It hasn't been an easy offseason for Brian Kelly. Both of his coordinators have accepted head coaching jobs elsewhere. His best defensive linemen are going pro. Just this week, junior wideout Davaris Daniels was suspended for the spring semester for academic reasons.

But things still only got tougher Thursday when junior tight end Troy Niklas also declared for the draft, joining defensive tackle Louis Nix III, defensive end Stephon Tuitt and tailback George Atkinson III as the fourth Notre Dame player with eligibility remaining to forgo his 2014 season in South Bend.

"I have made the very difficult decision to pursue my childhood dream," Niklas said in a statement, per the Associated Press.

Niklas finished 2013 as the Irish's third-leading receiver, collecting 32 catches for 498 yards and five touchdowns. A converted outside linebacker, Niklas spent one season as Tyler Eifert's blocking-first understudy in 2012 (catching only 5 passes) before emerging as a receiving threat as a junior.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Califonia native is currently ranked as the No. 12 tight end in the 2015 draft by NFLDraftScout.com, which has not yet added him to the 2014 rankings. Niklas reportedly earned an "early-round grade" from a draft evaluation submitted by Kelly.