We stay on the defensive side of the ball and in the linebacking corps today as our rundown of the top 25 players on the 2013 Notre Dame roster continues. Today we come to 5th year senior and possible 2013 captain Dan Fox.
After “redshirting” as a freshman in 2010, Dan Fox has played in all 39 games the past three seasons while starting 22 of them including 9 last year during Notre Dame’s 12-1 season. Over that time, Fox has played primarily as an inside linebacker but has seen some spot duty at outside linebacker including the only start of his career at the position against Purdue in last year’s home opener.
Heading into the 2013 season Fox is one of the most experienced players on a team that will be looking to replace a lot of leadership that was lost to the NFL with the graduations of Manti Te’o and Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Why Dan Fox could be ranked higher
Dan Fox can very well prove to be much higher on this list if he is named a captain for the 2013 season as he very well could be. As a 5th year senior, Fox is one of the elder statesmen of the defense along with Carlo Calabrese and with the face of the 2012 Notre Dame defense, Manti Te’o, gone, the Irish will be in need of strong leadership to keep the momentum of last year’s unit going.
With Te’o gone, there isn’t that one logical choice of a captain on the defensive side of the ball. Louis Nix himself has said he’s not a big a “rah rah” get everyone else pumped up kind of player. He tends to lead by example. In the secondary, Bennett Jackson is the most logical choice of a defensive captain as he has become more vocal, but leadership is also not just about being vocal.
Fox has displayed strong leadership qualities over the last few years and has a good chance to be named a captain and it was probably not a coincidence that Brian Kelly made Fox available to speak with Jack Nolan on the first day of camp and no one else earlier this week.
If Fox is indeed a captain, the value he brings to the defense will be far beyond tackles and sacks. Notre Dame had about as good of a leader as possible for the defense last year with Te’o. The leadership void the Irish have to fill with Te’o in the NFL might actually be tougher to replace than his on field production.
If Fox is one of the defensive captains and leads the Irish defense to another stellar season, he would deserve a much loftier ranking.
Why Dan Fox could be ranked lower
While Fox has displayed leadership qualities, he will also only be a part-time starter in 2013 most likely. A year ago he started nine games while splitting time with Calabrese next to Te’o. In that time Fox was able to record 63 tackles and a sack while spending a little less time in the lineup against run first teams.
With Jarrett Grace looking entrenched as the successor to Te’o, a split of the duties between Fox and Calabrese is likely again this year with Calabrese seeing more time against the run and Fox seeing more time against the pass just as they did a year ago.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for Dan Fox
If Fox just replicates his production from a year ago and is named a defensive captain, his 2013 season will easily be labeled a success. Another 60+ tackle season where he is the captain of one of the best defenses in the country would more than secure that label.
There is definitely room for improvement for Fox though. Fox didn’t get his hands on any interceptions last year with many of the fortuitous bounces landing in the hands of Manti Te’o. Perhaps a few of those tipped passes and batted balls by the Irish defense line fall into Fox’s lap this year.
With all of the talent around him in the front seven – especially up front – Fox will be able to have a great season this year just by making the plays that come his way. Anything else on top of that will just be gravy for him and the Notre Dame defense.
The rest of our countdown so far:
#18 – Jarrett Grace – ILB
#19 – Greg Bryant – RB
#20 – Christian Lombard – RT
#21 – Elijah Shumate - S
#22 – Jaylon Smith - OLB
#23 – Ishaq Williams – OLB/DE
#24 - Max Redfield - S
#25 - CJ Prosise - WR