We’ve reached the top five with just one remaining offensive player. We’re not jumping back to offense just yet though as our #5 player on our list of the top 25 players on the 2013 Notre Dame roster is one of the defensive stalwarts for the Irish this season. Our #5 player actually wears two #5′s on his jersey – OLB Prince Shembo.
Originally recruited as a player who could grow into a defensive end in a 4-3 defense for Jon Tenuta, it was unclear where Shembo was going to fit into the 3-4 defense Bob Diaco was going to install at Notre Dame when Brian Kelly brought him in as his defensive coordinator when he replaced Charlie Weis.
Could Shembo be a viable cover linebacker on the college level? Was he going to grow to be too big and be a dreaded “tweener”? These were all questions that were asked when Shebmo reconsidered his commitment in the wake of Weis’s dismissal.
Three years later as Shembo enters his senior season, those questions no longer linger as Shembo is primed for a breakout campaign during his final season in South Bend after some ups and downs the last few seasons. Shembo was a pass rushing specialist as a freshman in 2010 with 4.5 sacks in a reserve role before taking a step back in 2011 as he adjusted to a larger role in the Notre Dame offense.
Why Prince Shembo could be ranked higher
After Shembo’s sack total dipped to just 2.0 in 2011 despite starting eight games and playing in 12; the North Carolina native picked up his game in 2012 and got to opposing quarterbacks 7.5 tackles while notching double digit tackles for loss for the first time in his career. On the heels of his breakout campaign, big things are expected from Shembo in 2013.
It took Shembo a little while to adjust to a starting role in 2011 but once he settled in last year he started to become a playmaker in a Notre Dame defense full of impact players last fall. His tackle, tackles for loss, and sack totals all increased to career highs last year.
If Shembo continues to progress as he did last year, a double digit sack season is in the cards for Shembo making him the first linebacker to hit double digit sacks for Notre Dame since Bert Berry in 1996.
Why Prince Shembo could be ranked lower
While Shembo enjoyed a breakout season last year, he did so with a cog at middle linebacker that had the attention of every offensive coordinator on the 2012 Notre Dame schedule. With Manti Te;o chasing around quarterbacks in the AFC West now, will those same coordinators put more of a focus on Shembo and slowing him down?
On top of not having Manti Te’o in the middle of the defense, Notre Dame also will be without Danny Spond on the other side of the linebacker corps after the senior had to prematurely retired from football due to problems with migraines during fall camp. That’s a lot of talent to replace for the Irish and all of that inexperience could impact Shembo’s output in the process.
What would a successful season in 2013 be for Prince Shembo?
Even with the losses in the linebacking corps, Prince Shembo should have a big season in 2013. He has gotten better every year much like TJ Jones and if he improves as much in 2013 as he did in 2012, he will be a force to be reckoned with this fall for the Irish.
A successful senior campaign for Prince Shembo would include 10+ sacks, 50+ tackles, and a couple of forced turnovers whether they be direct (forced fumbles, INTs) or indirect (tipped passes that get picked off, pressure that forces bad throws, etc). That is the one area that Shembo hasn’t had much of an impact yet to this point in his career. There was a senior linebacker for Notre Dame a year ago that didn’t force too many fumbles during his first three seasons in South Bend either. He ended up doing alright.
The rest of our countdown so far:
#6 – TJ Jones – WR
#7 – DaVaris Daniels – WR
#8 – Chris Watt – OG
#9 – Sheldon Day – DL
#10 – George Atkinson – RB
#11 – Keivarae Russell - CB
#12 – Matthias Farley – S
#13 – Troy Niklas – TE
#14 – Tommy Rees – QB
#15 – Amir Carlisle – RB
#16 - Danny Spond – OLB
#17 - Dan Fox - ILB
#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