Today is Notre Dame’s media day for the BCS Championship, so expect news to flow from the various interviews as Brian Kelly, his assistant coaches, and select players will be available for questions and answers. But Kelly supplied some of the biggest news today when he announced that left tackle Zack Martin and nose guard Louis Nix III will return for the 2013 season.
After keeping Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert for their senior seasons, and Michael Floyd the year prior, Kelly extends his run to three seasons in a row landing “six star recruits,” All-American caliber players that’ll be key building blocks for the 2013 team, a squad that’ll likely start the season ranked in the top five.
For Martin, who garnered some All-American kudos for another fine season at left tackle, the decision wasn’t all that surprising. Kelly announced that Martin didn’t submit for the NFL’s evaluation, but Martin did receive unofficial feedback that he’d likely be selected around the third round. Yet the draw of playing another season with his younger brother Nick, who will be one of the leading candidates to fill Mike Golic’s spot at right guard, and the chance to serve another season as captain of his teammates was strong enough to make the NFL wait another year.
For Nix, the idea that the NFL was a potential reality came with his breakout junior season. After sitting out his freshman year as he worked his way into shape, Nix spent much of the 2011 season platooning with senior Sean Cwynar. After struggling emotionally and physically throughout spring drills, Nix entered fall camp running head-to-head with Kona Schwenke for the starting spot. Yet Nix’s junior season was a transcendent one. As the key cog up front, Nix played dominant football at the point of attack, anchoring one of the nation’s best run defenses while racking up 43 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and two sacks on the season. Nix was awarded with a third-team All-American mention, and submitted his paperwork for an NFL draft evaluation, though graduating from Notre Dame took precedence.
The last remaining question mark will be the status of Cierre Wood, who is likely going to make a decision after the BCS Championship game. Wood will weigh his NFL Draft grade, but will graduate this year and has a young daughter to consider. Wood’s return would solidify a running back position that’ll rely on Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson, with Cam McDaniel and unproven runners like Will Mahone and Greg Bryant being wildcards.