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Irish at Indy Combine (offense)

The most fascinating ND offensive prospect is RB C.J. Prosise, partly because of the surprising speed and versatility, but also because of his inexperience at the position.

The following five former Notre Dame players on the offensive side of the football were put through the paces in the various strength/speed/agility categories at the Indianapolis Combine over the weekend.

No surprise that wide receiver Will Fuller and running back C.J. Prosise showed themselves well in the speed categories while both caught the football well, which was particularly important for the record-setting Fuller.

It should never be overlooked that everything that takes place at the Indianapolis combine is a series of measuring devices. The Great Truth lies in the film from their collegiate careers.

While a strong combine showing is important, it’s not as important as the proof of one’s ability, which was firmly established from September 2015 through the early days of January 2016.

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After defending his passion for the game in typical Ronnie Stanley-low key mode, the 6-foot-6, 312-pound offensive tackle represented himself well on the field and in the agility drills, although he chose to delay the revelation of his strength numbers until Pro Day at Notre Dame (March 31).

It was a good strategic move by Stanley not to bench, vertical jump or broad jump. The rap on Stanley – besides tangible intensity – is overall upper body strength. He obviously didn’t feel he’d benefit from posting numbers to compare to his fellow offensive linemen/tackles. If strength is indeed lagging behind, he’s got another month to make gains before Pro Day.

Stanley ran a 5.20, which is certainly representative of his first-round projection. But when you saw Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil go through the drills, you understood why Tunsil is the higher-rated prospect. He’s a bigger, more athletic, more explosive edge offensive lineman.

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WR-WILL FULLER (6-0, 186)
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There were few surprises at the combine, good or bad. A 4.32 40 is eye-opening because it was the second best at the combine (through three days) behind only Keith Marshall’s 4.31. But it’s hardly a shock considering how Fuller repeatedly ran by some of the fastest cornerbacks in the country in 2014-15.

Also no surprise was the 10 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press as well as the combine’s smallest hands – 8 ¼ inches. If you said Fuller’s vertical jump would be 33 ½ inches, one might have suspected it would be a touch higher considering the speed/athleticism.

The one “surprise” would be the way Fuller caught the football after tracked him with nine drops in each of the last two seasons. Fuller put some of these doubts to rest – if not completely in the rearview mirror -- at the combine.

Some have speculated that Fuller now moves into first-round range, which may be a bit of an overreaction. All it takes is one team to agree and Fuller is a very rich man. But those small hands, thin frame and lack of strength remain in play. He’s trending in the right direction, but hasn’t necessarily done enough to end up among the top 32 picks in the draft.

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C-NICK MARTIN (6-4, 299)
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A dearth of top-notch candidates certainly has aided Martin’s ascension to the consensus No. 2 center prospect in the draft behind Alabama’s Ryan Kelly. It was rare for Martin to make a play during his Notre Dame days that raised eyebrows. He was never that kind of a player. (Centers rarely are). Rather, he’s a steady-in-the-ship, consistent, cerebral and reliable football player, and that remains strongly in play.

Martin didn’t do anything to hurt his standing in Indianapolis. His 5.22 mark in the 40 was solid. So, too, were his 28 bench press reps of 225 pounds. His 6-foot-4 length is good for a center, and although 32 1/2-inch arms would be a detriment at tackle, it’s much less of an issue on the interior offensive line.

Martin is not a blow-you-off-the-ball center prospect. Few are. His playing experience, lineage, intelligence and his even demeanor all work in his favor at a position where there are few prospects who can eclipse Martin’s stock. He’s taken the next step and remains well-positioned to be the No. 2 center in the draft.

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RB-C.J. PROSISE (6-0, 220)
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The wide receiver-turned-running back probably helped himself at the combine as much as any one of Notre Dame’s 10 players.

Prosise’s sub 4.5 40 (4.48) impressed at 6-foot-0, 220 pounds. The 35 ½-inch vertical was a very good number, too. Prosise also showed himself well as a receiver out of the backfield with NFL Network commentary from none other than Marshall Faulk adding to the upbeat reports.

Add these updates to some of the spectacular film from his pre-injury (seven games) time on the field in ’15 and the arrow continues to point up for a guy we never suspected a year ago would be at the draft/in the combine. Quite frankly, neither did Prosise.

There’s still the reality, which is an inexperienced running back with a pad level too high, five fumbles on 156 carries, uncertainty as a pass protector, and the indecision as a result of his inexperience as to when to turn it upfield. He is and will continue to be the most interesting of Notre Dame’s 2016 draft prospects.

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WR-CHRIS BROWN (6-2, 194)
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Yo-yoing weight from the start of the ’15 season to the end of the season to the East-West Shrine Game to the start of the Indianapolis combine is likely the reason Brown didn’t test in any of the speed drills this weekend.

Brown, already a marginal NFL prospect, can’t afford a 4.6 40 time if he’s going to make it with the big boys. He has no margin for error, so if it was a muscle tweak that kept him out of the testing or simply the feeling that he wasn’t adequately prepared, he made the right decision.

Brown really came on the last two years of his collegiate career and was ascending even coming out of the all-star game in January. He’s thin, he’s not very strong and for all the talk of his speed, thus, the nickname Breezy, he did not show consistent separation skills with the Irish, although he did become a third-down weapon and was as willing of a downfield blocker as you’ll find on the ’15 Irish roster.

The inability/decision to test in Indy puts even more importance on the March 31 Pro Day. Brown remains, for now, in draft limbo.

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