Over the last few weeks we have profiled several Notre Dame players who are ready for prime time in 2013 – players who have already shown the ability to be solid contributors and starters for Notre Dame over the last few years who are ready to elevate their games this fall.
Today we profile the #1 player on our countdown – senior outside linebacker and passing rushing terror Prince Shembo.
Shembo almost didn’t make it to Notre Dame
Prince Shembo originally committed to Notre Dame when Charlie Weis was the head coach of the Fighting Irish and the Irish were moving back to a 4-3 defense after running different variations of a 3-4 under defensive coordinators Jon Tenuta and Corwin Brown. At the time he was thought to be an outside linebacker who could potentially grow into a defensive end.
When Brian Kelly took over for Weis following the 2009 season and brought with him Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense questions arose about Shembo’s fit in the new defense for the Irish. Those weren’t the only problem with Shembo’s recruitment after Kelly and staff took over though.
After Kelly was named the head coach of Notre Dame, Shembo had some not so glowing comments about his now head coach and planned an official visit for Miami just a week before National Signing Day. Shembo was quotes as saying in the Sun Times of Myrtle Beach:
“It’s kind of messed up how he left his team at Cincinnati,” said Shembo, who played at Audrey Kelly High School in Charlotte. “I mean if Texas would have lost in the Big-12 championship he could be playing for a national title.”
“That just tells me that he is in it for the money. Obviously it’s a business, but it is also my future. He is coming to my house on Jan. 5 but I am still going to take my visit to Miami.”
Those remarks did not make it look like Notre Dame had great chances of landing the North Carolina native.
Those remarks were date January 2, 2010. An in-home visit with Brian Kelly three days later, however, was all that it took to shore up Shembo’s commitment and the visit to Miami never took place.
Prince Shembo made his impact felt from day one
Shembo saw the field in the first game of his collegiate career when Purdue visited Notre Dame Stadium for the first game of the Brian Kelly Era. BY the fifth game of his freshman season, Shembo collected two sacks in Chestnut Hill when the Irish went into Alumni Stadium and ended a three game losing streak with a 31-13 sound victory over Boston College.
A few weeks later Shembo came up with a big sack in Notre Dame’s 28-3 upset over #14 Utah on Senior Day in 2010. He wouldn’t pick up any tackles or sacks in Notre Dame’s final two games of the season, but he did in Notre Dame’s Sun Bowl victory over Miami.
Bob Diaco didn’t ask Shembo to do too much as a frosh in 2010. He realized he had a big pass rushing threat off the edge of the his defense and he unleashed him in opportune spots – a role that Shembo flourished in.
By the end of the season, Shembo’s 4.5 sacks third on the team behind Darius Fleming’s team leading 6.0 and Ethan Johnson’s 5.0 and he was named Defensive Newcomer of the year at the annual football awards banquet.
Opposing quarterbacks will become very familiar with Prnce Shembo in 2013
Opposing quarterbacks are already likely very aware of #55 coming off the edge of the Irish defense, but they will be become even more familiar with Prince Shembo this fall if they aren’t already. After recording a career high in sacks last season with 7.5, Shembo has a double digit sack season well within his sights in 2013.
When Shembo recorded 4.5 sacks as a true freshman in 2010, he was only asked to play one role – pass rushing specialist. In 2011 he assumed a starting role and his sack total and production dipped slightly as he adjusted to the new role.
In 2012, Shembo really started to come into his own as he became more and more comfortable dropping into coverage when needed and being an every down player on the college level. Several times throughout the season Shembo’s presence was felt on a defense that was not lacking playmakers.
When Notre Dame went into East Lansing for a week three prime time bout against Michigan State, Shembo had the best game of his career to that point with 9 tackles, 2 for loss, and a sack against the Spartans. Against Boston College, Shembo picked up 3 sacks giving him 5 career sacks in Alumni Stadium. Shembo also registered a sack in Notre Dame’s upset in Norman over the Sooners and played a vital role in Notre Dame’s comeback victory over Pitt at Notre Dame Stadium a week later.
In 2013, Shembo will be entering his third season as a starting outside linebacker for Notre Dame and will have the luxury of having a pair of All-American defensive linemen in Stephon Tuitt and Louix Nis lining up in front of him occupying plenty of attention of opposing offensive linemen just as he did a season ago.
With Nix and Tuitt up front, Shembo should continue to see favorable matchups that will allow him to rack up a high sack total this fall and possibly play his way into the early part of next April’s NFL Draft.
CBS currently has Shembo as the #10 OLB in their 2014 NFL Draft rankings. A lot can change between now and then, however, and a strong senior campaign could move Shembo up the rankings – especially if he were to turn in a double digit sack season like we feel he is capable of.
Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are locks to be All-Americans assuming they stay healthy this year. As we already discussed, Bennett Jackson could hear his name in the All-American mix this year as well. Voters love players who fill up a stat sheet though and Shembo will have the opportunity to do just that this fall.
The rest of the countdown:
2. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – Davaris Daniels – Tuesday, June 25
3. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – Bennett Jackson – Monday, June 24
4. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – TJ Jones – Thursday, June 20
5. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – Amir Carlisle – Wednesday, June 18
6. Ready for Prime Time ’13 – Keivarae Russell - Monday, June 16