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Amid mixed results in drills, Rochell & Jones look back at Notre Dame’s 2016

North Carolina v Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 11: Jarron Jones #94 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against Jon Heck #71 of the North Carolina Tar Heels at Notre Dame Stadium on October 11, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Whether or not combine drills affect defensive linemen’s draft status can be debated. If the drills do, former Irish end Isaac Rochell did himself a favor Sunday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Former Irish tackle Jarron Jones, however, may hope the drills are largely for show. After all, how often does a defensive tackle need to sprint 40 yards? And if that is a necessity, what might it say about the defense as a whole?

Jones’s 40-yard dash time of 5.33 seconds placed him No. 49 of the 51 defensive linemen at the combine. Rochell’s 4.89 put him in the middle of the pack at No. 30. Rather than discuss those times, though, most questions for those two focused on Notre Dame’s struggles last season.

“My biggest thing with our season last year is we had an identity issue,” Rochell said. “We lost a lot of really good players. This time last year you had eight, nine guys here [at the combine]. We had a lot of positions that had to be filled with younger guys.”

Counting both offense and defense, Notre Dame sent a total of 10 players to the 2016 combine, an invite-only event, including defensive linemen Sheldon Day and Romeo Okwara.

“A lot of people were switching positions, some playing positions they weren’t used to,” Jones said. “…Each and every week, we had someone new on the d-line. We had a hard time, especially the young guys, figuring out who we were.”

Some of that turmoil may help Jones improve his draft stock, as he maintains hopes of going in the first two rounds of the late-April Draft. During his Notre Dame career, the 6-foot-6, 316-pounder played in both a 3-4 scheme and a 4-3 alignment.

“I understand defenses a lot more,” he said. “I understand both schemes. I’m versatile enough to play any position.”

Jones logged only 22 reps in the bench press and offered a mere 20.5-inch vertical jump, a distant last among defensive linemen. His prodigal wingspan, though, may help compensate for the difficulty jumping over a desk char. Jones blocked six kicks in his Notre Dame career.

Rochell, meanwhile, delivered 25 reps on the bench press, good for 13th among the 49 defensive linemen who did the drill, and a 31.5-inch vertical. He measured 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds.

Jones on Notre Dame’s 2017 defense
Jones’s brother, sophomore linebacker Jamir, has kept him apprised of events back on campus.

“They’re gonna be really good next year,” the elder Jones said. “I have great faith in that. I’ve been talking to my little brother Jamir, and he says the new d-coordinator is really whipping them into shape with the strength coach.”

Asked who he sees stepping forward this fall in the wake of his and Rochell’s departures, Jones mentioned seniors Andrew Trumbetti and Daniel Cage, as well as junior Jerry Tillery.