DeShone Kizer impresses during Notre Dame’s Pro Day
Marek Mazurek | Friday, March 24, 2017
A little more than a month ahead of the NFL Draft, Notre Dame hosted its annual Pro Day, as eight former Irish athletes returned to campus to participate in workouts for NFL scouts.
This year’s Notre Dame draft class does not appear to be as deep as last year’s, but interest was still high mainly due to quarterback DeShone Kizer, who is projected to be one of the draft’s top three quarterbacks.
“I’m very confident in what I put out there today,” Kizer said. “This process is very different in the sense that the way that you look productive at Combine and at Pro Day is completely different, in how productivity actually looks out on the field. Overall, I thought I did a good job.”
Kizer worked through a series of routes with former receiver Corey Robinson, running backs Amir Carlisle, Jonas Gray and Tarean Folston and tight end Chase Hounshell. Notably, none of Kizer’s Pro Day targets were receivers on last year’s Notre Dame team.
“It was definitely [a] different situation than most,” Kizer said. “A lot of guys typically go into Pro Day with one or two guys they’ve thrown to quite a bit, but that’s football. That’s how it’s going to be when I step out there come two months from now when I’m throwing to guys I’ve never thrown to before. [It’s] just another opportunity to show my arm strength and the other things I’ve been working on.”
Between the workouts and his press conference, Kizer met with an undisclosed team for about 45 minutes. Kizer said the biggest thing he was trying to work on at his Pro Day was nailing down his mechanics.
“At the Combine, I was really jerky at the top of my drop, and I wanted to show that that wasn’t really me,” Kizer said. “It was definitely an emphasis I had at the Combine, to be a guy that turned aggressively at the top of his drop to kind of separate myself, but it then threw me kind of off balance. So to get back to kind of drifting left rather than jerking and turning left is really something I wanted to put emphasis on today.”
Kizer also said he plans on fine tuning his physique during the month leading up to the draft. Under Brian Kelly’s offense, Kizer was often asked to run. But with fewer NFL teams calling quarterback runs, Kizer said he has slimmed down from around 250 pounds at the USC game to 233 currently.
“We put a big emphasis on getting my body right,” Kizer said. “A lot of this process about being drafted has proven that you can be the same guy each year, and in order to do that you have to show you can work hard in the offseason. So that’s something we put a big emphasis on.”
On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Jarron Jones recorded a 5.47 in the 40-yard dash and took part in a number of defensive line drills. For Jones, Pro Day was an important step in the draft process because minor injuries prevented him from completing the full slate of workouts in Indianapolis, and he said he felt good about his showing Thursday.
“I felt like I put on a better impression than at the Combine,” Jones said. “I was able to get through everything, my knee felt a lot better and drills were much smoother. … It was nerve racking, but once you just got over it all, it was pretty smooth sailing.”
Cornerback Cole Luke, safety Avery Sebastian and linebacker James Onwualu also came back in the hopes of impressing scouts. After the workouts, Onwualu talked with New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for about 15 minutes. Onwualu said he had hoped to get an invitation to the NFL Combine, but was excited to show teams what he could do during Pro Day.
“Obviously I wanted to be in the Combine and compete there,” Onwualu said. “You grow up watching that event and wanted to be there to compete, but I had my opportunity today which I was super excited about. I came in jacked up. I thought I had a pretty good day, I moved well, which is the biggest thing for me.”
Onwualu started his collegiate career as a wide receiver and switched positions to linebacker partway through his time at Notre Dame and Onwualu said his versatility is what sets him apart from other players looking to be drafted.
“Just my versatility, being able to play so many positions well,” he said. “Making an impact on special teams as well as having a role on defense. Being able to learn the defense fast and being able to play a couple positions gives me some flexibility.”