By Jeff Vinton, blogger/editor On the Clock
The third day of the combine kicked off with linebackers and defensive linemen going through drills at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and all eyes focused mainly on one player. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
By now everyone knows Te’o’s story. Heisman trophy candidate (finished 2nd), winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski and Butkus awards, had to play the Michigan State game the week when his “girlfriend” (who later turned out to be fake, made up by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as part of a “catfish” scam) and grandmother died within hours of each other. He was on top of the college football world. Notre Dame was undefeated, #1 in the nation for the first time since 1993, and then, January hit.
Alabama throttled Notre Dame in the National Championship game 42-14. Deadspin.com published the story about the catfish scam. Te’o began to drop down draft boards, and his life began to unravel.
What happened today is not going to help his cause. Today, Te’o posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds. That is .17 seconds slower than his CBSSports.com Draft Profile had recorded for him on Sunday. And when one is in the middle of a field trying to catch a running back or keep up with a wide receiver, that .17 seconds can be an eternity.
Thanks to what Te’o is referring to as “the incident,” he was already a fringe first round pick, down from a top 10 selection in December. Now that he has posted that 40 time, it is unlikely that he will even be selected in the first round. John Harbaugh, coach of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the team best suited to draft Te’o (and the team I chose as my pick to draft him in my preview Saturday) at the beginning of the day due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, looked disappointed and disinterested in Te’o during coverage of the combine on NFL.com.
After today’s performance, it is likely that some of the lesser known linebackers will have a golden opportunity to jump up and take Te’o’s position in the first round. Te’o may drop to the second half of the second round, and maybe even the third round if he cannot improve on today’s performance at Notre Dame’s pro day on March 26.
Outside of Te’o’s debacle, there were great performances put on today. Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden put in the top 40 time for the day with a time of 4.47 seconds. The top defensive lineman in the 40 was Trevardo Williams of Connecticut with a time of 4.57. Top draft pick Barkevious Mingo of LSU put up a time of 4.58 and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah ran a time of 4.63.
Three defensive linemen led the pack in the bench press with Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern State and Margus Hunt of SMU benching 225 pounds 38 times and Akeem Spence of Illinois benching it 37 times. Bjoern Werner (whose preview can be found in the Florida State, Linebacker, or Player Preview categories) benched 25 times and Ansah benched 21 times.
Conversely, three linebackers had the highest verticals today. Jamie Collins of Southern Miss jumped 41.5 inches, while Cornelius Washington of Georgia jumped 39 inches and Sio Moore of UConn jumped 38 inches. Mingo jumped 37 inches in the air and Te’o jumped 33.
A mix of linemen and linebackers led the group in the broad jump. Collins leaped 139 inches (11’ 7”), which was a Combine record, Gooden leaped 131 inches (10’ 11”), South Carolina defensive lineman Devin Taylor, Washington and Mingo all flew 128 inches (10’ 8”). Ansah and Florida linebacker Jon Bostic leaped 118 inches (9’ 10”).
Another story coming in to the day was that Utah defensive lineman and potential top five draft pick Star Loutlelei was pulled out of participating in drills due to a heart condition. That condition has yet to be specified and coverage on that and all other things NFL Draft will continue through April 27 on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.
Tomorrow, the defensive backs will take the field in Indianapolis for drills to close out the combine. On the Clock’s Bill Slane will have the coverage.