Big Louis Nix

A closer look at the depth chart: Defense


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 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.


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.


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.



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


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


KeiVarae Russell, Fr.
Josh Atkinson, Soph.


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

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.

Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.