Notre Dame Football: Robert Blanton

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tapping into the archives to learn more about the shoes he needed to fill, Bennett Jackson instead learned more about his own progress.

While watching film this week of former Notre Dame cornerbacks Robert Blanton and Gary Gray, Jackson stumbled across a few clips of himself featuring sloppy play and weak technique. He didn't like what he saw, and he didn't recognize it, either.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Bennett Jackson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesBennett Jackson has become the elder statesman of Notre Dame cornerbacks.
"I didn't really know what I was doing, I was just kind of just running around," Jackson said of his younger self. "But then I look to myself now and just see the change. So that's a confidence booster for sure."

It all re-affirmed for the junior just how far he has come since switching from wide receiver to corner two years ago. And with Lo Wood's season-ending Achilles injury Monday, Jackson knows the margin for error is slim, as his nearly two years of experience and limited reserve action at the position has forced him into the role of elder statesman for a unit re-tooling on the fly.

"Me and Lo, we tried to lead by example on the field," Jackson said. "But with Lo out, obviously me being the older cornerback, I kind of have to take charge. I took charge before, but now it's more on my shoulders I feel. All the younger guys are working, we're all a great unit. We have great chemistry and I want the best for the guy who's going to be next to me, for sure, all the guys."

Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson or KeiVarae Russell will likely be that guy next to Jackson come Sept. 1, with Russell providing the most interesting rise through camp so far.

Recruited as a running back out of Mariner (Wash.) High School, Russell arrived on campus this June and made the switch to corner, where the Irish were already down one big prospect following the spring departure of early-enrollee Tee Shepard.

No stranger to switching sides of the ball himself, Jackson has been impressed by Russell's quick adjustment from taking the hits to delivering them.

"Everybody's surprised," Jackson said of Russell. "Everyone's happy with how he's coming along. He's adapting to it really fast for sure, but he's got a great group of guys around him. Everybody's helping him. He's a really smart kid. I'm surprised he caught on to it that fast. He's doing a great job."

With one fateful misstep Monday -- teammates saw Wood stumble and walk off the field, figuring he had rolled an ankle -- the learning curve has been accelerated for Russell and the rest of the healthy cornerbacks, none of whom have seen more than marginal playing time in the secondary.

"You're young, you're inexperienced, but you're excited," safety Matthias Farley said of his defensive backfield-mates. "Because you want to get in the game, you want to prove you can make an impact at whatever position you're in, contribute to the team. And I would say across the board everyone is in high spirits and fully confident that they can do the tasks that are assigned out for that position, whatever it may be."

Notre Dame spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
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2011 overall record: 8-5

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Tommy Rees, QB Andrew Hendrix, RB Cierre Wood, RB/WR Theo Riddick, RB/WR George Atkinson III, TE Tyler Eifert, LT Zack Martin, LG Chris Watt, C Braxston Cave, C/G Mike Golic Jr., WR Robby Toma, WR John Goodman, WR T.J. Jones, DE Stephon Tuitt, NG Louis Nix, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, ILB Manti Te'o, ILB Dan Fox, OLB Prince Shembo, S Jamoris Slaughter, S Zeke Motta

Key losses
WR Michael Floyd, RB Jonas Gray, RG Trevor Robinson, RT Taylor Dever, DE Aaron Lynch, NG Sean Cwynar, DE Ethan Johnson, OLB Darius Fleming, S Harrison Smith, CB Gary Gray, CB Robert Blanton

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Cierre Wood* (1,102 yards)
Passing: Tommy Rees* (2,871 yards)
Receiving: Michael Floyd (1,147 yards)
Tackles: Manti Te'o* (128)
Sacks: Aaron Lynch (5.5)
Interceptions: Robert Blanton/Gary Gray (2)

Spring answers

1. Tyler Eifert: His offensive teammates -- and the next starting quarterback, in particular -- owe Eifert the world for returning. New offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will use Eifert in a variety of different ways this season, and his position will resemble that of Michael Floyd's more than it will a traditional tight end's. A strong season will likely propel Eifert into the first round of next year's NFL draft.

2. No shortage of skill players: Yes, the all-time leading receiver is gone. But the Irish still boast a plethora of skilled, versatile assets who can make big plays with their speed. Tony Alford is in charge of the running backs and slot receivers this season, and Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Robby Toma and George Atkinson III all have the ability to make things happen out of the backfield. Look for a big year from DaVaris Daniels on the outside as well.

3. Defensive leaders: Manti Te'o would appear to be a shoe-in for a captain role this season, and he'll have plenty of help bringing along some of the unit's young talent. Jamoris Slaughter is back for a fifth year, and becoming a father this spring has forced him to grow up fast. Kapron Lewis-Moore is back for a fifth year as well, and the defensive end is one of the more respected voices on the team.

Fall questions

1. What will happen to Tommy Rees and, by extension, the QB race? Rees' immediate future is up in the air following his May 3 arrest, though his chances of starting this season figure to have greatly diminished in light of being charged with four misdemeanors. Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson will likely benefit the most and should enter camp as the favorites, while prep phenom Gunner Kiel continues to adjust after enrolling in January.

2. What about those corners? Bennett Jackson has the talent to play well at the boundary in his first year starting but will likely have to endure some growing pains, especially against some of the elite passing offenses the Irish will face in 2012. At the field, Josh Atkinson has pushed Lo Wood for the No. 1 spot, and that will be one of the more intriguing position battles once preseason camp opens.

3. Can anyone handle this schedule? The two Big Ten favorites, the Big 12 favorite, the Pac-12 favorite. A trip to Dublin. The 2012 schedule is absolutely loaded, and the Irish will have several new pieces in key places entering the season. How quickly everybody can adjust to their roles will go a long way in determining whether Brian Kelly's third season at Notre Dame is a success.

Irish Lunch Links

April, 30, 2012
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Happy Birthday to one of the biggest Irish fans I know, my grandma. (Who doesn't own a computer and therefore will never see this message.)
Expect a little more purple and gold than usual on the Notre Dame campus this fall.

Robert Blanton became the latest in the Irish-to-Vikings pipeline Saturday, going to Minnesota in the fifth round (139th overall) one day after the franchise drafted the cornerback's teammate from Notre Dame's defensive backfield, Harrison Smith.

Minnesota now has five former Irish players on its roster: Blanton, Smith, Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson and John Sullivan.

Darius Fleming was drafted a round later (165th overall) by the 49ers, who made Fleming the first Notre Dame linebacker drafted since 2004, when the Saints took Courtney Watson. San Francisco had not drafted a Notre Dame player since taking Arnaz Battle in the sixth round in 2003.

Several former Irish players signed free-agent deals with NFL teams -- defensive end Ethan Johnson with the Chiefs, running back Jonas Gray with the Dolphins and offensive tackle Taylor Dever with the Cowboys. Guard Trevor Robinson posted on Twitter on Sunday that he signed with the Bengals.
One last Wednesday, one last roundup of our experts' forecasts for this weekend's NFL draft.

One thing I think we can all agree on after some earlier offseason debate: Michael Floyd will be chosen Thursday.

Floyd, who will be in New York for the draft, is ranked as the No. 15 prospect on Todd McShay's 32-man draft board Insider, 14 spots ahead of safety Harrison Smith, who's at No. 29. Mel Kiper has Floyd 12th on his 25-man Big Board Insider.

Kiper has both players going in the first round in his latest mock Insider, with Floyd Buffalo-bound at No. 10 and Smith headed to New England at No. 31.
There are plenty of draft boards that will have Floyd as the best overall WR in this class. The Bills could go a few different ways here, but they really need another threat in the passing game, and Floyd gives them size and smarts. He'll grasp the route tree early, and can both stretch the field and work underneath.

The Patriots will address the pass rush with one of the first two picks, but I think they'll also look for help in the secondary if they like the value. Smith is a very good player. He takes great routes to the ball, and he doesn't shy away when he's closer to the line and has to take on runners. Corner could be a target here, but Smith also makes your coverage better.


McShay, meanwhile, teams up with Scouts Inc. partners Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl to mock the entire seven-round draft Insider. In addition to Floyd and Smith, the group has Darius Fleming going in the fifth round (No. 143, Panthers), Robert Blanton going in the sixth round (No. 185, Cardinals) and Jonas Gray going in the seventh round (No. 249, Falcons).

Numbers from ND's pro day

April, 3, 2012
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Representatives from 27 NFL teams were present Tuesday for Notre Dame's pro day. The Irish just released numbers and notes from the event. Here you go ...
  • Robert Blanton (4.53/4.56) had the fastest 40-time among the five former Irish players who ran it. His 4.53 would have been fourth among safeties at February's combine in Indianapolis, and would have tied for 12th among cornerbacks.
  • The other 40 times from Tuesday: Darius Fleming (4.58/4.54), Gary Gray (4.75/4.70), Trevor Robinson (5.24/5.22), and Taylor Dever (5.38/5.34).
  • Robinson, who was not invited to the combine, would have been the only offensive lineman there to rank among the top 10 in vertical jump (30 inches; tied for 8th), broad jump (8 feet, 9 inches; tied for 6th), bench press (31; tied for 8th), and 40-yard dash (5.22; 8th).
  • Jonas Gray improved his bench press number from 20 at the combine to 22 Tuesday.
  • David Ruffer hit 13 of 15 field goals.
  • Harrison Smith's 60-yard shuttle time (11.52) would have been the fastest time among safeties at the combine. That was the only timed drill Smith participated in Tuesday.
  • Michael Floyd ran an 11.66 in the 60-yard shuttle. The 3-cone drill (7.13/7.11) and pro agility drill (4.23/4.37) were the only other timed drills he took part in Tuesday.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jimmy Clausen is scheduled to fly out of town Wednesday morning, but the former Notre Dame signal caller is hoping to re-schedule his flight so he can get an in-person glimpse of the Irish's quarterback competition during the team's ninth spring practice.

The current reserve signal caller for the Carolina Panthers went through a four-man competition at the position during his freshman year in 2007, emerging as the starter for the Irish's second game.

"Oh man, it seems like a long, long time ago," Clausen said. "But it was a lot of fun. Coming in as a freshman — I came in early — it was kind of a whirlwind for me. Just learning the playbook and everything like that. But [Tommy Rees'] done a great job, [Andrew Hendrix's] done a great job and I'm looking forward to watching those guys this year."

He said he met Gunner Kiel on Monday, offering whatever advice he could to another early enrollee who entered Notre Dame with huge expectations following a decorated prep career.

"I talked to him yesterday for a little bit, introduced myself to him and just said good luck with everything," Clausen said. "If he needs anything just give me a call, we'll talk."

Some other pro day items, per Notre Dame officials:

  • Cornerback Robert Blanton's 40-yard dash time was in the low 4.5s. Linebacker Darius Fleming's was between 4.50-4.59. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who also does color commentary for Notre Dame home games on NBC, said he can see Blanton playing safety at the next level.
  • Right guard Trevor Robinson bench pressed 225 pounds 31 times.
  • Running back Jonas Gray, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Nov. 19, ran pass patterns and was able to explode and cut, and he did not wear a brace on his knee. Gray did not run a 40, saying he won't be able to until late May or early June, by which point it would be unnecessary.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A rainy Friday forced Notre Dame indoors for spring practice No. 6, which shed no new light on the four-man quarterback competition.

Not that the Irish are expecting any definitive answers in the next three weeks, anyway.

The signal callers went against a three-man rush Friday, coach Brian Kelly said, making sure they could keep plays alive against eight-man coverages and secure the ball.

"Each day we're staging different tests for the quarterbacks," Kelly said. "That's why this is gonna be a long process. We're not gonna have this thing accomplished because we have not even got to the checks in our offense yet. There are no checks in yet. It's call it and play.

"So as you know last year we ran so many checks that we checked ourselves out of plays. So just to give you a perspective of how far we are from even being able to say the quarterback is ready, we're not even there in terms of our system."

Kelly said the starter will be whoever takes care of the football, and he thinks the quarterbacks have done a better job of understanding that "zero" is an OK play.

"We've gone back and taught fundamentals so nobody started ahead of the other quarterback," Kelly said. "So now we're seeing progression from each one of them in picking up the things that we want."

Some other notes from Friday ...
  • Prince Shembo's left foot was immobilized because of turf toe, and he is expected to miss two to three days. Ishaq Williams took reps with the first-team defense during practice, the first half-hour of which was open to the media.
  • Robby Toma took reps at running back, but Kelly said that was more a function of the Irish's slot receiver position meshing with running back: "It's matching personnel. So it's not necessarily that Robby runs the inside zone extremely well, it's matching personnel so we can move guys to different positions on the field. So again it's just multiple formations that allow us to move the defense and it might be just to move the defense in a position where it opens up for Tyler Eifert or it opens up something else, so it's not something we would evaluate as he's in the mix to be one of the running backs, but because we've tagged the position as a slot receiver position, when the play-call comes in and he's in the game, sometimes he'll find himself in that position."
  • Kelly said the Irish are putting pieces together for their return teams, but no catching has been done yet.
  • Nine former Notre Dame players will participate in the school's pro day Tuesday: Robert Blanton, Taylor Dever, Darius Fleming, Michael Floyd, Gary Gray, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, David Ruffer and Harrison Smith.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A year ago Bennett Jackson was transitioning from offense to defense to help what Notre Dame's coaches then thought what was a thin cornerback group. The staff likely had no idea just how much the switch would pay dividends this spring, when the Irish were down to four scholarship corners following the sudden departure of early-enrollee Tee Shepard.

Running back Cam McDaniel was brought over prior to this spring, upping the number of cornerbacks to five.

"We're certainly short, there's no question," head coach Brian Kelly said at the start of the spring season. "There's no hiding the fact that we have a numbers issue there. But we'll be smart in how we manage our reps. We'll be smart in how we put those guys in positions. But clearly you know our philosophy and style of defense; we think that we can be a championship team with the five guys that we have there."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Bennett Jackson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesLast season Bennett Jackson moved from special teams and receiver to defensive back.
Multi-year starters Robert Blanton and Gary Gray are gone, and suddenly the leader of the pack is Jackson, who played mostly on special teams during his freshman year of 2010, when he was also a wide receiver.

No conversations during his recruitment centered on a possible re-location to the secondary, Jackson said, as the move last spring came as a bit of a surprise.

"I'd say at first I was a little moved by it," Jackson said. "I was a little, I wouldn't say aggravated but a little disappointed. But as I went down the road I actually enjoyed cornerback a lot more than receiver, so I thought it was a great move by the coaches."

"I always enjoyed the physical part more," he later added. "I always like hitting. Special teams my freshman year, I was always hitting. I didn't really play receiver too much so I got a feel for the physical part of the game more. And trying a new position, I fit in well. So I was doing good at it, I was having a chance to compete and I just really started to enjoy it."

Of the switch, Jackson said he would likes to hit rather than be hit. Given Notre Dame's current cornerback situation, he may just like the pressure of being one of the best the Irish have.

"Bennett is as talented a cornerback as I've ever coached," cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks said. "From the speed, he's long, he's athletic, he can flip his hips. The part that he's missing is just the experience part, which he got a little bit of that toward the back half of last season. So he's still got to grow. The first few days have been awesome -- he's out there, he's talking, he's vocal. He's doing all the right things, so I like where he's at right now."

Jackson and Lo Wood are the No. 1 corners this spring, with Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown behind them. Wood's 57-yard interception return for a touchdown last season against Maryland is the highlight among the group, which stands little more than five months from a slate featuring Heisman-caliber passers like USC's Matt Barkley and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

The corners are welcoming the negative perception as a challenge.

"We're making sure we're just focused on getting better as a unit in the secondary because we all know that, hey, the pressure's on us," Atkinson said. "We all just wanna be great and we're all just committing ourselves to getting better each and every day."

Kelly said there are no current plans for incoming athlete Davonte Neal to play cornerback upon arrival, as he will likely be a receiver or return man.

Cooks, meanwhile, is looking at the current situation as a blessing in disguise. If nothing else, he said, there are more opportunities for each player to take advantage of.

"To me, I don't even look at it like that," Cooks said. "I got the guys that I got. If I had eight I'd be happy, if I had four, if I had three — I'm gonna coach the guys that I got and the guys that wanna be here. And to me, having five scholarship corners allows a lot of guys to get more reps, which means we're building depth at the same time as trying to find out who our two-deep is."
Michael Floyd and Harrison Smith remained at Nos. 13 and 24, respectively, on Mel Kiper's 25-man Big Board this week.

Floyd jumped two spots on Todd McShay's 32-man draft board , to No. 21.
Floyd's combine showing confirmed his ability to get over the top of man coverage, and he has elite downfield ball skills. Floyd can make a strong case as the second wide receiver off the board.

McShay and the rest of Scouts Inc. also stack the board this week, assigning each prospect, grouped with his position , to the round corresponding with his draft grade.

Floyd, as the second receiver, is in the first round while Smith, the second safety, lands in the second round.

Robert Blanton grades out in the fourth round, while Darius Fleming lands in the fifth round.

Jonas Gray received a seventh-round grade.

Big shoes to fill: Secondary

March, 21, 2012
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Our series wraps up today, the start of spring practice, with a unit that will face quite the gauntlet of high-powered passing attacks this coming season. Who will step up?

OUT: Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Gary Gray. Smith was everything Notre Dame could have hoped for during his senior season, notching 90 tackles (second-most on the team), three tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery — all the while serving as the Irish's lone captain. Smith was instrumental in keeping the squad together through tough stretches like the 0-2 start and the aftermath of coach Brian Kelly's controversial comments about the difference between his recruits and former coach Charlie Weis'. Smith finished his career with 309 tackles, ninth in school history, and the safety may just hear his name called on Day 1 of the NFL draft. Blanton came up big during his senior season, most notably with a game-sealing pick against Michigan State in Notre Dame's first win of the season. Gray, the other starting corner, took plenty of heat for allowing several big plays late in the loss at Michigan, but his presence will also be missed as the Irish break in two new starters at cornerback.

IN: Austin Collinsworth, Lo Wood, Bennett Jackson. Collinsworth, a safety, has been all over the field since arriving to Notre Dame as a receiver prospect in 2010, and he has filled in nicely as both a kick returner and on the kick coverage team. Wood has the biggest highlight of the three, returning an interception 57 yards for a touchdown against Maryland. Jackson, like Collinsworth, has been moved as well, entering Notre Dame as a wide receiver prospect and appearing in all 26 games through two seasons, mostly as a special teams player. He has participated with Notre Dame's track team this semester, and his speed will be crucial to a re-building secondary that faces a tough slate of signal callers in 2012, such as Oklahoma's Landry Jones and USC's Matt Barkley. Like the receiver position with Deontay Greenberry, this unit, too, is hurting from a recruiting departure — Greenberry's cousin, early enrollee cornerback Tee Shepard — as the Irish are down to five scholarship cornerbacks, with running back Cam McDaniel now moving to the defensive backfield. Kelly said at his spring-opening press conference Tuesday that Wood and Jackson enter spring as the starters and that, at least at the moment, there are no plans for incoming athlete Davonte Neal to start out as a cornerback.
With Notre Dame's spring practice season kicking off in six days, we're taking a look at three players whose offseasons could go a long way toward the Irish's success in 2012. Wednesday we looked at John Goodman. Today, we look at a cornerback who has been more active offseason than most.

Spotlight: Bennett Jackson

2011 summary: Jackson played in all 13 games last season, recording 18 total tackles. He returned three kickoffs for a total of 32 yards, with the longest going for 17 yards. This came after a freshman season that saw him earn the team's special teams player of the year honors. Jackson was one of three football players to participate with the Irish's track and field team this spring, joining George and Josh Atkinson.

The skinny: The secondary has some holes to fill, and Jackson figures to have as good a chance as any to fill one of the starting cornerback voids left by graduates Gary Gray and Robert Blanton. The junior-to-be has been all over the place at Notre Dame, which recruited him as a wide receiver and has put him on the field in all 26 games of his young career. (Jackson has also switched numbers during that time, from No. 86 to No. 2). The 6-foot, 185-pounder from New Jersey claims to have run the fastest 40-yard dash on the football team last year, at 4.40, and he has certainly been active this offseason, running the hurdles. That speed, coupled with the techniques he has picked up with a year at corner under his belt, put Jackson in position to assume a starting role for a pass defense that will face Heisman candidate quarterbacks this season in Matt Barkley and Landry Jones.
On Monday, numberFire's Nik Bonaddio and Keith Goldner wrote that Harrison Smith would have to Insider run close to a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash to have a shot at being taken in the first round of the draft.

Following his performance Tuesday during the seventh and final day of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Smith might have a chance.

Smith ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times. Six safeties did better in each category.

Scouts Inc.'s Insider Steve Muench, among others, came away impressed by the former Notre Dame safety's performance.
Notre Dame S Harrison Smith stood out during drills. At 6-2 and 213 pounds, he may not have elite hip fluidity, but everything is smooth and under control. There's even more to like about the way he played the ball and his potential to develop into a playmaker. He is a natural pass catcher with big hands (10) and long arms (32] ) for a safety prospect.

Former Irish cornerback Robert Blanton ran a 4.70 40 and did 12 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Smith's 6.63 in the 3-cone drill was fifth among all defensive backs and Blanton's 6.71 was seventh. They are the fastest and third-fastest 3-cone drills, respectively, among former Notre Dame players in the last five years, according to Notre Dame media-relations director Brian Hardin.

Blanton's 3.97 in the 20-yard shuttle was tied for third-best among defensive backs.

Michael Floyd, meanwhile, left enough of an impression for some, including our John Clayton, to place him as the clear No. 2 wide receiver behind Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon.

Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay Insider writes:
The big question for Floyd (6-2], 220) was whether he has the speed to get over the top against man coverage, and his official 40 time of 4.47 combined with his initial burst off the line helps his case. He also posted a 10-5 broad jump and a 36 vertical. Floyd is competing with Baylor's Kendall Wright to be the second receiver off the board, and teams like the Chicago Bears (No. 19 overall), Houston Texans (No. 26) and New England Patriots (Nos. 27 and 31) could all have interest.

Combine defensive cheat sheets

February, 24, 2012
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Scouts Inc. has offered some more cheat sheets for this week's NFL scouting combine, which features three Notre Dame players on the defensive side of the ball.

Safety Harrison Smith is the most notable of the group, and the former Irish captain grades out well. Among safeties, Smith is second in instincts/recognition and No. 1 in run support Insider. He is listed as the fifth-most draftable prospect among secondary players.

Robert Blanton comes in at No. 3 among cornerbacks in run support, and he is the 25th-most draftable prospect among secondary players.

Among outside linebackers, Darius Fleming is No. 2 in take-on skills and No. 23 overall among draftable linebacker prospects Insider.

Six ND players gear up for combine

February, 22, 2012
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The NFL scouting combine gets started today in Indianapolis, running through Tuesday. A full schedule of events can be found here.

Jonas Gray, Michael Floyd, Taylor Dever, Darius Fleming, Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith will be there from Notre Dame. Among the most pressing questions facing the Irish contingent:
  • How will Floyd respond to all of the questions about his multiple off-field run-ins with alcohol? The receiver has answered every question from the media the right way so far, but the environment will be much more intense in Indianapolis. Also, is he 100 percent after suffering a rib injury in his finale? Floyd skipped the Senior Bowl to heal, so there is a bit of uncertainty surrounding him there as well.
  • How much can Smith improve his stock? The safety and former Irish captain has received rave reviews since his college career ended, and he was even a first-rounder in Mel Kiper's latest mock draft. Don't expect Smith to be fazed by the circus of the combine.
  • How much will Gray's ACL tear hurt him? The running back told the South Bend Tribune that he will not work out at the combine but is confident he'll be ready for Notre Dame's pro day, though whether he will be able to run a 40-yard dash remains up in the air.

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