Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD BURLAGE AND ANDREW MENTOCK F ormer Irish cornerback Troy Pride Jr. didn't view his week in Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl festivities as any kind of special honor or awe- inspiring setting. Instead, Pride embraced it as an opportunity to compete against some of the best collegiate wide receivers in the country, and give NFL general managers and scouts a preview of what they can expect from him when the NFL Scouting Combine is held from Feb. 23-March 2 at Indianapolis. Mission accomplished. Pride capped a stellar practice week with an interception that he returned for 33 yards in the Senior Bowl game Jan. 25. "It's never overwhelming, I think I came built for this moment and I'm here for a reason," Pride told ESPN690 in a post-game interview. "… I've seen a lot of stuff at Notre Dame, and it's made me the man I am today." NFL Draft analyst Scott Wright, president and publisher of NFL-, was in Mobile and believes Pride had one of the best workout weeks of any Senior Bowl participant. "Pride might have been the biggest beneficiary, proving to be the clear- cut top cover guy in attendance," Wright said. "Pride displayed the speed everyone expected, but also alleviated some concerns about his physicality and play-making ability." Considered an early fourth-round pick entering the week, Pride now has a legitimate case to be one of the top-10 players drafted at his position. Pride was one of four Notre Dame players who were members of a North team that notched a 34-17 win over the South squad. Wide receiver Chase Claypool capped his own strong week with two catches for six yards in the game, with a one-yard touchdown. Check- ing in at 229 pounds and slightly taller than 6-4, Claypool immedi- ately aced the eyeball test and never looked back. "Not only did Claypool put that im- posing size to good use throughout the week," Wright said, "but he also showed nuance as a route runner and consistently tracked as one of the fast- est players on the field every practice." The NFL Network's Lance Zierlin believed that Claypool might even eclipse the third-round selection last year of his former teammate Miles Boykin. While Pride may have improved his draft stock the most of any de- fensive back on the North team at the Senior Bowl, former Irish safety Jalen Elliott was actually voted the squad's Practice Player of the Week as a defensive back. Safety Alohi Gilman suffered a hamstring injury late in the week and was a late scratch for the game. Former Irish defensive ends Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem were both eligible to play, but Okwara is rehabbing a broken fibula injury he suffered in November and Kareem chose to skip the Senior Bowl to focus on NFL Scouting Combine workouts. Three other former Irish players also participated in postseason all- star events last month. Running back Tony Jones Jr. gained five yards on seven carries and wide receiver Chris Finke was held with- out a reception at the East-West Shrine Game Jan. 18 in St. Peters- burg, Fla. Wright has Jones ranked as the No. 38 overall running back and says in a typical year in the modern era, only 20 backs are taken. Finke is the No. 58 overall wide receiver in a historically deep class and unlikely to get drafted. Asmar Bilal, who shined as a fifth- UNDER THE DOME FEELING PRIDE … AND MORE Several Notre Dame all-star participants boosted their NFL stock Troy Pride Jr. had a standout week during the Senior Bowl practices as well as in the game itself, where he returned an interception 33 yards. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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