Fracture costs Tuitt golden opportunity at NFL combine

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

Stephon Tuitt had a chance to solidify himself as the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft.

But that opportunity was lost when news broke Sunday night that the former Notre Dame lineman would not participate in Monday’s drills at the NFL Scouting Combine because of an injury.

NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah reported a small fracture in Tuitt’s left foot was discovered during an exam at the combine. That injury, described by Jeremiah as a Jones fracture which occurs in the metatarsal bone at the base of the small toe, wiped out Tuitt’s chance to show his speed and explosion.

Jeremiah also reported Tuitt planned to undergo surgery in about a week and would be expected to fully recover in six to eight weeks. That timetable should allow him to work out for teams before the draft on May 8.

“The thing that’s troubling is he has another injury,” said analyst Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com. “It’s a trend that teams are going to be concerned about with his durability, because that’s the reason his junior season was disappointing compared to expectations, especially from what he did as a sophomore.”

On the positive side, Tuitt impressed with his size and bench press numbers earlier in the combine. The Monroe, Ga., product measured in at 6-foot-5, 304 pounds and recorded 31 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which placed him in a tie for sixth-strongest of the 50 defensive linemen to record a lift.

Wright said the biggest question about Tuitt coming into the combine was his conditioning. Knocking 18 pounds off his listed weight answered that. Now his health looms as the remaining question.

“The medicals are going to be big for Stephon Tuitt,” Wright said. “He’s got a couple things on the docket now. I’m sure the teams are doing their due diligence in that regard. It’s a missed opportunity to a certain degree, but overall it was probably a net positive weekend for Stephon Tuitt just showing off his conditioning and showing off his strength.”

Wright said Tuitt’s stock might not have dropped much because no one else has cemented themselves as the No. 2 defensive end after South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. Auburn’s Dee Ford also sat out with an injury, and Missouri’s Kony Ealy only had an “OK workout.”

“That is an opportunity, because we’re not going to go into the 20s before the second defensive end is picked because so many teams need pass rushers,” Wright said.

Two other former Notre Dame players took the field in Indianapolis on Monday to show their skills — defensive tackle Louis Nix and linebacker Prince Shembo.

Much like Tuitt, Nix made his biggest impression earlier in the combine at weigh-in. He measured at 6-2, 331, 26 pounds lighter than his listed weight at Notre Dame. However, he clocked the second-slowest time for defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash at 5.42 seconds. He also recorded the third-worst broad jump of his position at 97 inches.

Nix wasn’t expected to dominate in Monday’s drills.

“If you compare him to the other 330-pound-type guys, his results stack up pretty favorably,” Wright said. “He did about what was expected. Nobody thought he would be like (Pittsburgh defensive tackle) Aaron Donald and run a 4.7. That’s not the type of player he is.”

On the other hand, Shembo made some noise with his performance Monday. He recorded a 40 time (4.71) that put him just inside the top half of the linebacker group and impressed with the explosive jumping test. He tied for fourth in the vertical jump at 38.5 inches and tied for fifth in the broad jump at 122 inches.

“I’m surprised he performed as well as he did,” Wright said. “I think Prince Shembo is a better prospect than (former ND linebacker) Darius Fleming was when he was coming out, and he was a fifth-round pick. The problem is it’s such a deep draft.”

Shembo’s size (6-1, 253) leaves him as a tweener that might not fit into the traditional mold for an outside linebacker or defensive end, the positions he played most at Notre Dame.

“Every team needs pass rushers,” Wright said, “and Shembo, regardless of where you play him, he’s going to be able to rush the passer, even if it’s just a situational role.”

The combine wraps up Tuesday with defensive backs. Former Irish cornerback Bennett Jackson, who measured in a 6-0, 195 and bench-pressed 13 reps, will participate.

Monday’s results

• Louis Nix

40-yard dash: 5.42 seconds (41 of 42 defensive linemen, which includes ends)

Vertical jump: 25.5 inches (tied-39th of 43 defensive linemen with Missouri’s Michael Sam)

Broad jump: 97 inches (tied-40th of 43 defensive linemen with Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers)

Three-cone drill: 8.29 seconds (Last of 36 defensive linemen)

• Prince Shembo

40-yard dash: 4.71 seconds (13th of 27 linebackers)

Vertical jump: 38.5 inches (tied-4th of 29 linebackers)

Broad jump: 122 inches (tied-5th of 30 linebackers)

Three-cone drill: 7.29 seconds (20th of 22 linebackers)

20-yard shuttle: 4.31 seconds (16th of 22 linebackers)

Tyler James: 574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Former Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt sat out drills at the NFL combine Monday because of a foot injury. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)