Should Stephon Tuitt’s Added Weight be a Concern for Notre Dame?

Stephon Tuitt - Notre Dame DE
Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7) lines up during practice at the LaBar Practice Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, lost amidst headline-drawing stories involving former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s Heisman race, an undefeated regular season and a national championship appearance, is what propelled the Fighting Irish to success in the first place: outstanding defensive line play.  Defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore, anchored by nose guard Louis Nix, battled Notre Dame’s defensive unit through the trenches and up the statistics board, with the Fighting Irish finishing 7th in total defense and 2nd in scoring defense, allowing a paltry 12.77 points per game.  With potential question marks on the offensive side of the ball yet again in 2013, Notre Dame will rely on its defensive line to repeat its dominant performance, with all eyes centered on All-Americans Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix after losing senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore to graduation.

The expectations for junior Stephon Tuitt have risen since his breakout campaign in 2012.  Dotting pre-season All-American lists and widely predicted by experts to be a 1st round NFL draft selection should he decide to join the NFL ranks early, Tuitt is beginning to see that additional scrutiny attaches itself like a leech to all those who stand out on the collegiate gridiron.

Tuitt’s scrutiny does not stem from off the field issues akin to those of LSU starting running back, Jeremy Hill, nor does it originate from a combination of off the field issues and alleged improper benefits in the mold of Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel.  No, the criticism reserved for Tuitt involves his weight, or, to be more exact, its inflation.

Stephon Tuitt stood a sturdy 6’6” and 303 pounds in 2012 when he terrorized the nation’s quarterbacks for a total of 12 sacks.  By the end of September Tuitt had opened everyone’s eyes, nabbing 6 sacks in the first 4 games.  The then-sophomore was so dominant he was neck-and-neck with future 1st round draft choice, Bjoern Werner, of Florida State.  Werner held a .5 sack lead over Tuitt, though Werner’s were gained against the likes of Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest, while Tuitt dominated Division I opponents Navy, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan.

Tuiit’s numbers leveled off as the season progressed due to the effects of a sports hernia he suffered, notching only 6 more sacks during the final 9 game stretch.  The hernia began the scrutiny, as Tuitt arrived at spring practice after surgery weighing 322 pounds.  The 20 pounds of extra padding caught attention, though it was chalked up as post-surgery weight gain that wouldn’t matter in the long run.  The sympathetic tone changed when Tuitt arrived at fall camp several months later at a consistent 322 pounds.

Why has Tuii’s weight remained at 322 since spring practice?  Will he be able to maintain his 2012 effectiveness 19 pounds heavier?  While Tuitt may desire to dismiss such questions and prodding, telling the media he feels he has regained his pre-hernia explosiveness and that he “just [goes] out every day and practice[s] and my body will react the way it does,” isn’t quite enough.  If anything, the defensive star’s unease addressing the subject and his attempts at deflection add anxiety to the situation, particularly considering Brian Kelly has previously stated his desire for Tuitt to not top the 315 pound mark.

Does the weight gain really matter in the grand scheme of things?  A look at the other sack leaders in 2012 provides a certain measure of context.  Quanterus Smith, a defensive lineman from Western Kentucky and 5th round draft choice of the Denver Broncos, racked up 12.5 sacks in 2012, leading the nation with 1.25 sacks per game.  Smith set Hilltopper records while measuring 6’5” and 250 pounds.

Will Sutton, a nose tackle for the Arizona Sun Devils, recorded 13 sacks while standing 6’1” and 288 pounds.  Morgan Breslin, starting defensive end for the USC Trojans, racked up 13 sacks while measuring in at 6’2”, 250 pounds.  And finally, South Carolina standout Jadeveon Clowney, whom Tuitt has most often been compared considering the two are likely 1st round draft selections, weighs in at 6’6” and 274 pounds.

Should the Notre Dame faithful be worried that Tuitt outweighs Clowney by nearly 50 pounds?  Though Clowney and Tuitt play in different defensive schemes and have different responsibilities, the disparity in weight is at least a mild concern, even if Tuitt played nearly 30 pounds heavier than Clowney last season.  If a large portion of 2013’s success rests on the ability of Notre Dame’s defensive line to dominate, and the coaching staff is forced to rotate Tuitt more often with a depth chart that has yet to establish itself in training camp, issues could emerge.

With two weeks to go until kickoff against Temple, there is still time and opportunity for Tuitt to slim down during the rigors that football camp provides.  And Notre Dame strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo has proven himself to be one of the best in America, placing Tuitt in extremely capable hands.  But should ND fans sweep the weight gain under the rug as a non-issue to the success of the football team in 2013?

Not a chance.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Most of u idiots were dead wrong. His added weight had a huge impact, especially early in the season. He was noticeably slower, he looked like Nix out there, way too big and slow for a defensive end. There is no excuse for him coming out that heavy and it having such an affect on the season. I would argue it may have cost them a game or 2.

  2. What you as a writer fail to realize or touch on is that as a Freshman Stephon lost 20lbs, YES 20 lbs after his battle with Mono.. Last year he struggled with a sports hernia and was not able to lift and workout as hard as he wanted to. This year no Mono no Hernia and he was able to put one extra weight and still feel great. Stephon entered as a Freshman at 285lbs and still had growing to do. What you are seeing is his body finally catching up to the last 2 years worth of sickness and injury. People need to relax Ive personally seen him run and the kid has wheels for a guy his size..

    While Coach Kelly would like him at 315 he will be there as the season wears on. After the first 4 games he will most likely drop 7-9 lbs as most players do through out the year.

  3. I’m actually excited about the weight gain. Remember that a DE in a 3-4 is much different than a DE in a 4-3.

    It’s quite possible that, after the trouncing by Alabama and the transfer of Vanderdoes, the coaching staff may want Tuitt to increase his versatility as a blocker-eating run-stuffer as well as a bull-rusher in the mold of Haloti Ngata.

    Having two blocker-eaters in Tuitt and Nix should make the Irish run defense even more stout that last year’s and make for some really versatile blitz schemes from the deep linebacker corps.

    1. Excellent unique perspective I had not considered. Seems very feasible and logical.

      Thank you Portugoose for an interesting hypothesis to ponder!

  4. Amazing, professor doomko wonders why he only had 3 posters’ on his last article??? Imagine that! Here we are having an innocuous conversation with Scott and professor doomko decides to call us all: losers, insulting, disloyal and further insults our wifes and families! Coupled with continuous-belittling-name-calling such as an I quote:

    “It is astounding that Chicken Littles, and micromanaging ones at that, are being enabled by having their flimsy, emphemeral concerns given apparent legitimacy.” Would go further, the obvious is clear.

    Suuuure this is what “real ND men do!” Well, professor duranko you have one chance to apologize to all on this post. Let’s see if you are really what you claim to be? A false-hearted christian or a real one? Amen.

    1. He certainly seems to be beyond amateurish.

      Anyone who has been married any length of time knows the first rule is to never bring up the subject of wifes and their weight!

      That’s like poking an angry bear with a short stick!

  5. Just ignore the professor guys, he definitely has his own brand of footballism doctrinaire. Strangely enough though, targeting wifes without question is definitely skeeviest at best. “An exercize for losers.”?? Well, bless his princess-on-pea “bedwetting” heart! Rudolf Diels Jr. is definately amoung us.

    1. “Calvo turpuis est nihil comato” ?

      I have no idea what that means, although I think the word “comato” refers to a cross between corn and a tomato?

      Mmmmmm, nothing beats a beacon, lettuce, and comato smamich!

  6. I have a real ephemeral concern over the term “being Longo’d” (Gasp!)

    I don’t think Shakespear covered this one 450 years ago, but I could be wrong.

    Perhaps you can clarify since you were probably there.

  7. Good Grief!

    It is insulting and disloyal to even consider this question. An exercise for losers.

    Tuitt was born May 23, 1993. He was 6’5″ 260 as a High School Senior.
    He is now 6’61/2″ He has gotten taller. He was listed at 295 as a freshman and showed quickness. He gained 8 pounds the next year after barely one year of being longo’d and was listed as 303 as a soph. The same percentage increase in 2013, would be 9 more pounds to bring him to 312. And he is now in the third year of being

    That would, ceteris paribus, suggest 10 additional pounds but part of that may be explicable to the continued impact of Longo on a 6’61/2″ frame.
    Say 4 pounds of that is legit. That leaves a mere 6. For a 150 pounder that is like noticing your bathroom scale has assigned you 3 extra pounds.Does your wife then assemble a family intervention or post a survey on facebook about the Familial crisis posed by the (Gasp!) three pounds????

    It is astounding that Chicken Littles, and micromanaging ones at that, are being enabled by having their flimsy, ephemeral concerns given apparent legitimacy.

    Shakespeare covered this about 450 years ago:

    “Much Ado about nothing.”

  8. “Should Stephon Tuitt’s Added Weight be a Concern for Notre Dame?”

    Losing Mr. Barratt for the season?
    Yeah I’d have to say “YES” on that.

  9. Hell, he could take off his size 16 shoes and run barefoot to meet BK’s goal of 315…we-are-only-talking ‘7 lbs’ here…not 50 lbs relative to all other opposing lineman. BK’s target weight for Tuitt is all that matters.

    1. I’m not saying Tuitt won’t be effective — he’s simply too talented. But if losing the weight is as simple as you illustrate, it makes you wonder why it wasn’t done in the months leading up to fall camp.

      Also, 315 isn’t Tuitt’s target weight. Kelly mentioned he didn’t want to see Tuitt over 315, meaning 315 is the max he possibly wants Tuitt to be. Even if Tuitt drops to 315 he’ll still be at the ceiling of his ideal weight.

      1. As long as Tuitt has not lost a step…at 315..6’6″ I’ll bet we will like his performance cracking helmets. At 340lbs, I would be alarmed! Remember the Frig? I forgot what he maxed out at…way over the top. Good article and points.

      2. Believe or not the Fridge wasn’t really that big by today’s standards. He was only around 335 with the Bears, but back then being over 300 lbs was something.

      3. I will say, he was pretty darn impressive returning that fumble 77 yards for a touchdown in the season opener against Navy last year.

        At 303 lbs he scooped up the ball and out ran the entire Navy option offense that prides it’s self on speed and quickness.

        Maybe the fact that it has been a cooler than normal August in South Bend might have something to do with it.

        A week of 90 degree temps could easily melt away 20 pounds.

  10. There’s “NOT a chance” any opposing lineman will argue with Tuitt at any weight this season! Hahahaha! Pure Muscle! Zero Flab! That’s Mr. Tuitt to you Scott! Hahahaha! OK, on a serious note what was his new 40ty…and how much slower?

  11. Should Tuitt’s add weight be a concern?

    Only for the poor bastard who has to play accross from him.

    We know that ND is commited to playing a 3-4 defense.
    But what if they just play a defense that gets thier best players on the field together at the same time?

    I would love to see a 4-3 with Nix and Tuitt on the inside with Day and Rochell on the outside at the DE’s.

    That still leaves Schwenke, Springman, Utupo, and Stockton in reserve.

    Yeah, it takes away from our linebacking corps which is a good one, but it would certainly make running teams much more one dimentional.

    Maybe if we had a d-line like that in the National Championship game, Alabama might not have rushed for 265 yards?

  12. You guys really need to chill out! Leave the kid alone with his coaches! Haven’t Kelly and Longo proved their ability to motivate and lead players to their true potential? He’ll be a beast this year with or without 20 pounds!

  13. Well, we will know if he is as explosive during the end of traing camp. Should be some feedback by now. Anything now is subjective, wait for the objective evidence.

  14. i heard he went from a size 15 shoe to a size 16. what if he starts tripping over himself?? just bench him.

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