Some former Notre Dame players needed Wednesday to go better than others, as 17 looked to impress front office personnel from all 32 NFL franchises at a pro day in the Loftus Sports Complex. After struggling to a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in Indianapolis earlier this month, for example, cornerback Julian Love needed to improve upon that by a decent bit to keep himself in first-round consideration.
Love posted a 4.45 and did not drop off much in his 20-yard shuttle or three-cone drills, though the combine results held an edge. In other words, Love offered a complement to his two years of excellent film. Maybe that gets Love into the top-32, or maybe he remains a second-round likelihood. Those are not the only questions tied to his draft outcome.
“Some (personnel) say outside (cornerback), some say inside as a nickel, some say both,” Love said to Irish Illustrated about his possible role at the next level. “They know I’m productive.”
Love’s technical tools should fit either position, while his better but still not great test results may force him to the inside.
Similarly, running back Dexter Williams’ 4.57-second 40-yard dash at the combine did not set him up as well as he would have preferred moving forward. No shots intended at linebacker Drue Tranquill, but Williams would be expected to run more than 0.01 seconds faster than his defensive counterpart. As of Wednesday, that probably sounds alright. Williams ran a 4.59 on familiar turf. To compound things, his pass-catching performance left something to be desired, reportedly dropping one pass and not looking particularly efficient with others.
He was not alone in the drops. Tight end Alizé Mack dropped two passes, but also made some impressive catches, something of a snapshot of his four years with the Irish.
After not testing at the combine, linebacker Te’von Coney ran the usual gamut Wednesday, recording a 4.72-second 40-yard dash, a 4.45-second 20-yard shuttle and a 7.33-second cone drill. These times should come as only a mild surprise to Notre Dame fans. Coney never showed excellent speed or agility, instead excelling with anticipation and brute physicality. For context, Tranquill hit 4.58, 4.14 and 6.94 in his stellar combine showing, which gave him reason to not retest at the pro day.
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His times and varied playing experience has Tranquill optimistic about his professional prospects. Beginning at safety and then working in a coverage-heavy role at rover could have Tranquill prepared for a league increasingly aerial-driven.
“If you look at the statistics last year, I think (as many as 65) percent of the plays in the (NFL) were passing plays,” Tranquill told Irish Illustrated. You have to be able to run. You have to be able to cover. You have to understand coverages. I think my experience on the back end helps with second-level responsibilities.”
A different, never realized, position change has also come up in draft interviews for former Irish center Sam Mustipher. Apparently, when left guard Alex Bars tore his ACL five games into 2018, Notre Dame and Mustipher pondered moving him to guard and starting a different center. It would have given the Irish experience and heft at the left guard spot, a combination it struggled to find in Trevor Ruhland (experience) and Aaron Banks (heft).
“I’ve had people ask me about it,” Mustipher said. “I tell them absolutely. I was willing to do it (last) year, but I felt like given my traits and my success at the center position, why move me in the middle of the season. I was doing a great job leading this offensive line unit, so they said, ‘Stay there.’”
Williams, Mack and the rest of the receivers, including Miles Boykin, ran routes thrown by Irish quarterbacks coach Tom Rees, not an uncommon practice when a recently-graduated quarterback is not in the mix chasing an NFL dream.
For a full accounting of the day’s results, Notre Dame already put them into a legible table that would not look as presentable replicated in this space. The bench press repetitions number next to punter Tyler Newsome’s name is not a typo. The specialist really did bench 225 pounds a total of 30 times.
The absence of results from defensive tackle Jerry Tillery is also not a typo, as his arm was in a sling after recent shoulder surgery.