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Notre Dame Football

Non-Combine Invitees Who Stood Out at Notre Dame’s Pro Day

March 25, 2023

Notre Dame hosted its Pro Day for 2023 NFL Draft hopefuls on Friday. With dozens of scouts in attendance, 14 players participated in on-the-field drills, including all four 2023 NFL Combine invitees.

The majority of players who get drafted attend the combine, so there’s a good chance only Michael Mayer, Isaiah Foskey, Jarrett Patterson and Brandon Joseph hear their names called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or a guest selector.

Other players like the TaRiq Bracy and the Ademilola twins are shoo-ins to receive an NFL camp invite, but the three players below performed well on Friday and increased their chances of making an NFL team or practice squad down the road. 

Chris Smith

Notre Dame defensive tackle Chris Smith watched his fellow collegiate linemen put up impressive-yet-achievable figures in the bench press at the 2023 NFL Combine. 

That includes the performance of USC offensive guard Andrew Vorhees, who lead the combine with 38 reps of 225 lbs. the day after tearing his ACL during on-the-field drills. 

Smith on Friday, Smith fell just short of matching Vorhees when he put up 37 reps, but he still surpassed every defensive lineman at the combine. 

Was he satisfied with the result? Certainly, but Smith still believes he could have done better. 

“The goal was 40, actually,” Smith said. “I got a little tired. I think I went a little too hard in the beginning, but I'm still happy with 37.”

He also moved pretty well for a 300-pound lineman, running a better 20-yard shuttle than either Ademilola twin or Jarrett Patterson.

Smith mentioned speaking with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, and it’s easy to see any of those teams giving him a shot as an undrafted free agent.

Bo Bauer

The fifth-year linebacker suffered a season-ending knee injury in preparation for Notre Dame’s week seven matchup with Stanford last fall. 

The ailment required surgery and prevented Bauer from lifting weights for months. 

He was dumbfounded when he finally returned to the bench press in January and repped 225 lbs. a measly 10 times.

“It was humbling,” Bauer said. “It lit a fire under me.”

Bauer trained diligently with a target in mind.

“I set the goal months ago,” Bauer said. “I wanted to come and hit 30.”

On Friday, he did just that while measuring in at an impressive 6-2 and 240 pounds.

His 30 reps would’ve ranked first among linebackers at the 2023 NFL Combine

He still has a ways to go in his recovery process, which is why the bench press was the only drill Bauer participated in. 

He expects to be full go by October.

“I'm about 75% strength,” Bauer said. “I'm back in the weight room squatting over 400 pounds, and I'm doing what I can. I sprinted this week for the first time at top speed and I've been jogging for a while so I'm just really ready to go.”

In the meantime, he’s also training to be a long snapper at the next level. It’s a skill he demonstrated on Friday after working with Notre Dame long snapper Michael “Milk” Vinson and members of the Irish staff. 

It’s good work if you can get it. In 15 seasons, former Irish long snapper J.J. Jansen has made $13.8 million and counting.

More than anything, Bauer showed that he’s willing to go the extra mile to help his team. It could be a real advantage for a franchise to dedicate one of its 53 roster spots to a long snapper who can do more than just long snap.

“I'm trying to be a Swiss Army Knife,” Bauer said. “I'll do whatever it takes.”

Blake Grupe

Grupe’s leg looked noticeably more powerful on Friday. The first kick the media saw him attempt was from 57 yards and he drilled it with plenty of distance to spare. He followed that up by connecting from 61 yards out and sent several kickoffs through the back of the end zone.

“That's one thing that, with my size, people doubt to start out with,” Grupe said. “But when you go out there and hit a kick from 61 and hit kickoff through the back of the end zone, that question goes away.”

Overall, he connected on 12 of 14 field goal attempts with the pressure of dozens of NFL scouts watching from nearby.

“[My] two misses were from 54 and 65,” Grupe said. “You can't be too terribly mad at those. I hit some deep kickoffs.”

Grupe still has a long way before he receives a coveted NFL roster spot, but it’s easy to see a team at least giving him a look in training camp.

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