The increased team speed on Notre Dame’s defense that led the Irish to a national title game in January disappeared under the microscope of the NFL Combine during the past two days.
Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o was slower than expected at the NFL Combine, but helped himself in Indianapolis by interviewing well with many teams.
Former Irish standouts Manti Te’o and Zeke Motta underperformed expectations in their timed workouts in front of the professional scouts gathered in Indianapolis this week. In the most closely watched event of the combine, the 40-yard dash, both Motta and Te’o finished among the bottom 20 percent of runners in their position group.
Te’o’s 4.82-second time in the 40-yard dash was about a tenth of a second slower than most were expecting the All-American linebacker to run. A faster time would have answered questions about his ability to play during third down situations at the next level, although seven interceptions during his senior season helped alleviate a lot of those worries.
The most important part of the process this week for Te’o was interviewing with teams following the Lennay Kekua hoax that called his character into question. Several accounts from Indianapolis claimed Te’o charmed every team with whom he spoke.
"He probably did what was expected. He handled himself with class. He did a good job in the interview process with teams,” said Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout covering the Combine for NFL Newtork. “The workout was not spectacular. …In a strong top-heavy draft I think he goes in the top of the second round or the middle of the second round. But I think in the draft we have here he still has a very chance of sneaking into the bottom half of the first round."
Motta, who played mostly zone coverage for the Irish last season, reportedly had a greater chance of helping himself by showcasing his speed than Te’o did. The safety acquitted himself well in man-to-man coverage during the East-West Shrine Bowl in January, but may have taken a tumble down some draft boards with the numbers he posted in February.
The four-day physical testing stage of the NFL Combine came to a close Tuesday afternoon. Of the six former Notre Dame players who participated in at least some of the drills, tight end Tyler Eifert had the best performance statistically.
OL Braxston Cave (6-3, 303 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 5.33 seconds (T-33 of 50)
Bench Press: DNP
Vertical Jump: 25.5 (T-26 of 44)
Notes: Cave was one of 13 offensive linemen who decided not to bench press at the Combine. He has been considered one of the strongest members of the Irish team for the past couple years and didn’t offer an explanation for skipping the drill. The Indiana native tied for 23rd among offensive linemen in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.81 seconds.
TE Tyler Eifert (6-5, 250 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.68 seconds (5 of 16)
Bench Press: 22 reps (3 of 16)
Vertical Jump: 35.5 (3 of 15)
Notes: Eifert tried his hand at all seven drills offered to players and finished in the top three among tight ends in each category except for the 40-yard dash. Only Rice’s Vance McDonald (31 reps) and Stanford’s Zach Ertz (24 reps) bench pressed the 225-pound weight more times. Eifert finished with better numbers that McDonald and Ertz, considered his top competition in this year’s draft, in every other drill. His time of 6.92 seconds in the three-cone drill was the best of any tight end.
Tyler Eifert finished in the top five among tight ends in every NFL Combine drill.
S Zeke Motta (6-2, 213 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.83 seconds (53 of 53)
Bench Press: 11 reps (T-40 out of 49)
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches (T-23 of 51)
Notes: Motta’s 40-yard dash time was the lowest among the defensive backs at the NFL Combine. Former Irish opponents Dee Milliner (Alabama) and Brandon McGee (Miami) finished in the top six with times of 4.36 seconds and 4.40 seconds, respectively. The best bench press number among defensive backs was 28 reps and the best vertical jump was 40.5 inches.
RB Theo Riddick (5-10, 201 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.68 seconds (T-20 of 33)
Bench Press: DNP
Vertical Jump: 32.0 inches (T-21 of 32)
Notes: Riddick tied four other running backs with a time of 4.68 seconds, which was faster than times turned in by Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead. The only Notre Dame opponent to finish in the top 10 in 40-yard dash times was Miami’s Mike James (4.53 seconds). The only other drill Riddick participated in was the broad jump, where he registered a leap of 118 inches.
LB Manti Te’o (6-1, 241 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.82 (20 of 26)
Bench Press: DNP
Vertical Jump: 33.0 (T-8 of 20)
Notes: Te’o’s best drill at the Combine was the three-cone drill. He finished in 7.13 seconds, the sixth-best time posted by a linebacker. He also posted the sixth best time (4.27 seconds) in the 20-yard shuttle. His broad jump (113 inches) placed second-to-last among linebackers.
His times did not fall far behind other linebackers considered to be top-end draft picks like Georgia’s Alec Ogletree (4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash) or LSU’s Kevin Minter (4.81 seconds). Georgia’s Jarvis Jones did not participate in any drills at the Combine.
RB Cierre Wood (5-11, 213 pounds)
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.56 seconds (14 of 33)
Bench Press: 16 (27 of 31)
Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches (4 of 32)
Notes: Only 0.06 seconds separated Wood and the running backs who finished sixth through 13th in the 40-yard dash. He finished fourth overall in the broad jump (124 inches) and the vertical jump. The same three backs (Michael Ford, Rex Burkhead and Christine Michael) finished ahead of him in both leaping categories.
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