Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o won last year’s Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. With four players on the 2013 Bednarik Watch List, the Irish have as good of a chance as anybody to have a player take home the honors this year as well. In fact, technically speaking, they have a better chance than anyone else.
Notre Dame’s four defenders on the 2013 Bednarik Watch list – Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Bennett Jackson, and Prince Shembo – is tops in all of college football heading into the 2013 season. Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, and Stanford each have three players representing their respective schools, but none can match Notre Dame’s quartet.
Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt’s presence on the list should come as no surprise to anyone. In fact, at this point, it should come as a surprise if Nix and Tuitt are not on a watch list or not on someone’s All-American list. The two elite defensive linemen have the potential to rack up a lot of post season honors this year if they stay healthy and continue to do what they do. And what they do is play dominant defensive football.
Prince Shembo and Bennett Jackson, however, might come as a surprise to some who aren’t familiar with the Notre Dame defense. That is, of course, unless they read our countdown of the six players ready for Prime Time in 2013 for Notre Dame and saw the Jackson came in at #3 and Shembo take home the top honors as the #1 player on our list.
Those familiar with the Notre Dame defense, however, know that Shebmo and Jackson were breakout stars for the Irish last year and are poised to be leaders of a defense that is almost certain to rank among the nation’s elite for a second consecutive season.
Shembo broke out in his junior year with 7.5 sacks and very well could be headed for a double digit sack season this year playing behind stalwarts like Nix and Tuitt up front. Shembo added 10.5 total tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries last year as well giving him 19 total tackles for loss in his career – more than any active player on the Notre Dame roster.
Jackson meanwhile turned in perhaps the best concernback play we’ve seen from an Irish defensive back since Shane Walton and did so while playing the majority of the season with a nagging shoulder injury that required off-season surgery. Jackson picked off four passes in 2012 – the most by a Notre Dame defensive back since Mike Richardson intercepted four passes in 2006 and was also third on the team in tackles. Not bad for a guy with a bum shoulder, huh?
Pre-season watch lists are in many ways done to drum up interest in college football in the off-season and get fans excited. When a defense has a third of its starters listed as possible defensive players of the year on a list that features just 75 defenders nationally though, it gives the fans of that team every reason to be very, very excited about the potential of their defense.
Many outside of the Notre Dame program will talk about how Notre Dame is going to replace Manti Te’o and how the Irish defense can’t possibly be as good as it was in the regular season last year again this fall. Those people overlook the fact that Notre Dame’s defense was as dominant as it was for 12 games last fall with a pair of first time starters at corner and a 3rd at safety all of whom were originally recruited to play offense.
Throw into the mix a 5-star safety who could step in and start from day one in Max Redfield – assuming the recent news that he could see time at wide receiver is more of a long term plan – and you have all of the makings for the Notre Dame defense to be just as good, if not dare I say, even better in the regular season this year.
Stephon Tuitt and Louix Nix on Maxwell Watch List Too
Nix and Tuitt can add the Maxwell watch list to their growing list of pre-season accolades as well. The Maxwell Award, given out to the nation’s top player regardless of position features just six defensive players on it’s pre-season watch list meaning Notre Dame has a third of the defensive players on the list on its roster for this season.
Like the Bednarik Award, Manti Te’o took home the Maxwell Award in 2012 as well as part of his personal trophy collection that turned into the single greatest haul for a defensive player that college football had ever seen.
Notre Dame is tied for the most Maxwell Awards in college football history with 7 award winners – Te’o, Brady Quinn, Ross Browner, Jim Lynch, John Latnner (2x winner), and Leon Hart – while Te’o was the first recipient of the Bednarik Award to play for the Fighting Irish. Penn State also has seven Maxwell Award winners while no other program has either five or six winners. Navy, Ohio State, and Texas though each have had four winners.
Prior to Te’o winning the Maxwell Award last year, Hugh Green of PIttsburgh was the last defensive player to win the award in 1980 and the last defensive linemen to win it was Notre Dame’s own Ross Browner in 1977.