Nic Weishar can now stomach a larger role for Notre Dame
That’s not a new touchdown celebration from Nic Weishar.
If the junior tight end hunches over just beyond the end zone, as he did at least once in the first week of football training camp for Notre Dame, he might just be depositing a previous meal on the nearby turf.
Weishar’s practice workload has increased in the absence of sophomore Alizé Jones, who was suspended for the season with academic trouble, but the vomiting is nothing new.
“I’ve always kind of been the guy that tends to throw up every once in a while,” Weishar said. “You can ask any of my high school coaches — it’s always been like that. It’s not a really big deal for me. I’ll just let it out and get back out there.”
Not long before Weishar shared his unhealthy habit with reporters, Irish head coach Brian Kelly had praised the conditioning of the 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end.
“At this time last year, we had lost him for two or three practices already — overheating, not being able to make it through practice, inconsistency in terms of just being out on the field,” Kelly said. “Nic hasn’t missed a practice (this season), and we’ve had some pretty hot days out there.
" The volume’s been high. Just that — his ability to be out there every single day and take the load of the position — has been a big uptick for us.”
Weishar can’t afford to miss out on practice reps. With only three catches for 19 yards last season, he’s anything but a known commodity in Notre Dame’s offense. While DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire are battling for the starting quarterback spot, Weishar is fighting to be on the receiving end of either of their passes.
In preparing for the season, Weishar spent less time between sprints to push himself. He also made sure to catch a pass at any chance. He doesn’t want either quarterback to have any doubt in throwing his way.
“We worked a lot with them in the offseason to build that confidence,” Weishar said. “The simple routes that are staples of our offense that we didn’t get a lot last year, we’re starting to get a lot this year. We just have to keep that going and not give the quarterbacks a reason to not trust us.”
With Jones sidelined, Weishar likely becomes Notre Dame’s best pass-catching tight end among the four on the roster. Weishar never really played as a true tight end at Marist High School in Chicago. He lined up as a wide receiver and caught 237 passes in his career, an Illinois state record.
His biggest challenge at Notre Dame, much like Jones, has been in gaining strength and knowledge to become a competent blocker. Weishar finally feels confident in his ability to get the job done on the line.
“The biggest thing for me is when you have a six-tech (a defensive lineman between the offensive tackle and tight end) and you’re trying to inside drive block a 300-pounder," Weishar said. "When I first came here, I wasn’t able to get much push on him.
"A lot of that’s technique, but a lot of it’s just strength as well. I’m able to do that when I have a technique right. I’m able to push guys off the ball now.”
Finding a balance between mauler and receiver will allow Weishar to challenge Durham Smythe, who started the first two games last season before missing the next 10 with knee and shoulder injuries, for the top tight end position. With Smythe out last season, the Irish relied a lot on Jones to be the receiver and Tyler Luatua, a returning junior, to provide the blocking.
Combining those two roles will give any tight end more opportunities to see the field and give the Notre Dame offense more options and less predictability.
A reliable red zone target is a necessity. Proper touchdown celebrations won’t be required.
“Alizé is a great player and we’re definitely going to miss him,” Weishar said. “Me personally, and Durham too, it’s kind of saying that we need to step it up and be the complete tight ends that this team needs.”