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Defensive depth chart breakdown

Aug 30, 2011, 8:12 PM EDT

Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

Just one look at the two-deep depth chart for the defense shows you how quickly a defense can change. If you’re looking for physicality, a quick look at the defensive line shows you how transformed the unit is from year’s past. Of the starters, only Sean Cwynar weighs less than 300 pounds. In the two-deep, only Louis Nix — hardly considered small at 6-foot-3, 326 pounds — is shorter than 6-foot-4.

While the veteran starters Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore are back, the future isn’t that far in the rearview mirror, as both Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt, mega-sized freshman, are primary backups, a sign that both should contribute immediately.

Other freshman in the two-deep include outside linebackers Ishaq Williams and Troy Niklas, both looking the part of veterans from a physical standpoint.

Here’s a look at the defensive depth chart:


DE: Aaron Lynch, Fr.

NG: Sean Cwynar, Sr.
or    Louis Nix III, So.

DE: Stephon Tuitt, Fr.
DE: Kona Schwenke, So.

OLB: Steve Filer, Sr.
or       Ishaq Williams, Fr.

ILB: Dan Fox, Jr.

ILB: Anthony McDonald, Sr.

OLB: Prince Shembo, So.
OLB: Danny Spond, So.
or      Troy Niklas, Fr.

CB: Robert Blanton, Sr.
CB: Lo Wood, So.

S: Dan McCarthy, Sr.

S: Jamoris Slaughter, Sr.
S: Austin Collinsworth, So.

CB: Bennett Jackson, So.

Some thoughts:

It’ll be interesting to see how snaps are broken up between Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. As you can tell by the caps-lock, Calabrese is the returning starter, but he’s not as mobile as Fox is, something that the Irish coaching staff could prefer when facing a dual-threat quarterback like B.J. Daniels.

To prepare for Daniels’ speed, the No. 1 defense saw plenty of freshman Everett Golson and sophomore Andrew Hendrix, two great athletes that have plenty of wheels.

“Everett and Andrew certainly assisted in that preparation,” Kelly said. “Both of them helped us this week in preparing for B.J. Daniels, because they’re both guys that you have to defend as it relates to running the ball.”

Kelly also mentioned using some of his No. 1 offense in the simulation, something that’ll help the Irish defense be up to speed when the time comes to tackle the guys wearing the other uniform.


It’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish decide to roll through front seven defenders. From the looks of it, there’ll be seven guys in the defensive line rotation, all of them ready for action.

The key for Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will be proper situational use to get the most out of guys like Louis Nix, Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt.

“That’s what we’ve been working on, that situational substitution, getting the right guys on the field and maximizing the talent,” Kelly said. “We think we found the right formula and you have to be ready for injuries, a guy that needs a blow because it’s 89 degrees and high humidity, so I think we have a good feel, but you always have plan B ready to go.

With a weather report that’s pretty crazy (high 90s on Friday, 81 on Saturday), it’ll be a great advantage to be able to roll through a lot of guys, though I imagine that kind of temperature doesn’t exactly intimidate South Florida.


  1. notherpoint - Aug 30, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    We are going to be losing 6 senior starters after this season.

    • rambler09 - Aug 30, 2011 at 10:13 PM

      That’s true, but we shouldn’t have two much of a drop-off along the front 7- losing Cwynar, Fleming, and Filer will be unfortunate, but Nix and Williams are both incredibly talented and should get some quality minutes this year.

      The secondary is a much more serious concern- losing Gray, Blanton, and Smith will be a huge blow. Motta and Slaughter will both be experienced players starting next year and I’m hoping Danny McCarthy will have a solid (if not breakout) year the way his brother did. The corner position is my biggest concern, though. Reviews of Jackson and Wood haven’t exactly been spectacular, but Kelly is attempting to address that with next year’s class.

      Luckily, Kelly knows what he’s doing and clearly plans to give all of the replacements plenty of quality minutes this year. I also have a lot of trust in Chuck Martin to coach them up. It is certainly a concern, but I trust that Kelly and co. are well aware and are preparing.

      • rambler09 - Aug 30, 2011 at 10:15 PM

        Can I edit this? That ‘two’ should be ‘too’. Embarrassing.

    • bryanwtx - Aug 30, 2011 at 11:18 PM

      You’re right, but let’s enjoy a veteran team this season before we worry about who we are losing for next year. We have a full year to develop the next group.

    • pwt3 - Aug 31, 2011 at 7:04 PM

      5. Lewis-Moore has 2 more years of eligibility.

      The place it will hurt is DB, where the young guys need to be coached up big time this year, and where next year’s early enrollee studs could start as freshmen.

      Fleming is a great player but if there’s one thing the staff has done the past two years in recruiting, it’s make outside linebacker a position of strength. Tons of talent behind him.

      Ditto for Ethan Johnson. He’ll have a good year, we’ll miss him, but that’s a position of strength. DB is really the only concern. Hope those players and players yet to arrive get coached up in prep for next year.

    • pwt3 - Aug 31, 2011 at 7:05 PM

      Cwynar also has a fifth year available. Now granted not all the 5th year eligible guys come back, but you act as if you’re completely unfamiliar with the process. Cwynar and Lewis-Moore seem like solid bets to be brought back if they’re willing.

  2. smurphdoggy29 - Aug 30, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

    You do what you have to, you can’t walk away.

    There is a magic in the sound of their name, “HERE COME the IRISH of Notre Dame”

  3. notherpoint - Aug 30, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    You’re right about the staff rambler.
    This is why Bennett Jackson was moved but still this is our year!
    Let’s take out these first 4 bowl teams in September

  4. 1historian - Aug 31, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    The better the front seven the better the secondary. With the talent we’ve got up front – primary and backup – the bad guy’s offense should have some serious trouble, which is good.

    Won’t be long now

  5. kappy32 - Aug 31, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Agree with historian. The better the front seven, the better the secondary. Moreover, the better the pass rush from the front seven, the better the secondary. The quicker the DEs and blitzing LBs get to the QB, the less time the DB’s have to hold coverage, compensating for that weakness. With size & speed in Lynch & Tuitt at DE and a muh-hyped pass rusher at LB in Williams, the pass rush will be good next year, masking the deficiencies in the secondary.

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