Zeke Motta: 5 Things You Need to Know About the Notre Dame SS
Zeke Motta comes from a long line of Notre Dame safeties who acted like leaders and coaches from the defensive backfield. He enters the NFL one year after former teammate Harrison Smith went in the first round of the 2012 draft.
While Motta is nowhere near as celebrated a product as Smith was, he does bring a lot to the table on the football field.
Let's take a look at five things you need to know about the Notre Dame product.
USA TODAY Sports
Full Name: Ezekiel Edward Motta
Date of Birth: February 2, 1989
Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
High School: Vero Beach High School
Major: Industrial Design
Zeke Motta was a 4-star recruit (via Scout.com) coming out of Vero Beach. He ranked 10th nationally among weak-side linebackers and was recruited by some major programs before finally deciding on Notre Dame. In the end, Motta chose the Irish over Auburn, Stanford and UCLA.
In addition to a blazing 4.4 40-yard dash speed coming out of high school, Motta excelled in the classroom. He possessed a perfect 4.0 GPA and was recruited by some of the better institutions in the nation (via Scout.com).
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
2009 (Freshman): 12 games, 12 tackles and six solo.
2010 (Sophomore): 13 games, 50 tackles, 30 solo, two passes broken up and one interception.
2011 (Junior): 13 games, 40 tackles, 17 solo, two passes broken up, one interception, and one touchdown.
2012 (Senior): 77 tackles, 39 solo and three passes broken up.
Motta sat behind Harrison Smith at free safety for his first two seasons, but got a chance to see the field a ton as a sophomore in a nickel role. He eventually moved to strong safety and formed one of the best tandems in the entire nation with Smith in 2011.
That being said, Motta didn't become a full-time starter for the Irish until his senior campaign and, boy, did he prove skeptics wrong. The talented safety was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the nation (via und.com).
He anchored a starting secondary that had only a handful of combined starts under its belt at the other three positions and helped the Irish finish 25th in the nation in pass defense and seventh in total defense in 2012.
All statistics provided by CFB Stats.com.
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Weight: 213 lbs.
Arm Length: 31.375"
Broad Jump: 126.0"
40-Yard Dash: 4.83
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.16
Three-Cone Drill: 6.75
Vertical Jump: 35.5"
Bench Press: 11 reps at 225 lbs.
Motta came into the combine as a late-round pick and likely didn't change that despite a decent performance. His 4.83 40-yard dash ranked him dead last among all defensive backs in Indianapolis, which isn't too surprising considering that speed was never a huge asset for Motta.
He did, however, finish fourth among safeties with a solid showing in the three-cone drill, which is a much better indicator of on-the-field speed than the 40.
All said, Motta finished in the middle of the pack in most generic drills at the combine.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com filed the following report immediately after Motta's pro day performance:
2013 Notre Dame Pro Day: Zeke Motta, safety (6-2 1/4, 215) - After slipping on his first try, Motta ran 4.71 and 4.73. He did 16 strength reps and performed all right in position drills. Motta has good ball skills and figures to be a third- or fourth-round pick.
While the third round does seem to be a bit of a reach, Motta translates better to the National Football League than his aforementioned workout numbers would suggest. He's a football player, plain and simple.
All measurements and combine results provided by NFL.com.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The name Ezekiel or Zeke means "God will strengthen" and is of Hebrew origin.
He played under his father Bill, who was the defensive coordinator at Vero Beach High School.
Not often is Matt Miller split on a prospect, but this seems to be the case with Motta. In fact, he asked former NFL player and current analyst Matt Bowen for an opinion on the Notre Dame product.
@MattBowen41 Check out Zeke Motta and Shamarko Thomas if you haven't yet. Would love your take. I'm torn on both.
This seems to be the overriding case as it relates to Motta. As someone that watched every Notre Dame game of his career, my opinion still remains a bit muddled.
He doesn't necessarily possess the athleticism and coverage ability to be a standout safety. On another note, his leadership and intelligence remind me a great deal of his former teammate, Harrison Smith, who I wasn't high on last season.
Shame on me, right?
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke paints a less-than-stellar picture of Motta's athleticism:
As far as slow Notre Dame defenders go, I was way more surprised/disappointed by Zeke Motta's time than Manti Te'o's.
I am not sure "surprised" is the right term here. We already knew that speed wasn't his biggest strength going in and that didn't change.
This didn't stop Senior Bowl's official Twitter account from pointing out what most of us already knew:
There's a reason Bama ran through Irish in BCS. Te'o ran 4.84 and safety Zeke Motta just clocked 4.79. No chance v. Lacy and Co
Maybe Motta is a perfect example of relying on game film more than combine or pro day numbers. He will have a relatively lengthy NFL career.
Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.
Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.