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. Offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland commits to Irish

    Apr 23, 2014, 8:14 PM EDT

    Northwest Herald / Shaw Media Northwest Herald / Shaw Media

    Notre Dame closed out their offensive line recruiting on Wednesday, accepting the verbal commitment of Illinois offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland. The 6-foot-4, 270-pounder chose the Irish over offers from Cal, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Vanderbilt.

  2. What to expect from Florida transfer Cody Riggs

    Apr 23, 2014, 1:46 PM EDT

    Cody Riggs Cody Riggs

    Florida transfer Cody Riggs has one season to make an impact at Notre Dame. And he has a great opportunity to do it.

  3. Daniels talks about his return to Irish

    Apr 21, 2014, 10:59 AM EDT

    DaVaris Daniels, Ricardo Allen AP

    Suspended wide receiver DaVaris Daniels has spent the semester away from the university and football program, after falling behind academically. Daniels found out the news on his way to the Pinstripe Bowl, a fitting ending to a challenging season that saw Daniels improve statistically, but battle injuries and inefficiency.

  4. Notre Dame’s post-spring depth chart: Defense

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly,Brian Van Gorder Brian Kelly,Brian Van Gorder

    Brian VanGorder’s new defense turned spring practice into a reboot of the defense. Replacing key members of the front seven and changing schemes made for an important 15 practices. Let’s take a look at the post-spring practice depth chart.

  5. Notre Dame’s post-spring depth chart: Offense

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

    Everett Golson

    The Blue-Gold game is done and spring’s 15 practices are complete. With Easter break around the corner and summer workouts still a few months away, let’s take a look at the moves and shakes on the Irish offensive depth chart.

  6. Core of Irish defense beginning to emerge

    Apr 15, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly,Brian Van Gorder Brian Kelly,Brian Van Gorder

    Making an impact during a spring game is always a good thing. But sometimes, the not making one is a good thing, too. The core of the Irish defense didn’t play a lot in the Blue-Gold game.

  7. The good, the bad, the ugly: 85th Blue-Gold game

    Apr 14, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    Everett Golson Everett Golson

    Spring football is done, with the Blue-Gold game already in the rearview mirror. Let’s recap Saturday’s festivities with a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the offense’s 63-58 win.

  8. FieldTurf announcement comes at the right time

    Apr 13, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Last Grass

    During the first half of the Blue-Gold game, athletic director Jack Swarbrick joined Alex Flanagan on television to break the game’s biggest news. After years of struggling to maintain the natural grass surface inside Notre Dame Stadium, the university will be installing a synthetic surface inside the stadium.

  9. Five things we learned: 85th annual Blue-Gold game

    Apr 12, 2014, 3:41 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    A new quarterback depth chart. A new surface coming to Notre Dame Stadium. Unseen weapons making their presence felt all afternoon. There are plenty of takeaways from the 85th annual Blue-Gold game.

  10. Live Blog — 85th Annual Blue-Gold game

    Apr 12, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

    Getty Images - Jonathan Daniel Getty Images

    It feels like forever since we gathered in late December to watch the Irish finish the season in rather painful fashion against Rutgers in the House that Steinbrenner built. But we’re back for the 85th annual Blue-Gold game, and another live blog of the festivities.

  11. WATCH LIVE: Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold game

    Apr 12, 2014, 12:59 AM EDT

    Brian Kelly - vs. Michigan Getty Images

    It’s the final practice for the Irish until they return to the field for fall camp in August. With kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m. EDT, you can watch the game on NBCSN or via the steaming link below.

  12. Pregame Six Pack: 85th annual Blue-Gold game

    Apr 11, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Everett Golson

    Spring is here. Football is in Notre Dame Stadium. As the Irish get ready to do battle in the 85th annual Blue-Gold game, here’s a pregame six pack to get your ready for the action.

  13. Finding Five: Shuffling offensive line pieces still possible

    Apr 10, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT

    USA Today Sports USA Today Sports

    As Notre Dame tries to replace long-time starters Zack Martin and Chris Watt, Brian Kelly and Harry Hiestand are still tinkering with finding their five best offensive linemen.

  14. Blue-Gold game: Ten Irish players to watch

    Apr 9, 2014, 2:31 AM EDT

    Elmer AP

    With Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold game scheduled for this Saturday, we’re taking a closer look at 10 players you need to watch.

  15. Notre Dame-Georgia series in the future?

    Apr 8, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly podium

    After finalizing an ACC scheduling pact that begins in 2014, a CBS Sports report has Notre Dame and Georgia on the verge of agreeing to a home-and-home series that begins in 2018.

  16. Blue-Gold game an important progress report for Golson

    Apr 7, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    Everett Golson

    Nobody will confuse Saturday’s Blue-Gold game with a real football game. But for the first time since that fateful January night against Alabama, Everett Golson will be taking snaps that count.

    Sort of.

  17. Defensive back Nicco Fertitta commits to the Irish

    Apr 5, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Fertitta

    Notre Dame received their sixth recruiting commitment of the 2015 class on Saturday, with Las Vegas safety Nicco Fertitta pledging to the Irish. He’s the third recruit to pick Notre Dame in the last week.

  18. Spring Practice: Practice 11 breakdown

    Apr 4, 2014, 8:32 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Air Force Getty Images

    After two practices outside, the Irish head back inside Loftus, for another practice in their friendly indoor facility. Here’s your overly in-depth look at the latest (and final) UND.com practice video from April 4.

  19. Rashad Kinlaw dismissed from Notre Dame football program

    Apr 4, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

    Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

    Brian Kelly announced Friday that rising sophomore cornerback Rashad Kinlaw has been dismissed from the Irish football program.

  20. Spring brings new challenges to Elston and defensive line

    Apr 3, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Mike Elston

    Tasked with installing a new system and replacing potential first round draft picks Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, Mike Elston has a lot on his plate this spring. Made available to the media on Wednesday, Elston gave us a progress report.