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February 27, 2013

Mixed bag for ND at combine

And now, for the rest of the story.

Much was made of Manti Te'o's 4.82 40-yard dash at the annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis. That time was 20th among the 26 linebackers who participated in the run.

There was little to no mention of his sixth-best 3-cone drill time (7.13), his sixth-best 20-yard shuttle (4.27), or his 33.0-inch vertical jump, which tied for eighth. Te'o's 20-yard shuttle time was faster than Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas' 4.31 and Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree's 4.39.

Te'o's strong performances in the three-cone and 20-yard shuttle are an indication of a player's ability to change directions, which is critical to linebacker play.

Add it all up and although the effort in the 40-yard dash is a red flag, it certainly wasn't enough to trash Te'o's performance at the combine. He still projects as a first-round draft choice for several teams, although he could fall to the second round.

"If a middle linebacker runs a 4.82 but he is instinctive and quick in a short area, the 40-yard dash time doesn't matter," said one AFC general manager to NFL.com. "At that position, what matters is they are productive and make plays."

While it was Te'o who generated most of the Notre Dame-related headlines at the combine, it was tight end Tyler Eifert who stole the show for the Irish. Eifert ranked no lower than fifth among tight ends in each of the six testing categories - 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and bench press.

Eifert placed first in the 3-cone drill (6.92), third in the 225-pound bench press (22 reps) and vertical jump (35.5), tied for third in the broad jump (119.0 inches), fourth in the 20-yard shuttle (4.32), and fifth in the 40-yard dash (4.68).

Eifert's 3-cone drill time was a noteworthy 0.15 faster than the second best tight end time by Gavin Escobar from San Diego State.

Eifert's performance at the combine should have locked up a first-round selection and likely put/kept him at the top of the tight end position.

Much like Te'o, Irish safety Zeke Motta's performance was slanted by a poor 4.83 time in the 40, which, in comparison, was a more dramatic miss than Te'o's effort. Motta's 11 bench presses of 225 pounds also was a huge disappointment. And yet Motta performed well in three other categories.

Motta was fifth among safeties in the broad jump (126.0 inches), seventh in the 20-yard shuttle (4.16) and 12th in the vertical jump (35.5).

Running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick also participated in the combine with Wood finishing fourth in the vertical jump (37.5) and 14th in the 40-yard dash (4.56) among those at his position. Riddick, however, didn't test well. He ran a 4.68 in the 40 with a 32-inch vertical and a 118-inch broad jump, the latter of which was six inches shorter than Wood's.

It also was a tough weekend for Irish center Braxston Cave, who didn't finish among the top performers in five of the categories while not participating in the bench press, which most figured would be his strongest event. Arm length is an important measurable for offensive linemen, and Cave's 32-inch measurement is short by NFL standards.

Defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore and safety Jamoris Slaughter also attended the combine, but did not participate in any of the physical activities. Lewis-Moore is coming off a serious knee injury suffered in the national championship game while Slaughter is still on the mend from an early-season Achilles injury.

These eight and several other Irish seniors will have a chance to improve upon their NFL draft standing on Tuesday, March 26, when Notre Dame conducts senior day in the Loftus Sports Center.


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