Skip to content

Ten players, ten reasons: Prince Shembo

Dec 30, 2012, 1:48 PM EDT

Prince Shembo AP

The fourth in a series on ten below-the-radar players whose performances helped key the Irish’s run to the national title game. Others include Zeke Motta, Danny Spond and TJ Jones.

The logic used to put Prince Shembo at the Dog linebacker position in 2011 made plenty of sense. Darius Fleming was returning. Get your best players on the field. Find a way for Shembo to just make plays. And while Shembo did his best to make the transition to the wide side of the field work, asking a guy whose Twitter handle includes the name Rambo to back pedal just as often as he charges after a quarterback — well let’s just all agree it wasn’t the best fit.

Shembo’s sophomore season wasn’t a disappointment, but it did leave some statistics to be desired. With just 31 tackles and two sacks, it was clear that the 6-foot-2, 255-pound linebacker had spent more time thinking than simply playing, something he did to impressive effect as a true freshman, where Shembo might not have had a clue what he was doing, but he managed 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble with a limited agenda: Go get the quarterback.

That wasn’t Shembo’s job in 2011 and his playing time showed it. Against Air Force, Jamoris Slaughter saw the majority of snaps down in the box, with Shembo logging just 14 that afternoon. Less and less the game plan included Shembo when the offense dictated it, and Shembo saw diminished time against Maryland and Boston College as well.

Heading into the season, many wondered where the Irish were going to get their pass rush, especially with the loss of Aaron Lynch. It turns out part of the answer was to simply unleash Shembo, and return him to his natural position.

Shembo’s junior season was the perfect confluence of events. Necessity, opportunity and preparation all merged. Starting for the first time at the Cat linebacker, Shembo’s stat line exploded, his 48 tackles were sixth on the team. His 10.5 tackles-for-loss second only to Stephon Tuitt. And his 7.5 sacks off the edge — and countless more quarterback hurries — a tremendous complement to Tuitt’s presence. Rambo returned to his job and the entire defense benefited. A year after playing just 57 percent of the defenses snaps, Shembo was up to 83 percent, the most of any linebacker not named Te’o. And with more playing time, Shembo brought the production desperately needed.

Perhaps the key to Shembo’s fit in the Irish defense is his versatility. With a stout presence and ability to battle blockers much larger than him, Shembo gives Bob Diaco the ultimate Swiss Army knife, with Shembo at home with his hand on the ground as a defensive end or playing linebacker. One of the great values Fleming brought to the Irish defense was that same versatility. Perhaps it’s telling that Shembo’s so good rushing the passer that the Irish ran more four down fronts this season with a first-time starter in Shembo than they did with Fleming.

Identified and recruited by Charlie Weis’ coaching staff, Shembo didn’t fit the mold of outside linebacker types Brian Kelly usually recruits. Yet Shembo’s been a key cog to this Irish defense, and he plays much larger and tougher than his size dictates.

Just as important is the swagger Shembo brings to the unit. Often seen carrying around the defense’s sledgehammer, Shembo coined one of the defense’s best rallying cries — and probably its second best too, when he accused Denard Robinson of stealing his bike seat at the pep rally before the Michigan game.

Shembo plays like Diaco wants the entire defense to play: Fearless. Take his comments before facing off with Oklahoma’s Belldozer, the gigantic quarterback Blake Bell.

“He’s a big guy. 6-6, 260. Well I squat 600. So we’re just going to go and meet him in the hole.”

“We’ve got monsters on our team,” Shembo continued. “Troy’s a monster, Eifert’s a monster. The more practice with monsters, the better. If I’ve got to fight a dragon every day — without getting killed hopefully — I’ll know how to beat the dragon eventually.”

Shembo has spent the last month preparing to face off with another set of monsters, the Alabama offensive line. And while many expect Alabama to be doing the pushing around, Shembo doesn’t seem too worried.

“I mean, we’re physical too,” Shembo said yesterday. “Two physical teams are about to go up against each other. Then it’s just going to lead to Xs and Os after that. I don’t think any of us are going to get pushed around. It’s going to be even-steven.”

Latest Posts
  1. Irish A-to-Z: Scott Daly

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    Anonymous long-snappers are the best kind of long snappers. And for the better part of two seasons, Scott Daly was exactly that. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at a man who is no longer anonymous.

  2. OL Parker Boudreaux commits to Notre Dame

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class added a big commitment from Florida offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux today. One of the country’s top interior linemen chose Notre Dame in a online video done in collaboration with Bleacher Report.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: Shaun Crawford

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT

    Cleveland Plain Dealer Cleveland Plain Dealer

    Great football players come in all shapes and sizes. Incoming freshman Shaun Crawford will likely prove that. The diminutive cornerback comes to South Bend looking to make a big impact.

  4. Offseason Q&A: Clemson

    Jul 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    South Carolina v Clemson Getty Images

    When you look at Notre Dame’s 2015 schedule, it’s hard to skip past the Irish’s trip to Clemson. Returning to Death Valley for the first time since Joe Montana led a comeback victory in 1977, Brian Kelly’s squad will take on Dabo Swinney’s impressive team, the makings of a football game with College Football Playoff implications. Shakin’ the Southland’s Brian Lewis gets us up to speed.

  5. Irish A-to-Z: Te’von Coney

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Courtesy of Notre Dame Media Relations Courtesy of Notre Dame Media Relations

    While Jerry Tillery stole the headlines, fellow classmate Te’von Coney more than held his own this spring. The linebacker may have entered a packed depth chart at linebacker, but he solidified his place as a key cog in the future plans of Notre Dame’s defense.

  6. Irish A-to-Z: Nick Coleman

    Jun 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Nick Coleman

    Hailing from the same high school that brought the Irish Malik Zaire, incoming freshman Nick Coleman looks to infuse the same type of unlikely toughness to the secondary that Zaire brings to the quarterback position. Irish A-to-Z rolls on.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Amir Carlisle

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Amir Carlisle Amir Carlisle

    Irish A-to-Z continues with Amir Carlisle. The winding on-field journey for the fifth year senior ends in 2015.

  8. Irish get commitment from safety Spencer Perry

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT

    Spencer Perry

    Florida safety Spencer Perry committed to Notre Dame on Monday, a week after visiting campus for the Irish Invasion camp. The move followed Perry’s de-commitment from in-state power Florida, taking the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from a Gator pledge to a member of Notre Dame’s rapidly growing 2016 recruiting class.

  9. Irish A-to-Z: Daniel Cage

    Jun 29, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    One of the last members of Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class was one of the first people to make an impact on the field. Defensive tackle Daniel Cage is next in Irish A-to-Z.

  10. Greg Bryant suspension tests offensive depth chart

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Getty Images

    News broke Monday morning that running back Greg Bryant will be suspended for the first four games of the season. As first-reported by Irish 247, Bryant will miss a quarter of the regular season based on the dreaded-and-ambiguous “violation of team rules,” thinning a running back depth chart that was already down to just Bryant, returning starter Tarean Folston and converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise.

  11. Irish A-to-Z: Jimmy Byrne

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    via Twitter via Twitter

    Like the rest of his classmates along the offensive line, Jimmy Byrne spent 2014 learning the ropes and hitting the weight room. Redshirt off, Irish A-to-Z continues with the Ohio native.

  12. Irish land top 2017 TE Brock Wright

    Jun 26, 2015, 10:28 PM EDT

    Rivals.com Rivals.com

    Texas tight end Brock Wright has committed to Notre Dame, adding another elite recruit to the Irish tight end pipeline. Wright is a 2017 prospect who camped in South Bend last week for Irish Invasion.

  13. Irish A-to-Z: Devin Butler

    Jun 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Purdue v Notre Dame

    With KeiVarae Russell suspended and Cody Riggs hurt, Devin Butler got his chance to be a starting cornerback. It wasn’t necessarily a positive experience. We look ahead to an important season for the junior defensive back.

  14. Offseason Q&A: UMass

    Jun 26, 2015, 11:07 AM EDT

    Massachusetts v Vanderbilt Getty Images

    After a difficult three-game stretch to start Notre Dame’s season, the Irish will welcome UMass to South Bend, a game that was originally intended to match up former Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar with his previous employer.

  15. Report: Irish might be adding OL Jurkovic

    Jun 25, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    An Irish Illustrated report says that Notre Dame might add a piece to the 2016 recruiting class, with touted offensive lineman and one-time Ohio State commit Mirko Jurkovic Jr. in the crosshairs.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Greg Bryant

    Jun 25, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    North Carolina v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Greg Bryant has yet to play up to the 5-star status he entered South Bend possessing. Now for the good news: He’s got three more seasons to try.

  17. Irish A-to-Z: Chris Brown

    Jun 24, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    Chris Brown enters his senior season in South Bend, still looking to build on a magical start. Irish A-to-Z rolls along, knowing that we’ve got a long way to go before the start of the season.

  18. Irish A-to-Z: Justin Brent

    Jun 24, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT

    Justin Brent, Devin Butler Justin Brent, Devin Butler

    There are good debut seasons. And then there are debut seasons like the one Justin Brent just had. Let’s take a closer look at the sophomore receiver as Irish A-to-Z continues.

  19. Offseason Q&A: Georgia Tech

    Jun 24, 2015, 1:43 PM EDT

    Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days Justin Thomas, Synjyn Days

    Last year, Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech team burst onto the scene, nearly wrestling the ACC championship away from Florida State in a primetime showdown. While the Yellow Jackets didn’t pull out the victory, they sprinted away from Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl and won by double-digits, capping off an 11-win season.

  20. OLB/DE Jamir Jones commits to Notre Dame

    Jun 23, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    Notre Dame’s quick-growing 2016 recruiting class is adding another familiar name. Rochester defensive end Jamir Jones, brother of starting defensive tackle Jarron Jones, committed to the Irish coaching staff on Tuesday, fresh off receiving his offer. He joins Julian Okwara—brother of Romeo—as younger siblings of Irish players in the 2016 recruiting class.