lists have already been released this week with several more on the way. The latest watch list in circulation is for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end.
Tyler Eifert claimed Notre Dame's first Mackey Award last year, and current Irish teammates Ben Koyack and Troy Niklas are among the 37 players on the 2013 preseason list. The odds that either Koyack or Niklas will claim the trophy are slim since no school has had multiple winners since the award's inception in 2000.
Seven Notre Dame opponents find their names on the Mackey Watch List as well, which is only fitting as ISD has been taking a position-by-position look at some of the top opponents on the upcoming 2013 schedule. Tight end is actually a fairly weak position overall in terms of high-caliber opposition this fall. Here is a look at some of the top tight ends the Fighting Irish are due to face this season.
Chris Coyle - Arizona State
Coyle was overshadowed in his own conference last year by Stanford's Zach Ertz (a second round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles this year), but the Arizona State tight end had a breakout season of his own in 2012. Coyle redshirted in 2009 and had just six career receptions for 79 yards in 2010 and 2011 combined, but he erupted for team-highs of 57 receptions for 696 yards in 2012.
The 6-foot-3, 222 pound Westlake Village, Calif native set a new Arizona State school record with those 57 catches in his first season playing in head coach Todd Graham's offense. His big game was a 10-catch, 131-yard performance against Illinois. That game tied him for the most receptions by a tight end in ASU history and also tied for the second-highest receiving yards for a Sun Devil tight end.
Devin Funchess - Michigan
Funchess earned Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-American honors as well at Big Ten All-Freshman accolades in 2012. The rookie did it by putting up numbers that were hardly dominant though - 15 receptions, 234 yards and five touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5, 228 pound tight end played in all 13 Wolverine games and made just three starts last year, but still finds himself among the potential top tight ends Notre Dame will see in 2013. His big game was a 106-yard effort against Air Force to become the first Michigan tight end since Jeremy Tuman in 1997 to eclipse 100 yards in a game. Funchess had just two catches for 11 yards against Notre Dame last year.
Gabe Holmes - Purdue
Need more evidence that the tight end pool is shallow this year? Look no farther than Holmes. The senior had just 25 receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns last season. He has 37 receptions for 305 yards and three TDs in 35 career games.
As with Koyack and Niklas, the odds are against Holmes winning the Mackey this year since no school has ever had multiple winners. Former Boilermaker Tim Stratton won the award in 2000.
Kaneakua Friel - BYU
Friel's college career technically began at BYU in 2007, but it is really just getting started. Friel redshirted in '07 and then played in eight games in 2008 before spending the next two years in South Africa on his LDS Mission.
The Kaneohe, Hi native had just seven receptions for 55 yards in what was his sophomore season in 2011, but increased his production to a respectable 30 catches for 308 yards and five touchdowns while starting all 13 games last year. He had about a third of his total in a 101-yard, two-touchdown effort in BYU's season-opening win over Washington State. He had two receptions for seven yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame's 17-14 win over the Cougars last October.
Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer - USC
Notre Dame and USC are the only two schools with two tight ends on the Mackey Watch List. Grimble and Telfer shared time at tight end for the Trojans in 2012.
Grimble, a junior, was Southern Cal's third-leading receiver with 29 receptions for 316 yards last fall. His five touchdown grabs were the third-most for the Trojans as well. Grimble had just one reception for nine yards in Notre Dame's regular season finale win at the L.A. Coliseum last November. He has 44 catches for 460 yards and nine TDs in his two-year career.
Telfer redshirted in 2010 and still has two seasons of remaining eligibility. His production dropped from 26 receptions for 273 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2011 to just 12 catches for 100 yards and four scores last year. He played in 12 of USC's 13 games, but had receptions in just six of them. His only career grabs against Notre Dame came in a 14-yard effort against the Irish in 2011.