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Eifert to be on display at combine

TE heads Indiana-school players working toward draft

– Football players from Indiana colleges are in Indianapolis for the NFL draft combine to improve their draft stock this week.

They will go through team interviews before on-field workouts begin Saturday and end Tuesday. The NFL draft is April 25-27.

Tyler Eifert, a Bishop Dwenger graduate, is among a group of eight former Notre Dame players at the combine. The Irish contingent includes linebacker Manti Te’o, center Braxston Cave, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter and running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.

Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson and Ball State punter Scott Kovanda will also take part in the combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short was invited to the combine, but the 6-foot-3, 308-pounder will not work out this week or at the Boilermakers’ pro day on March 1 because of a hamstring injury, according to NFL.com. Short, who is expect to be selected in the first or second round, will hold a workout March 25 at Purdue, according to NFL.com.

Eifert, a 6-foot-6, 251-pounder, will be competing with Zach Ertz, a 6-6, 249-pounder from Stanford, and Gavin Escobar, a 6-6, 255-pounder from San Diego State, to be the first tight end selected in the draft.

“It’s going to be interesting how the three run against each other,” Mike Mayock, a draft analyst for the NFL Network and color commentator for Notre Dame home games on NBC, said during a Monday teleconference. “They’re all clumped together by most teams right now. I think speed is going to be important for those tight ends.”

While how the tight ends separate themselves will be interesting, more attention will be paid to how Te’o handles the combine experience and the impression teams get from the linebacker who was the victim of a hoax that made him believe he had a relationship with a woman who never existed.

“I think there are two schools of thought,” Mayock said. “One is most of us have made mistakes at age 21 and the kid’s naïve and it’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t really hurt the kid because it’s not like one of those major things where you say we can’t have him on our team. Some other teams are going to look at him and say he lied to his father, he had a chance to, when he found out, tell the nation and he lied to the nation, and do you want a liar in your locker room? I think most teams feel the former, and I know a few teams that told me they’d be concerned about a liar in the locker room. … He had a huge intangible grade that would push his on-the-field grade higher. I think he’s lost all of that.”

Mayock said he thinks the rest of the Notre Dame players will be selected between the third and seventh rounds.

“I’ve got Motta in my top five safeties, and a lot of people don’t. He’s 218-pound kid that has a passion for the game, works out as hard as anybody that I’ve ever seen. He’s a great teammate, understands the game. … I’ve got a third-round grade on Zeke,” Mayock said. “Braxston is one of those guys who doesn’t perform quite as good in individual drills as he does when there are 22 people on the field. … I think he’s going to be about a fifth-round guy.

“I thought Theo Riddick just did a great job this year. Because he’s got experience at tailback and slot back, I think his value as that third-down, change-of-pace guy has been enhanced. Those guys typically don’t go until at the earliest third round. I think Theo is a third- or fourth-round guy. Cierre doesn’t catch the ball as well. I think he is a fourth-round guy.

“I felt like (Lewis-Moore, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the BCS title game) was going to be fourth- or fifth-round five technique for a 3-4 team. I still think and hope he gets drafted because he’s going to provide value down the road.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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