Eleven former players return for Pro Day
Greg Hadley | Wednesday, April 1, 2015
As Sheldon Day looked on Tuesday, the group of 11 former Irish players he considered joining this winter went through the paces of Notre Dame’s Pro Day at Loftus Sports Center.
Scouts from 28 NFL teams were present, but the absence of Day and senior offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley, who both decided to return for their final season, from the drills meant two of Notre Dame’s top potential prospects were not on the field.
Five of the 11 players who did participate suited up for the Irish in 2014, but perhaps the biggest name present was someone Notre Dame missed all season: DaVaris Daniels. The receiver spent the entire year under investigation for suspected academic dishonesty but returned to South Bend for one more workout, which he said he would do at the NFL Combine in February.
“I feel like [today] went good,” Daniels said. “I did better than I did at the combine, which was my goal. Everything went well.”
Daniels ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds, leapt 11 feet and 1 inch in the broad jump and posted a 39.5 inch vertical. He was also one of several players to run routes for former Irish quarterback Andrew Hendrix.
Daniels is projected as a late-round pick in the NFL Draft, with analysts praising his physical abilities but critiquing his academic trouble.
“I just want to be put in a good situation,” Daniels said. “Anywhere I go, I know what I can do, and I’m just going to give that team my all.
“Regardless of what happened and stuff, I think we all handled it the right way and moved on and made good decisions to turn our lives around and took something positive out of it. I came out here today and took another step in that direction.”
Linebacker Kendall Moore, who also lost his 2014 season due to the academic investigation, worked out as well, posting an unofficial 40 time of 4.57 and bench pressing 24 reps of 225 pounds.
“Mentally, I’m pretty solid,” Moore said. “Right now, I’m just ready to get on to this next step, and we’ll see what happens from here. Hopefully, I’ll get an opportunity, and I’ll do my best with it.”
The top 40 time of the day, however, belonged to cornerback Cody Riggs, who was not invited to the Combine. In two attempts, he ran 4.45 and 4.46 seconds. After the second run, however, he pulled up with a leg injury and skipped the three-cone drill.
Another Irish player not invited to the combine, running back Cam McDaniel, participated in every drill. His three-cone time of 6.78 was faster than any mark by a running back at the combine, but McDaniel said his focus on the day was more on demonstrating skills he did not always display in the Notre Dame backfield.
“I really want to show people my elusiveness,” McDaniel said. “I really think I’m a versatile guy who can catch the ball out of the backfield, do things out of the backfield, can run smooth routes.
“ … Scouts watching the tape see that I can run the ball between the tackles fine. … And so I really wanted to show people today that I can run routes out of the backfield, catch the ball, make plays on the perimeter and give linebackers nightmares.”
McDaniel and Daniels were part of a group of five players to catch passes from Hendrix on Tuesday. Tight ends Jake Golic and Alex Welch last played for the Irish in 2012 and 2013, respectively, while Ben Koyack started for the Irish in 2014 and hauled in 30 receptions for 317 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season.
Koyack, who is projected to be a mid- to late-round draft pick, caught every pass during his position drills and ran a 4.72 40-yard dash.
“I’m just trying to show [the scouts] my name should be called sooner, not later,” Koyack said. “I’m trying the cement myself as a guy they see as talented, see as versatile, see as someone they could put into any situation.”
The lone player to venture outside on the day was kicker Kyle Brindza, who worked out at LaBar Practice Complex. Brindza kicked both field goals and kickoffs, connecting on 10 of 12 attempts from 33 yards or longer and missing a touchback just once on his kickoffs.
While it is usually difficult for kickers to get drafted at all, Brindza said he had met with several teams who were interested in his ability to both kick and punt and said he was “draftable.”
“I have worked my butt off so hard this offseason to prepare not only for the combine but for Pro Day and just continue to elevate my game,” Brindza said. “I’m not too worried about being drafted, being undrafted, being a free agent. The biggest thing I’m worried about is being able to prove that I’m able to go into camp and compete my butt off and win that job.”
Defensive linemen Justin Utupo and Ethan Johnson also participated in the Pro Day, with Utupo working out at every drill and Johnson missing only the 60-yard shuttle.