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Outside the mold, Shembo thriving at OLB

Aug 25, 2011, 12:52 AM EDT

Prince Shembo, Sean Cwynar, Hafis Williams

While we haven’t actually seen Prince Shembo in action at outside linebacker, all reports from the coaching staff have the expectations for the 6-foot-2, 250-pound sophomore sky high. An interesting proposition, considering that Shembo likely wouldn’t have been on the roster if it were up to Brian Kelly and his coaching staff.

“We weren’t really sure to be honest with you,” Kelly said today, when asked about Shembo, a linebacker about three-inches shorter than what the current Irish staff is looking for in outside linebackers. “He was recruited here by the former staff so he was an inside linebacker and we saw some great athletic ability. He’s not in profile, but he has other qualities that make him an effective player.”

Those qualities and that effectiveness were on display nearly immediately, as Shembo became one of the best surprises of the freshman class, kicking off his career as a veritable designated pass rusher, contributing immediately with 4.5 sacks during his limited experience last year.

When Kelly announced during spring drills that Shembo would be working with fellow sophomore Danny Spond at the drop linebacker position it was easy to assume that Shembo would take the snaps as a pass-rusher and run stopper while Spond would work mostly in coverage. That hasn’t been the case, as Shembo has been a quick study at the ‘dog’ backer position, distancing himself from the pack while continuing to develop as a player.

It’s interesting that while Kelly, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin have done an excellent job bringing in prototype edge players like Ishaq Williams, Ben Councell, and Troy Niklas, the two starting outside linebackers for the Irish are two guys that are actually undersized for the system: Shembo and senior Darius Fleming, another 6-foot-2, and roughly 250 pound linebacker.

Eric Hansen in the South Bend Tribune has some great details on Shembo’s upbringing, coming from two parents that immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo to North Carolina, and the younger Shembo appreciates the hard work his parents put in to make his career at Notre Dame possible.

And work is something Shembo embraces from his roots. Shembo’s parents came from Congo – a country of 71 million people now ravaged by war, famine and disease – to attend school at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

“I’ve never been (to Congo),” Shembo said. “But I know what their life was like. You don’t take anything for granted. You have to be grateful, that’s the biggest thing.

“And work ethic. A lot of foreigners, they come here and they don’t start with much. So you really have to build a name for yourself.”

Shembo seems well on his way to do that, and teaches his uncles English in what little spare time he has. A number of other family members have immigrated to the U.S., recently, and thus are also budding football fans.

“Football is soccer to them,” Shembo said. “And I did play soccer when I was younger. But as I got older, I had to choose, and I picked football. My dad just told me to be tough and play.”

And that he does, even though ND may never recruit another 6-2 outside linebacker in the Kelly Era.

With Fleming and Steve Filer graduating this year, Shembo might be the last of a breed: a regular sized outside linebacker.

Five years ago, with the Irish gearing up for a BCS season, Charlie Weis relied on a 6-foot, 215-pound Travis Thomas to start at outside linebacker.

The defense has certainly grown up.

  1. brendanunderscoreg - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    The kid’s just a playmaker. Isn’t it crazy that a 6’2″ 250lb doesn’t fit the mold? Kelly and co. are recruiting some absolute freaks.

    In that article Shembo does make a good point about current NFL star OLBs. It seems that more often than not the truly elite OLB in the NFL are Shembo’s size.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Aug 25, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      This site posts noting but positives about ND. As loyal as I am I have become more skeptical. If I have to see another “Wake up the echoes” cover I will throw-up. We lost to Tulsa last year and Navy. Michigan ran allll over us. Stanford wasn’t close. and Michigan St. had an awful kicker and somehow Kelly and his staff couldn’t smell a fake field goal? Notre Dame has not been Notre Dame consistently. I like the roster, like the coach and I will be tunning into everygame played BUT please just win and win big. Navy owns us. Thats pathetic. This team ha smore talent that anybody the face this year on the schedule, execute it Kelly.

      • ndfanwabashman - Aug 25, 2011 at 8:24 PM

        I don’t think Notre Dame fans want to read about the loss to Tulsa on this blog. If you would like to read more Brian Hamilton feel free to Google him.

        We can all save the “pathetic” talk until after the games, before then there is no harm in focusing on the things that are looking up.

  2. davidmullen37 - Aug 25, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I hope these LBs are fast to keep up with TEs and RBs. You’re right about Kelly and his recruiting; they are going to recruit some absolute defensive freaks.

  3. barneysbullet - Aug 25, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    And again I say, good riddance Chahlie Weis. Take ur New England attitude and accent to Florida… Might be a good O/C but other than that, not much going on.

    • bryanwtx - Aug 25, 2011 at 12:42 PM

      Why good riddance? Because he recruited Shembo? Or are you just generally upset that he took an empty cupboard that forced Harrison Smith to play LB and filled it the best LB talent at ND in nearly 20 years?

    • 808raiderinparadise - Aug 25, 2011 at 5:31 PM

      Weis was a clown. He recruited some great players but was blinded by his playbooks, X’s and O’s and schemes. “6-6 is just not good enough” ironically you were done after your own 6-6 season.

      • nudeman - Aug 25, 2011 at 5:45 PM

        I’ve blasted Weis on this site so many times that I’ve been asked to stop. I find that difficult and suppose the only reason is that he was so full of bravado and such a blowhard, that he set himself up for years of thrashings.

        His line about ND having a “schematic advantage” every time they lined up was a misstatement of the magnitude of “Dewey Defeats Truman”. Couldn’t recruit (except a few skill players here and there), couldn’t coach, couldn’t even n”scheme”, and was very much disliked within the ND community for being a self important arrogant SOB.

        Besides, I’ve never seen anyone actually GAIN weight after a lap band procedure.

  4. nudeman - Aug 25, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    One of my worst memories from last year was Denard Robinson, who once he’d break a tackle at the line, no one was remotely close to fast enough to stop him. Not sure if Shembo played in that game or not; but if he did his 4.5 speed wasn’t good enough.

    So I’m tempering my enthusiasm. Sorry.

    • bernhtp - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:04 PM

      You can’t give Robinson any space because there are few people on the planet that can catch him when he has room. It’s like Reggie Bush several years ago. You have to hit him before he gets going or surround him.

      • nudeman - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:30 PM

        Well, most of the starters on ND’s D this year are the same ones who couldn’t hit him or surround him or catch him last year.

        Everyone needs a reality pill about ND this year. I see them better than last year, but not in a huge way. The real payoff from Kelly’s recruiting and coaching is still 1-2 years off.

    • txbeej - Aug 25, 2011 at 9:17 PM

      How many yards you figure Robinson would run for against Michigan’s shambolic defense?

      I don’t know what Robinson will do in the game this year. It may be that Hoke will manage to neuter him as he transitions to his preferred offense. But I know that Michigan’s defense isn’t going to get the respite of two quarters of Nate Montana / true freshman this time around. Get ready.

  5. oldestguard - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Most people have worked Weis out of their system by now….It’s not the least bit blog-worthy to keep trashing him.

    If you still have an axe…, write him a personal letter and get it off your chest.

    It’s 2011 and a mere 8 days to kick-off – focus !

    • nudeman - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:34 PM

      It’s a blog.
      Everyone is fair game.

      • papadec - Aug 25, 2011 at 7:41 PM

        Maybe you should take your own advice and “Relax”? I agree with oldestguard – it’s time to move on.

      • nudeman - Aug 25, 2011 at 8:33 PM

        Listen, there is no huger ND fan than me. The very first season I cheered for them was 1964, when “The Era of Ara” began. I remember the crushed look on my Dad’s face when they lost to USC. 99% of what I post here is positive.

        Having said that, a little dissonance is OK. If you do nothing but read this blog you’ll come away thinking Tuitt, Lynch, Crist, Floyd and Isaq will be the first 5 vote getters for the Heismann, and ND will go 13-0. That’s not gonna’ happen. They’re on their way to 13-0, but this isn’t – most likely – the year. The one area of vulnerability in my opinion is the defense. Yes, they finished strong last year. And yes, they return a bunch of starters. But they shut down an overrated Utah team, a poor Army team, a USC team playing without its starting QB, and frankly a Miami team with a terrible QB.

        Denard Robinson made them look terrible last year, and I don’t think he’s lost a step in the offseason. Navy beat the hell out of them. Tulsa beat them at home.

        Tuitt, Lynch, et al are at least a year away from being impact players on D.

        Love the Irish. I say they go to a Bowl – maybe BCS, probably not – and finish at 9-4 or 10-3. Big step forward. Nothing wrong with that.

  6. shiz1156 - Aug 26, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    you want positive? This team is going to be media darlings this year, they have top end talent as well as a very good supporting cast. This program is removed from gimmick coaching and has got back to basics. Coach Kelly has these kids focused and will be playing for a BCS game come January, and it looks like new recruits have three less schools to choose from with the Miami mess as well as Ohio ST. and USC all going or on probation from NCAA, next few years look very very good. GO IRISH!

  7. papadec - Aug 27, 2011 at 2:56 AM

    The espn & College Game Day talking heads are already saying nice things about the Irish this year. I suspect it is because they are positioning themselves, just in case ND really does accomplish what so many of us are optimistically hoping/praying for.

    • joeschu - Aug 27, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      The “worldwide leader” has a complicated relationship with the Irish. For the 7 weekends a year ND plays on NBC or CBS (Navy @ Navy), they need Mark May and Colin Chowderhead to scream for hours on ND’s “irrelevance.” However, there are 5 or so weekends a year where they’re airing an ND game and need to “rescue ND from the fires of irrelevance.”

      It’s a hate/love thing with ESPN/ABC. You’ll never get objective coverage from them, instead they use Dr. Lou as their “token” ND guy and surround him by a bunch of guys toeing the company line.

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