The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the kings of the NFL Draft. With six additional draft picks this past Friday and Saturday, their total is now up to 511 all time. No other college football program has totaled more than the Irish. Cole Kmet led the way, going to the Chicago Bears in the second round on Friday.
Day Three saw cornerback Troy Pride Jr. selected by his home region Carolina Panthers with the 113th overall pick, and it immediately invited comparisons to Julian Love, who went with the 108th overall selection to the New York Giants last year. Both spent their senior seasons at Notre Dame as the team’s CB1. Pride is the first Notre Dame selection by the Panthers since quarterback Jimmy Clausen in 2010.
“It was an exciting weekend to have 12 players sign NFL contracts–6 that were drafted–we were excited for them to continue on to live their dreams,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on a Zoom call with the media yesterday.
Pride entered the season rated the #8 CB in the nation by Lindy’s, and you saw his top notch closing speed time and time again- quite notably the touchdown saving tackle he had on Malcolm Perry’s 46-yard-run during the Irish’ 52-20 win.
As a member of the track team during his time at ND, he earned All-ACC Second-Team accolades in the 60-meter dash (6.73) in 2017. In 2016, he claimed the same honor in the 100-meter dash (10.47).
Carolina is a good landing spot for him because they need instant help at the position. Expect Pride, arguably the fastest player on the Fighting Irish, to have an immediate chance to contribute. “I think Troy is a guy that is just starting to scratch his potential,” Kelly said on the call.
The Fighting Irish coach noted how every time they went 1-on-1 in practice, Pride matched up against Chase Claypool (who went ) and that helped him improve a lot. This past fall, we went in depth on Love’s first season with the Giants, and you can read that over at this link.
Could Pride be on a similar path? How are their skill sets similar/different and how does that translate to the next level?
“The physical skills certainly jump out when you talk about Troy- track athlete, elite speed,” Kelly said.
“You have two different players in that standpoint. Julian had a lot of action on the footbal, Troy not as much. A lot of the evaluations on Julian were based on his ability to get to the football and pass breakups.”
“In one respect you’re looking at Julian Love and you’re saying here’s a guy that makes a lot of plays and on the other side you’re looking at Troy Pride and you’re sayng here’s a guy with elite athletic ability- let’s get him in a position to make plays.”
Troy Pride had four interceptions over the course of his career, in addition to 121 tackles (88 solo), one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. As a senior, he made 40 tackles with an interception and six pass break-ups. He’ll now face a tremendously formidable gauntlet of talented wide receivers in the NFC South.
In the Saints’ Michael Thomas (1st and 6th) and the Falcons’ Julio Jones (tied for third), you have two guys who comprise half of the all time top six receiving seasons in NFL history. Kelly says Pride, a four year starter in South Bend, is up to the challenge.
“He went against some really good ones, Michael Pittman of USC was drafted really high,” Kelly said,”but going against Chase Claypool helps…I’m confident he’s up to the challenge.”
On a side note, this may have been the highlight of yesterday’s Zoom call. Kelly on Mike Tannenbaum saying Kmet isn’t fast enough to be a factor as a pass-catcher in the NFL: “I don’t remember Mike being at any of our practices as he ran down the field.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly contributes to WGN TV, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Now and SB Nation.Follow paulmbanks