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A closer look at the depth chart: Defense

Aug 28, 2012, 2:47 AM EDT

Big Louis Nix

Just as we did with the offense, here’s a closer look at the depth chart on the defensive side of the ball, where co-defensive coordinators Bob Diaco and Kerry Cook have their work cut out for them as they try and protect a secondary that’s replacing three starters and welcomed KeiVarae Russell to the starting lineup after only a few weeks at the position.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Defensive End:

Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sr.
Sheldon Day, Fr.

Defensive Tackle:

Louis Nix, Jr.
Kona Schwenke, Jr.
Tony Springmann, Soph.

Defensive End:

Stephon Tuitt, Soph.
Chase Hounshell, Soph.
Jarron Jones, Fr.

Thoughts:

It’s amazing to look at this position grouping and realize that only Lewis-Moore will be gone from this group in 2014, let alone 2013. (On second glance, the group will technically lose Schwenke, too.) That’s a staggering amount of youthful depth up front, but also a reminder that this group is young… and still a little bit raw.

Lewis-Moore’s return from injury should be worth watching, as Notre Dame needs the fifth-year player to get more productive with his snaps. This fifth year could help him go from good to great. After battling through adversity during his freshman season, expect this to be the year that the college football world learns about Stephon Tuitt. At 6-foot-6, 303-pounds, he’s quite a rare mix of size and speed that usually translates to a star in the making.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Louis Nix landed on the top of the defensive tackle depth chart over Schwenke. He’s just too good of a player.

LINEBACKERS

Outside Linebacker (Dog):

Ben Councell, Soph.
Romeo Okwara, Fr.
CJ Prosise, Fr.

Inside Linebacker (Will):

Dan Fox, Sr.
Jarrett Grace, Soph.
Joe Schmidt, Soph.

Inside Linebacker (Mike):

Manti Te’o, Sr.
Jarrett Grace, Soph.
Kendall Moore, Jr.

Outside Linebacker (Cat):

Prince Shembo, Jr.
Ishaq Williams, Soph.
Anthony Rabasa, Soph.

Thoughts: This is another impressive group that is obviously anchored by one transcendent talent. But a closer look gives you a look at the Irish in the future, with everybody but Te’o back for another season, and the rest of the squad still with some time left on their eligibility clock.

It’s starting to look like Romeo Okwara is too good of an athlete to keep off the field. After seeing how the Irish staff handled star freshmen Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, I don’t expect any freshman to make an overwhelming amount of big plays, if only because it’ll be difficult for them to earn opportunities, with the staff more worried about players being assignment capable and not physically dominant.

While Prince Shembo beat out Ishaq Williams, there’s no doubt we’ll likely see both guys on the field a lot, and often times together. Notre Dame will need to get a pass rush out of the duo. Across the field, sophomore Ben Councell answered the bell when he capable replaced Danny Spond after a scary head injury, but the youthful linebacker is the best schematic fit Bob Diaco’s had at the position since he got started.

SECONDARY

Cornerback:

Bennett Jackson, Jr.
Jalen Brown, Soph.
Elijah Shumate, Fr.

Safety

Zeke Motta, Sr.
Matthias Farley, Soph.
John Turner, Fr.

Cornerback:

KeiVarae Russell, Fr.
Josh Atkinson, Soph.

Safety:

Jamoris Slaughter, Sr.
Chris Salvi, Soph.
Nicky Baratti, Fr.

Thoughts:
The lack of depth in this group is a little difficult, but in college football’s 85-man roster era, more than just the Irish are hoping to get by with a position group that might spend the beginning of the season treading water. It’s really impressive that Russell has worked his way to the top of the cornerback depth chart and you can tell the confidence the freshman shows off the field translates to the comfort he feels out at corner.

Matthias Farley’s ascent up the depth chart into the third safety spot is also mighty impressive. As a recruit, Farley looked like a developmental target and during a redshirt freshman season he trained as a wide receiver. After switching sides of the ball, he’s taken to safety quickly, something the Irish will need with Austin Collinsworth out for what is likely the season.

  1. yaketyyacc - Aug 28, 2012 at 4:41 AM

    they say the early bird catches the worm. well, it seems that it also catches a “prolific” Keith Arnold, who has very nicely pointed to the offensive depth and the defensive depth. agree, not that this means anything, coming from a neophyte poster, with your results.
    cannot wait to see George Atkinson in action. and Golson. and Eifert. and. and. and. Go Irish, and as we cheered in “57″ trying to emulate the Ivy League, “retard Navy”. no, it didn’t fit in then either.

    • halfwhitey - Aug 28, 2012 at 6:22 AM

      “Prolific” might just be another word for “downing beer after beer 6 hours ahead of us.”

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Aug 28, 2012 at 5:28 AM

    Tom Petty said it best: The waiting is the hardest part. Hold on a second, losing to Michigan again would be the hardest part. But the waiting, yeah that’s hard too.

    • seeeye - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:21 AM

      Waiting [to beat Michigan and USC in the same season] is the hardest part.

  3. gtizzo - Aug 28, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    ND will be loaded at linebacker if this recruiting class holds together.

  4. dbldmr - Aug 28, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Off this topic, but….

    There’s a good article about Notre Dame football on the Opinion page of The Wall Street Journal today. I thought the author (Gerald Eskenazi) did a creditable job of arguing for turf and a Jumbotron, but had a great line about uniforms. He said, “But if the school wants to preserve at least one visible tradition, please don’t dress up the players like some sort of Irish Avenger superhero.”

    I concur.

    • 9irish - Aug 28, 2012 at 7:53 PM

      See, that’s the way to go…I’ll have to read that article. Find somebody with no interest in ND and ask “Do these look stupid?” and you’ll get an objective answer.

  5. alsatiannd - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    No Badger in the secondary depth chart?

    • phjindy - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      John Turner is a freshman and not a senior.

    • mcirish27 - Aug 28, 2012 at 6:38 PM

      How about no Eilar Hardy either?

  6. simmel65 - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    So the real questions this year is going to be does our front 7 dominate? If the front 7 can shut down the run and pressure the passer then our lack of corner experience will be mitigated. I hope they press up on the receivers more and use safety help on the deep throws. Tired of watching us play 5 yards off and then backpedal 5 more yards and give up a 7 yard play. We have get more pressure on the QB this year.

    However the year turns out, it is going to have its ups and downs (esp on offense), so strap in and enjoy the ride!

    Go ND!!

  7. jimbasil - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    With all the FR on the depth charts, my thoughts go to discipline and penalties. ND will have very few opportunities for offensive series should Navy play their game. If ND is turning it over on downs (not fumbles or INT’s) because of moving backward instead of forward this will be a very long game for ND. Or on Defense, stopping Navy getting a 4th down punt and we enable them for a first down by penalty extending a drive is also likely. Should the ND punting game is as lousy this year as it was last year, Navy will have decent to good field position all game long.

    Navy may not have the offensive firepower of other teams, but if they march down field and kick FG’s by controlling the clock all afternoon, the score may very well be Navy 15 – ND 7 if discipline penalties become an issue. Too many suspended and injured players with experience sitting this one out.

    I have little doubt ND beats Purdue, but Navy is the frightwig for an opener.

    • oldestguard - Aug 28, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      Any Irish fan has a knot in their stomach after the way we started last year, but my gut says we dominate this opener and control clock, ball, game… everything.

      I am pumped to see a QB in Kelly’s ideal mold, at the helm. This will be an exciting year, albeit with many of the challenges you correctly stated with youth at key positions. I just think the start will be quite a bit easier to take than last year.

      Will have no problem getting up early to take this one in !

      .

  8. ndnphx - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Navy’s triple-option means assignment football the first week.

    After that, I hope the plan is to use the front seven as more of a weapon this year. I sure would like to see all of this talent we’re accumulating do a little more disrupting across the line of scrimmage, and maybe start forcing mistakes out of the other side.

  9. bernhtp - Aug 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Is Dublin a traditional away game in terms of player count? How many is Notre Dame dressing for the game? I imagine there are a number of others going, e.g., injured players like Welch and Wood.

  10. jackm1184 - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Over/under on how many times the CBS announcers say the ND front 7 needs to keep Navy “off schedule?”

  11. bigirishphan - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    We are allowed to send 100 players. That is also the reason we have booked an A330 air bus. All walk ons are allowed to go. Wheels up in about 31 hours ladies and gentlemen!

    • irish4006 - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:43 PM

      I hope they have the good sense of having the bigger bodies sit in the business class so that they are not all cramped from a long flight and not just reserve those seats for university “officials”. If you are not 6’1″ plus, you don’t go there.

      Nitpicking, I know; but it’s about football and players/coaches should be the no. 1 priority.

      • bernhtp - Aug 28, 2012 at 4:40 PM

        The capacity of the Airbus 330 in a traditional dual-cabin configuration is 335 passengers. My bet is that the charter version they got is configured for large (maybe even first class – seats that go full flat for sleeping) seating throughout.

  12. 1historian - Aug 28, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    When are the new photos of the individual team members going to be posted?

  13. tonyricemajorharris - Aug 28, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Is it Saturday yet?

  14. irishdog09 - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Keith,

    How come no mention of McCarthy in the secondary depth chart?

    • bernhtp - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      He sure seems to have slipped WAY down the depth chart from a month ago. There must be a problem that isn’t public. He used to be #3, right behind Motta and Slaughter.

  15. bw1980 - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    This defense is going to be all about the front end and the back end because we know what’s in the middle (LBs) are a good to great group and what’s on the outside is an unknown quantity and not a lot of it.

    The defensive line is going to need to get a rush on the QB without LB blitzing (though that will be a part of the package at times) and the safeties will be in two deep help on two or three out of every four downs. Ultimately, if the defensive line can put pressure on the QB with minimal linebacker blitzes then the defense will be very good in all facets, if they cannot then teams are going to throw all over ND.

    One way or the other we know that this defense will be able to stop the run, if they can adequately defend the pass then this season should be a pleasant surprise to most people; if they can’t then ND will either need the unknown quantities on offense to play really well because they will be involved in a lot of shootouts.

  16. irishdog09 - Aug 28, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    Yea I can’t imagine how a freshman could make the depth chart over him…anybody hear anything about McCarthy?

  17. mmcss690 - Aug 28, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    Big, what time does the flight leave?

  18. bigirishphan - Aug 28, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    7pm approximate take off from South Bend. Landing in Dublin at 2am our time and 7am Dublin time. Thursday is site seeing all day for players. Friday at 6pm the pep rally will be held (Martin Short is supposed to have a part in this)? This will be held at the O2 Arena in Dublin. Saturday at 11:30 team leaves for the Aviva arena.

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