June 10, 2013 // Notre Dame Football

Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt Deserve Pre-Season Hype

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Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix combine on a hit on former Michigan QB Denard Robnson

Michigan’s Denard Robinson is double-teamed by Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt during the Wolverines’ trip to Notre Dame Stadium last fall. (Photo – Chris Williams/Icon SMI)

Notre Dame defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt are racking up pre-season accolades as the pair of linemates prepare for what could be there final campaigns as members of the Fighting Irish.  The recognition is not a result of publishers wanting to sell more magazines to the hordes of Notre Dame fans either, Nix and Tuitt are deserving of any and all hype they receive this summer.

It has been a long time since Notre Dame has had a pair of defensive linemen who bring what Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt bring to the table.  In fact, it’s been a long time since Notre Dame has had a single defensive lineman with the skill of either Nix or Tuitt individually for that matter.

Justin Tuck comes to mind, but he graduated nine years ago.  Anthony Weaver, the last first round draft pick along the defensive line for Notre Dame? 11 years ago.

Bottom line is, Notre Dame hasn’t had this much talent along the defensive line at the same time in a long, long time.  Nix and Tuitt will be entering their second full season as starting linemates this year.  Nix started as a redshirt freshman in 2011 while Tuitt got his feet wet as a true freshman.  Last season though, the two started next to each other and thrived as the Notre Dame defense completed the transformation from punching bag to knockout puncher.

Louis Nix makes the Notre Dame defense go

When Bob Diaco brought a 3-4 defense with him to Notre Dame, it became imperative that the Irish have an anchor in the middle of the defense at nose tackle and Louis Nix has filled that role about as well as anyone could have.  Nix took some time to get his weight under control and improve his conditioning as a freshman, but since then, he has been a beast in the middle of the Irish defensive line.  Last year the Florida native collected 50 tackles to lead all Notre Dame defensive linemen along with 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 5 pass breakups.

Nix’s full impact is not felt through his own impressive statistics.  It’s felt in the stats of other players actually.  Nix’s presene in the middle of the defensive line made it possible for Manti Te’o to be the force he was a year ago.  Nix occupies multiple blockers every play allowing the rest of his defensive teammates to make plays which is exactly what you want from a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.

Without Nix in the middle of the defense, Te’o most likely would not have been in New York as a Heisman finalist and Tuitt likely doesn’t pick up the 12 sacks he did in 2012.  That’s not a knock on either of two of Notre Dame’s other stars from the 2012 defense at all either – it’s more of a testament to the impact Nix makes on the Notre Dame defense.

So far this pre-season Nix has been named a 1st team All-American by Lindy’s, Phil Steele, and Athlon Sports.  Sporting News named Nix a 2nd team All-American as well.  What they were watching last year that didn’t prompt them to place Nix on their 1st team I just don’t know.  Perhaps they haven’t seen his ability to play on the offensive side of the ball or his skill as an entertainer last year in Miami.

Stephon Tuitt’s assault on Notre Dame’s sack record

One beneficiary of Nix’s presence at NT for Notre Dame is a guy who lines up right next to him.  Junior Stephon Tuitt looked primed to take down Justin Tuck’s single season sack record in 2012 with a torrid start of harassing opposing quarterbacks.  In his first season as a full-time starter though Tuitt slowed a little but at the end of the season and came up 1.5 sacks short of Tuck’s record with 12.

As Tuitt enters his junior year at Notre Dame both the single and career sack records are well within his sights.  If Tuitt improves slightly on his sack total from last year he could eclipse the mark Tuck set in 2003.  Tuck’s career record of 24.5 sacks is well within range for Tuitt this year as well if he stays healthy.  Including the 12-pack of sacks he picked up last year, Tuitt has 14 career sacks meaning he needs just 11 sacks this year to pass Tuck on the career leaderboard as well.

Assuming he stays healthy, it would be shocking for Tuitt to find himself anywhere but #1 on the career sack leaderboard and it would not surprise anyone if he took down the single season mark as well.  Of the 12 sacks Tuitt had in 2012, 8.5 came in the first seven games with just 3.5 coming over the final six.   most notably, Tuitt did not record a sack against Oklahoma, USC, or Alabama over that stretch.

Tuitt might receive some more attention this year given the hype as well as the loss of Kapron Lewis-Moore to graduation so just how quickly Sheldon Day makes an impact on the other side of the defensive line will impact Tuitt’s performance, but even with increased attention, Tuitt is the type of elite pass rusher that will still pick up more than his fair share of sacks – especially with Nix lining up side by side with him.

Lindy’s, Phil Steele, and Athlon all have Tuitt as a 1st team All-American just like Nix, but unlike Nix, Tuitt also found himself on the 1st team for Sporting News’s pre-season list as well.

Notre Dame lost the most decorated defensive player in the history of college football with Te’o playing for the San Diego Chargers in 2013, but Nix and Tuitt are sure to pick up their fair share of hardware and accolades by the end of 2013 and their presence along the defensive line will also allow the Irish defense to replace such a decorated athlete without missing much of a beat this fall.

 

Comments to this Article

  • HJPrender commented on June 10th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I,m just going to enjoy this season, the thought of Nix and Tuitt not being around next year is a bummer.

    [Reply]

  • Toulmin H. Brown commented on June 10th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I AGREE ….the d line is the strength.

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on June 10th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    HJ, this may be off center, but Tuitt’s departure after this 2013 season is an important stepping stone, a rite of passage, for this football program.

    While I get your post, to begin closing that gap between where we are (at the top of the non-SEC portion of the BCS) and the SEC, we MUST begin getting bunches of players who will leave after their third year on campus. Even if they pull a Micael Vick and redshirt, play two varsity years, and then declare for the draft.

    Last year LSU, which has won two national championships since we last won one, lost 11 players who had eligibility remaining. I don’t have the breakdown as to how many were third year and how many were fourth year (with a year remaining) players.

    Miles said he was glad they LSU WAS THE TYPE OF PROGRAM THAT ATTRACTED AND DEVELOPED PLAYERS WHO WOULD LEAVE EARLY TO GET DRAFTED BY THE NFL.

    This is rarefied air. It is outside of our comfort zone. But it is the domain of the great teams, the SEC teams.

    If Troy Niklas leaves this year, KeiVarae Russell after 2014 and, yes, Jaylon Smith and Max Redfield after 2015, I’ll be delighted. Does it mean that the staff has to be even more ferocious in recruiting studs. Heck, yes.

    But we don’t make the rules for the Hall of champions. The Champions do.

    Good luck and God speed, Stephon. You’re the first robin of our revived championship spring.

    [Reply]

    HJPrender replied on June 10th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I,m on the down side of the power curve these days, never even gave a thought to the logic you expressed Pete, but it sure makes sense in today’s scheme. I can’t remember who it’s that said ND is a 4 yr experience. I bet you do.
    Thanks for your reply.

    [Reply]

    duranko replied on June 11th, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Hj, yes it is a true 4 year experience, except for George S. and Bullet S. who went beyond 4 years, most of the extra time spent on a work/study program at Nickie’s.

    It was melancholy for me, a vet of the days of the Freshman Year of Studies and Emil T.’s wonderful Chemistry
    lectures, when they allowed early entrants. We tend to sanctify our own experience as the best way to go, and there was something special and uniquely Notre Dame about that Freshman Year of Studies-without early admissions for football players.

    [Reply]

  • D-Train 65 commented on June 10th, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Judging by the impact Tuitt’s mother had during his “changing” schools days I would not be jumping to the conclusion that he is gone next year. Similiar to Nix’s mother valuing a UND degree Tuitt’s mother/family may go the same route. He will be a first round choice whether he goes after this year or the following year. Additionally, with the Golson fiasco not “undermining” any chance for a run at another NC game 2014 with Golson back and more experience for the running attack that may turn out to be a “greater” chance to challenge for a NC then 2013. Your thoughts Frank??

    [Reply]

  • Shazamrock commented on June 11th, 2013 at 9:18 am

    It’s easy to get excited about players like Nix and Tuitt.

    But it’s the guys who will play around them this year that intrigues me.

    Who will back up Nix and Tuitt?
    Who will fill the spot left open by the graduation of KLM and the transfer of Aaron Lynch?

    The list of some of the players in position to step up is impressive:

    Sheldon Day, Soph, 6’2″ 290
    Chase Hounshell Jr. 6’4″ 275
    Kona Schwenke Sr. 6’4″ 300
    Tony Springman Jr.6’6″ 300

    Then there are the Hybrid types. Players who can either play down in a stance, or come off the line standing up:

    Prince Shembo Sr. 6’2″ 260
    Ishaq Williams Jr. 6’5″ 265
    Romeo Okwara So. 6’4″ 260

    Anyone remember former ND defensive coach Jon Tenuta and his prefered style of play?
    Anyone remember the game when he coached against us when he was with Georgia tech?

    I understand Bob Diaco’s approach to last season.
    He kept things simple, kept things basic, while trying to protect a inexperienced secondary.
    The results were pretty good.
    But we now have much better depth and experience in our secondary.
    There is nothing worst than wasted talent, and I think we have tons of talent.
    I would love to see Diaco put this defense in full attack mode.
    I think the results would be awesome!

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on June 11th, 2013 at 11:23 am

    a few points. Hounshell is out for the year.

    Jarron Jones, after a shaky freshman year, is starting to “get it” and will be counted on by Elston for the Fall.

    They did change things for Shaq Williams this Spring.

    When we go to a 4-3, The Shembo/Williams position drops down.

    But they went a bridge farther with Williams this Spring. He took some reps as an end in the 3-4. This will increase his snaps, and employ his versatility at both positions. To summarize:

    Williams will play as a linebacker (one of the 4′s) when replacing Shembo
    Williams will place a hand on the ground and be the fourth DL when they shift to a 4-3 (again replacing Shembo)
    Williams will place a hand on the ground and be the third DL (replacing Day or Tuitt) when they are in the base 3-4.

    I hope I didn’t screw up that explanation.

    My conjecture, and it’s nothing more, is that Rochell will play some because he will have to play on the DL in 2014.

    [Reply]

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