Leftovers & Links: Mixed results for Notre Dame at the NFL combine, with the best showing coming from Kevin Austin
A Notre Dame receiver impressing at the NFL combine might as well be an annual tradition by now. Kevin Austin needed to exceed expectations to better his draft stock, while the one former Irish player in Indianapolis this weekend who could afford a bad drill or two did in fact show a possible weakness in the 40-yard dash.
As surprising as Austin’s 4.43-second 40-yard dash was, it was nowhere near as surprising as the 4.59-second dash posted by safety Kyle Hamilton.
Hamilton remains a top draft pick, but if he does not knock that time down significantly at Notre Dame’s Pro Day scheduled for March 25, he may fall from a top-five pick to a top-10. And even that is far from a certain fall. Simply enough, Hamilton’s measurements and three years of tape afforded him this slight stumble.
Austin’s lack of tape the last four years afforded him no such cushion. Running nearly as fast as Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool did in years past — both ran the 40 in 4.42 seconds — could move Austin from the latest rounds into the fourth or fifth round. He also had the fastest three-cone drill among receivers and was in the top five in the 20-yard shuttle, vertical leap and standing broad jump.
Quarterback Jack Coan had a respectable combine, but his NFL future hinges more on the film he posted in 2021 than on anything he did on the field in Indianapolis. Coan should hear his name heard in the NFL draft (April 28-30), though in a later round as one of the quarterbacks drafted as a flyer, the respective front office crossing its fingers he may develop into a worthwhile backup.
Running back Kyren Williams may also benefit from years of film showing what he can do, but his 4.65-second dash did not help his cause. Williams did not attempt any of the other agility or quickness drills, furthering some vague speculation he may have a balky hamstring.
If that is the case, the Pro Day in South Bend should give him another chance to wow NFL scouts.
Defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa may have less to prove later this month, even if this past weekend did not overwhelmingly go his way. Tagovailoa-Amosa ran a 4.81-second 40-yard dash, not much changing his broad draft evaluation of a probable undrafted free agent, but not much could change that given his in-between body frame.
Can it really be considered NFL combine coverage in any respect if it does not include mention of a quarterback’s hand size? Coan’s measured 9.5 inches.
No, this does not matter at all and is an exercise in mindless chatter every spring.
ON STRENGTH COACHES
It was a matter of unfortunate timing that just days after Notre Dame made strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis available to the media, the Irish suffered a weight-room injury of notable concern when fifth-year center Jarrett Patterson tore his pectoral muscle.
Injuries happen, just as they do at any point in football training. Patterson’s injury does not take away from Balis’ description of his job, a unique thought that underscores the importance of that weight-room leader.
“It’s one of the truest forms of coaching there is because you’re coaching things that they might not love all the time,” Balis said. “For any student-athlete or any athlete, they love their sport, but they realize the importance that the preparation of the training that goes into it.
“That part is incredible to me, to be able to be a part of that and help them reach those dreams and goals.”
SPECIAL TEAMS DEPTH CHART
This was neglected in last week’s depth charts, mostly because it could fit in just fine now. While Notre Dame seemingly made it a point to bring in additional specialists this winter to foster some competition at positions that often have starters by default, it is unlikely any of this is actually in question this spring. Then again, Irish special teams coordinator Brian Mason brought those players in this spring to make sure some competition was on hand, nominal or sincere.
“Every single position on the football team, we want it to be competitive,” Mason said last month. “Competition breeds success. …
“For me to have depth to be able to have competition and growth for the future, I believe you need 8-10 specialists between kickers, punters and long snappers.”
Notre Dame is still far from that mark, but Mason took a step toward it in his first days on Marcus Freeman’s coaching staff.
KICKER: Arkansas State transfer Blake Grupe does not have a massive leg, but he has shown an accurate one in his career. His career’s longest field goal was a 50-yarder in 2021; he has made 74.4 percent of his attempts in his career, highlighted by an 86.4 success rate in 2019 and an 80 percent hit rate in 2021. In his last year of eligibility, Grupe will be backed up by rising sophomore Josh Bryan, with four seasons of eligibility remaining.
PUNTER: Notre Dame has one scholarship punter, incoming freshman Bryce McPherson, but preferred walk-on Harvard transfer Jon Sot could prove to be a steadying influence.
LONG SNAPPER: Fifth-year Michael Vinson is on scholarship now, and he will continue in his starter’s role in front of junior Alex Peitsch (three years of eligibility remaining).
The pecking orders at punt returner and kick returner are anyone’s guess at this point, though rising sophomore receiver Lorenzo Styles may get first look on kickoffs, particularly if running back Chris Tyree no longer fields them due to his increased offensive workload.
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Coaching staff turnover brings new ideas, pertinent experience to Notre Dame— Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart as spring practices approach— Notre Dame’s defensive depth chart, an exercise in second-level flux— Where Notre Dame Was & Is: Quarterbacks, led by Tyler Buchner— Reports: Notre Dame center and captain Jarrett Patterson will miss spring practices with pectoral injury