Notre Dame's March 20 pro day will be one of the most important on the pro day circuit, as the Irish have multiple potential first-rounders and a top-ranked tight end who did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The potential first-rounders are defensive end Stephon Tuitt and offensive tackle Zack Martin, while tight end Troy Niklas is an intriguing prospect because of his size and relative inexperience at the position. But the Irish's pro day also will be important for nose tackle Louis Nix III, who fully participated in the combine. Nix showed up at 331 pounds -- relatively svelte for a 6-foot-2 guy who played at upward of 350 pounds in 2013.
Off the field, Nix is smart, personable and jovial. He is as entertaining a Twitter follow as any college athlete (@1IrishChocolate), and he is adept with the media, as he showed during the season. He also showed it at the combine when discussing his weight loss: "My stomach doesn't stick out as much. That's kind of nice. I like that part. My thighs got a little smaller. I just feel sexier."
On the field, despite his production, there are some concerns, which could cause him to drop in the first round -- and, perhaps, into the second. He said he was told he played too heavy in 2013, which led to the weight loss.
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock serves as the color analyst on NBC's coverage of Notre Dame games during the season, meaning he has seen a lot of Nix. He had Nix as his No. 1 defensive tackle heading into the combine and touted Nix's "surprising short-area quickness" during combine coverage. But he also said Nix must play with better leverage and more consistency.
Nix ran the 40-yard dash in 5.42 seconds, and NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp had some fun with Nix's nickname: " 'Irish Chocolate' is molasses in the 40." But Nix's unofficial 10-yard split was a slower-than-expected 1.85 seconds, the slowest of any defensive lineman at the combine, and scouts will be looking for improvement in that figure on pro day, the idea being the weight loss will help him be a bit quicker. Nix did look good during the combine's on-field drills, though.
Nix had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in November, and that surgery plus injuries caused him to miss five games in 2013. Nix fits best as a nose tackle for 3-4 teams, and scouts from those teams will be especially interested in seeing his quickness at his pro day. Nix had 2.5 sacks in his career, and more quickness conceivably could lead to more up-the-middle pressure at the next level.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.