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Irish show well at the NFL Scouting Combine

Feb 26, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT


Notre Dame had nine players at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. To a man, they all left town improving their proverbial draft stock. We’ve already touched on what the nine-man Irish contingency meant to the football program.

Speed, strength and athleticism were on display by Irish prospects, with statistical gains under Paul Longo’s direction quite obvious. As message-board sage FunkDoctorSpock points out, since 2008 only three Notre Dame prospects clocked a sub 4.51 40-yard dash: David Bruton, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.

This year, three (George Atkinson, Bennett Jackson and TJ Jones) did it alone.

Let’s talk a look at the results for each player and walk through where they sit with individual workouts and a few more twists and turns until May.

George Atkinson
6’1″, 218 pounds

40-yard Dash: 4.48 seconds
Bench Press: 19 reps
Vertical Jump: 38.0″
Broad Jump: 121.0″
3-Cone Drill: 7.07 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.46 seconds
60-yard Shuttle: 11.50 seconds

Analysis: Irish fans probably expected Atkinson’s elite track speed to produce an every better number than 4.48, but Atkinson did a very nice job in Indianapolis. He also talked candidly about the late-season suspension that ended his career watching his teammates play Rutgers.

Andrew Owens of caught this telling quote from Atkinson:

“It was during team meal and I was on the phone and Coach [Brian] Kelly walked up to me and told me to get off the phone,” Atkinson said. “For some stupid reason I decided not to get off right away, and it led to the suspension.

“I would’ve liked to have approached the situation towards the end of my career there, especially my junior year, with both carries and the coaching staff [with a] more mature mindset.”

Atkinson also talked about the health of his mother playing a factor in jumping to the NFL now. He’s the type of elite athlete that one team will look at as a special teams factor, and this performance might help his status as a late-round pick.

Bennett Jackson
6’0″ 187 pounds

40-yard Dash: 4.51 seconds
Bench Press: 13 reps
Vertical Jump: 38.0″
Broad Jump: 128.0″
3-Cone Drill: 6.75 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.00 seconds

Analysis: Jackson ran a 4.51 forty, a really impressive number, even though we all knew he ran track at Notre Dame. His 38-inch vertical leap and 128-inch broad jump were also explosive as well, along with his 20-yard shuttle time.

The tape wasn’t always kind to Jackson and his decreased physicality this season had many thinking he was still playing with a bum shoulder. But Jackson did enough to put himself in that mid-to-late round discussion among cornerbacks.

TJ Jones
6’0″, 188 pounds

40-yard Dash: 4.48 seconds
Vertical Jump: 33.0″
Broad Jump: 119.0″
3-Cone Drill: 6.82 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.27 seconds
60-yard Shuttle: 11.45 seconds

Analysis: When Jones ran an unofficial 4.40 in his first attempt of the forty, even NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was shocked. While the number rounded up a bit officially, that’s the type of speed Jones needed to display to scouts, who likely were questioning his ability to get behind a defense.

Jones didn’t show elite explosiveness, but running sub-4.5 was a big step towards moving Jones up draft boards.

Zack Martin
6’4″, 308 pounds

Bench Press: 29 reps
Vertical Jump: 28.0″
Broad Jump: 106.0″
3-Cone Drill: 7.65 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.59 seconds

Analysis: Perhaps the only thing that hurt Martin in Indianapolis was the performance of some other elite tackles, with Auburn’s Greg Robinson and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan showing elite measurables.

Of course, everybody knew Martin wouldn’t be a true stud in shorts and a t-shirt and his performance at the Senior Bowl did more to help than the combine did to hurt. There’s still likely a team that’s going to take Martin in the last 10 picks of the first round.

Troy Niklas
6’6″, 270 pounds

Bench Press: 27 reps
Vertical Jump: 32.0″
Broad Jump: 114.0″
3-Cone Drill: 7.57 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.55 seconds
60-yard Shuttle: 12.19 seconds

Analysis: Niklas didn’t run the forty, but did do everything else. He was one of the top performers at tight end and also at the 60 yard shuttle for his position group.

Niklas has a few months to work on getting a time in the 4.6 range before the draft in May. The longer teams get to look at him the better, as his athleticism will be intoxicating for teams thinking they might have found another Rob Gronkowski.

Louis Nix
6’2″, 331 pounds

40-yard Dash: 5.42 seconds
Vertical Jump: 25.5″
Broad Jump: 97.0″
3-Cone Drill: 8.29 seconds

Analysis: Nix reached the weight many wanted him to be at, stating that he lost over 20 pounds from the end of the season to the draft. He had limited participation, not bench pressing or doing either shuttle run as he still comes back from meniscus surgery.

Still, Nix was a hit at the combine, and certainly didn’t hurt his chances of being the first defensive tackle off the draft board, even with Aaron Donald running a ridiculous 4.68 at 285 pounds.


Prince Shembo
6’1″, 254 pounds

40-yard Dash: 4.71 seconds
Bench Press: 26 reps
Vertical Jump: 38.5″
Broad Jump: 122.0″
3-Cone Drill: 7.29 seconds
20-yard Shuttle: 4.31 seconds

Analysis: Shembo’s mostly earning headlines for his acknowledgment of his connection to the Seeberg allegations. But he did a nice job athletically as well, putting up numbers that top to bottom were better than Manti Te’o last year.

Shembo is on the short side, with his 6-foot-1 an inch shorter than he was listed on the roster. But he’s got some explosiveness as well, with a 38.5-inch vertical leap pretty astounding.

Stephon Tuitt
6’5″, 304 pounds

Bench Press: 31 reps

Analysis: Tuitt’s combine was cut short when a small foot fracture turned up on his medical exam. That kept him from showing off the slender physique he brought with him to Indianapolis.

The time table for an injury like Tuitt’s is six to eight weeks, making a Pro Day workout possible, but not necessarily the smartest decision. Still, showing up at 304 was crucial for Tuitt, and the 31 reps on the bench press give you an idea of his impressive strength.

Chris Watt
6’3″, 310 pounds

Bench Press: 29 reps

Analysis: Watt came to the combine still recovering from a knee injury suffered late in the season. He didn’t do himself any harm at the combine, measuring in as expected and putting up impressive numbers on the bench press.

(A 5.50 forty time credited to Watt was previously listed on’s Combine results page, but no longer exists.)

He’ll have a few months to continue to get healthy and game tape will likely make sure he’s selected in the draft’s middle-to-late rounds.




  1. italianirish - Feb 26, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    George Atkinson 40 time: 4.48
    Jadeveon Clowney 40 time: 4.47

    2 things: Clowney is a FREAK

    and, maybe Atkinson wasn’t really the fastest guy on the field every time he was out there. His draft stock wasn’t that high to begin with and I was expecting his blazing speed to get him drafted. Kinda fast and not that good at being a running back is not a good combination. I think he needed to put up a spectacular time and 4.48 did not do him any favors.

  2. irishdodger - Feb 26, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    I don’t think I can agree that ALL nine players improved their proverbial draft stock. IMO, Niklas has a lot of work to do at his Pro Day to show scouts he’s healthy. Tuitt continues to have red flags go up. Now he’s got a foot injury? Chronic Plantar fasciitis w/ big men is a bad recipe & typically a career ender. I hope it’s nothing major, but he’s a 2nd rounder at best IMO. Nix will probably drop to the early 2nd round as well. If anyone goes in the first, my guess is it’ll be Martin & it will be the late first round.

    • onward2victory - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      Who would have thought Tuitt would put up more bench reps than Martin tho? Not me. 31 is impressive.

  3. ricks1956 - Feb 26, 2014 at 9:09 PM

    Watt didn’t run a 40. mistake

  4. fnc111 - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Um GA3 was timed in the 40 not the 100. George would leave jaws dropping if it was a 100 m dash. At 6’2 220, a 4.48 electronic time is pretty amazing. I don’t understand the first paragraph on GA3. Come on man!

  5. idratherbeinsouthbend - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:12 PM


    None of this information is correct. According to my friends at ESPN there were only three players at the draft combine….Jadavean Clowney, Johnny Manziel, and Michael Sam

    …you better check your sources bro….none of these Notre Dame guys were there. It was just the three listed above. TRUST ME, I have ESPN.

    • onward2victory - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:23 PM

      Haha brilliant. ESPN is the worst.

    • bearcatirishfan - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:36 PM

      Damn that’s funny, are you sure Brett farve, tiger woods,or Kobe Bryant weren’t there I’m pretty sure there is something related to them somehow in ESPN land

    • papadec - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:07 AM

      idrather – funniest thing I read or heard all day – glad I had set my cup down before I read your post.

  6. getsome99 - Feb 26, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    It amazes how much taller football players are while they’re still in college. Reminds of the movie Blue Chips when they were recruiting Matt Nover and the PA announcer introduced him as 6’11.

    TJ did what I suspected he would at the combine. Which is solidify his spot in the middle of a deep WR class. A solid pro day, combined with what will surely be an impressive string of pre-draft interviews, and he could easily work his way in to 2nd run of WR’s taken. Late 2nd to early 3rd round. I see 5, possibly 6 players taken in the 1st 100 picks. Progress.

    Assuming he gets drafted, should we also count Lynch since scouts are declaring his best film is from his freshman year at ND?

    I think Atkinson will get drafted. Probably 6th round. Some of these teams have compensatory picks and can afford to stash him as a developmental player. The speed and pedigree is too much to ignore. And don’t forget, these scouts and NFL teams don’t know our guys like we do, so someone will surely make a mistake and waste a pick on him.

    • dsharp86 - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      They were even taller in high school if you go back at look at Rivals or Scout. They get shorter at each level.

  7. irishdog80 - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    Another good draft for ND…especially in the first 2 rounds… has to help us in recruiting. Every kid that is capable of playing Division 1 football thinks he is going to develop into a Top 3 rounds–guaranteed money–pick. ND can now tout that players are developed into NFL talent under Kelly’s staff…NIx and Martin were not locks for the 1st Round by any means when they signed with ND and look where they are now. Eifert started as a 3 star and ended up a 5 star.

    I was as frustrated as the next ND fan by Atkinson’s play at ND…looks like a star one play and then gets tackled by a blade of grass the next. Like others have commented, I would not be surprised at all if the Raiders took him as a very late round or compensatory type of pick as a legacy. His combination of speed/power and Raider lineage would be too hard for them to pass up. We will see.

  8. yaketyyacc - Feb 27, 2014 at 4:35 AM

    keeping us up to date, thanks Keith

  9. knuterocknesghost - Feb 27, 2014 at 5:46 AM

    After Tommy Rees, Bennet Jackson was likely the player with the most darts stuck in his back by bloggers here. Chief among the reasons given to justify the criticism was his lack of speed or quickness. Well, ….. can we dismiss that now? I was impressed with what one blogger in the past had to say during the debate about the ND secondary: That Jackson’s playmaking ability or the lack of it on some critical plays was more about his poor technique and not his physical gifts or talent. Technique can be coached; but not physical talent. I agree with that blogger’s earlier observation in the sense that Jackson has every reason to be hopeful about an NFL career if he can manage to demonstrate early after being drafted that he can improve on his technique.

    • NotreDan - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      An NFL corner that runs a 4.5 is neither fast nor quick.

  10. 1historian - Feb 27, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    Tuitt intrigues me, if for no other reason than his fumble recovery and touchdown run in the Navy game of 2012 – the dude ran a long way and none of his pursuers made a step on him. .

    • jggund1966 - Feb 27, 2014 at 12:40 PM

      They were probably more concerned about what they would do if they actually caught up to him than they were about catching him.

  11. mcirish27 - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    Does anyone follow “the gold seats” ( on Twitter? It’s best of the parody ND accounts and when I read FNC’s comments i immediately think of the old man in the picture sitting in his gold seat grumbling about how Kelly is a damed fool and can’t recruit worth a lick. Go follow it now or at the very least read his tweets some day when you’re bored and need a good laugh.

  12. rocket1988 - Feb 27, 2014 at 8:02 PM

    Who cares how fast Clowney is? GA3 did as many reps on the bench as him at 19. Tuitt almost doubled Clowney on the bench press. Tuitt=Justin Tuck. Clowney=Chris Johnson. Which of these guys plays DE?

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