A largely awkward 90 minutes of television coverage couldn’t take away from the magic happening Wednesday, mostly off camera and/or before NBCSN’s broadcast window opened.
Tight end Tommy Tremble and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah turned out to be Notre Dame’s big winners at ND Pro Day, a pre-NFL Draft physical testing showcase for 16 former Irish players. NFL scouts and personnel types from all 32 teams, per a source, and head coaches Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Frank Reich (Colts) took it all in, in person.
Owusu-Koramoah, projected for months to be a first-round choice and the first ND player taken in the April 29-May 1 draft to be staged in Cleveland, confirmed in testing Wednesday what he had shown on tape. And the unanimous All-American did so on a cranky hamstring that prompted him to pull out of the 40-yard dash.
The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder, did perform most of the other tests anyway, and was particularly impressive in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle — two drills designed to measure burst, quickness, agility and change of direction.
His time of 6.81 seconds in the three-cone drill would have ranked fourth-best among the roughly 330 prospects invited to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and first among linebackers.
Owusu-Koramoah’s clocking of 4.15 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle would have been 12th overall and second among linebackers. Even the moments when he simply walked around without his shirt off were impressive.
“He’s the elite prospect we thought he was,” assessed Mike Renner, lead draft analyst for Pro Football Focus. “He backed up everything we thought we knew about him.”
Tremble’s tape had been a bit more of a puzzle.
The 6-3, 241-pounder’s elite blocking skills were evident and enough alone to make him a draftable prospect. But with 2020 draft second-rounder Cole Kmet being the go-to tight end in the passing game in 2019 and freshman prodigy Michael Mayer filling that role this past season, Tremble had something to prove with regard to his receiving skill set.
He backed an impressive showing in the receiving drills with a 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash. That’s the fastest by a Notre Dame tight end in a combine/pro day setting in the Brian Kelly Era (2010-present). Previously, All-American and first-round draft choice Tyler Eifert held that distinction with a 4.68.
Other recent Irish comps include Kmet (4.7), Alizé Mack (4.7), Ben Koyack (4.72) and Kyle Rudolph (4.78), all of whom were drafted.
“You really didn’t get to see him run a super-diverse route tree in games,” Renner said. “He obviously wasn’t featured much, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be.
“And a 4.59 for as young as Tremble is and how new he is to the position, that’s going to get teams excited.”
Also potentially exciting were his 20 bench press reps, which would have ranked fifth among tight ends at the 2020 NFL Combine, a 36 ½-inch vertical leap (good enough for a tie for second in 2020 behind only Kmet’s 37 inches) and a 10-feet-2 broad jump (fifth in 2020).
There was no combine held this year because of COVID-19 concerns. So colleges’ on-campus pro days, typically a backstop of sorts for the combine, instead became a de facto form of it.
Notre Dame’s contingent of 16 players included two players who last played in college in 2019 (defensive end Jamir Jones and wide receiver Chris Finke), 11 who were ceremonially invited to the non-existent 2021 combine and three who were basically afterthoughts as far as the draft is concerned.
All three — cornerback Nick McCloud, safety Shaun Crawford and tight end Brock Wright tested exceptionally well Wednesday, particularly in the 40. Wright’s 4.6 was almost as fast as Tremble’s.
Crawford, with three season-ending leg injuries on his résumé, ran a 4.47 40, a 4.07 20-yard shuttle and a 6.7 three-cone drill. That shuttle time would have been second among prospects at all positions at the 2020 NFL Combine and the cone drill fourth.
McCloud almost ran himself into history. His time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash stands as the second-fastest by an Irish player in an NFL Combine or pro day setting since the 2010 NFL Draft cycle, with 2016 first-round wide receiver Will Fuller still holding the top spot at 4.32.
“That time may help him, but not as much as you think,” Renner said. “I still don’t see McCloud getting drafted, based on his game tape. But I do think his speed might have teams prioritizing him as an undrafted free agent.”
Renner sees at least six and as many as 10 of Wednesday’s participants eventually being drafted, with offensive guard Aaron Banks, quarterback Ian Book, offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg, Owusu-Koramoah, offensive tackle Robert Hainsey and Tremble being locks.
Ends Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji, wide receiver Javon McKinley and offensive guard Tommy Kraemer he deemed as possibilities.
The last time Notre Dame had as many as 10 players drafted was 1994. That’s long before television pro days became a thing.
The first half hour of the NBCSN broadcast Wednesday was bogged down with a long stretch of video of Notre Dame’s four offensive linemen having their position drills explained to them.
Among those four, Eichenberg shined in the bench press with a team-best 33 reps at 225 pounds, followed closely by Hainsey with 32.
Book showed off his arm and his athleticism, with some eye-popping testing numbers. That included the fastest 40 by a ND quarterback by far in the Kelly Era, at 4.59. It should be noted Brandon Wimbush was scheduled to run at last year’s Pro Day, but that it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Some other ND comps who did run in past pro days include Everett Golson (4.82), DeShone Kizer (4.83), Malik Zaire (4.93) and Tommy Rees (5.09), the latter currently the Irish offensive coordinator.
“I still think he’s a late day-three guy (rounds 5-7), and I’d be hard-pressed to see him come off before the fifth,” Renner said of Book.
“But I do think those are intriguing numbers if you’re the backup for Russell Wilson, for Kyler Murray — that sort of thing, where he’s going to be similarly sized, offer some ability in the running game. If they get injured, you don’t have to really change up your offense.
“I do think teams like that could covet what Book brings to the table.”
The best draft prospect on Notre Dame’s roster, though, per Renner, isn’t yet draft-eligible.
“Kyle Hamilton is probably going to be the best Notre Dame defensive prospect since, gosh, I’m trying to think,” Renner said. “He's going to be a top 10 type sort of guy. He’s what everyone’s looking for at safety and on the defensive side of the ball.
“With his wing span and the amount of ground he covers and the way he plays the game, it's hard to watch a Notre Dame football game and not have him catch your eye.”