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. Kelly: Irish need to play their best to beat Stanford

    Sep 30, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Stanford Notre Dame v Stanford

    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media today to discuss Saturday’s showdown with Stanford. And a week after surviving a five-turnover game against Syracuse, Kelly made it pretty clear that he knew that type of effort wasn’t going to cut it.

  2. The good, the bad, the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

    Sep 29, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

    William Fuller, C.J. Prosise William Fuller, C.J. Prosise

    On second inspection, Notre Dame did some very impressive things in their 31-15 victory over Syracuse. But the head-scratching mistakes that revealed themselves in the season’s fourth game also gave us our first sign of some flaws that many had hoped this young team was past.

  3. Five things we learned: Notre Dame 31, Syracuse 15

    Sep 28, 2014, 1:56 AM EDT

    Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack Torii Hunter Jr., Corey Robinson, Ben Koyack

    Earlier in the week, Brian Kelly was asked about his last time in MetLife Stadium. He almost chuckled to himself, wondering when Notre Dame’s humbling, one-sided defeat to Navy in 2010 would be drudged up again this week.

  4. Live Blog — Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

    Sep 27, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Everett Golson Everett Golson

    Returning to the New York metro area for the first time since the Pinstripe Bowl, Notre Dame looks to get to 4-0 on the season with a victory over Syracuse. For the Irish, it’s their first opportunity to play on the road, though lucky to start in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands instead of the Carrier Dome.

  5. Syracuse Mailbag: Everything under the kitchen sink

    Sep 27, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

    Amir Carlisle Amir Carlisle

    This is such a long mailbag I’m just skipping the witty intro. Or even the halfway decent intro. So let’s get right to a tough set of questions.

  6. Daniels talks to ESPN about academic suspension

    Sep 26, 2014, 11:58 PM EDT

    DaVaris Daniels, Ricardo Allen AP

    Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels broke his silence Friday, talking with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler about his exile as five Notre Dame football players still awaiting their university hearings. Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams have all been withheld from football activities while the university process continues.

  7. Pregame Six Pack: Syracuse in the way of perfect September

    Sep 26, 2014, 9:26 AM EDT

    Corey Robinson Corey Robinson

    Win September. Sounds easy enough, but Notre Dame has only started 4-0 a dozen times since 1970 and just twice since the turn of the century. But by beating Syracuse on Saturday night the Irish have a chance to enter the most difficult stretch of their season on a perfect role.

  8. Notre Dame, Texas A&M announce series in 2024-25

    Sep 25, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Kenny Hill Kenny Hill

    Notre Dame and Texas A&M have agreed to play a two-game, home-and-home series, starting in 2024. The Irish and Aggies will open the 2024 season in College Station before playing a late September game the following season. The two programs haven’t met on the football field since 2001.

  9. Schafer prepares for challenge from Irish offense

    Sep 25, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT

    Scott Shafer Scott Shafer

    Coming off a difficult loss to Rutgers, Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer doesn’t expect things to get easier this weekend. With the Orange giving up home field advantage as they’ve moved the game to MetLife Field, Syracuse enters the game double-digit underdogs as they prepare to take on a Notre Dame team that’s ranked No. 8 in the country.

  10. Mailbag: Now Open

    Sep 25, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Mailbag

    Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  11. O-Line shuffles, Torii Hunter’s debut, and other Irish notes

    Sep 24, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Amir Carlisle Amir Carlisle

    While Brian Kelly tried to downplay the finality of the significant adjustment to the two-deep depth chart along the offensive line, he talked about the rationale for flip-flopping Christian Lombard and Steve Elmer, as well as Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty on Tuesday afternoon.

  12. And in that corner… The Syracuse Orange

    Sep 24, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

    Maryland v Syracuse Maryland v Syracuse

    Notre Dame begins its scheduling alliance with the ACC this weekend, as the Irish take on Syracuse this Saturday night in another primetime kickoff for the Irish. Second-year coach Scott Shafer’s squad is 2-1, coming off a disappointing two-touchdown loss to Rutgers that statistically could’ve played out like a blowout win for the Orange.

  13. Conclusion of academic probe still at least a week away

    Sep 23, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick

    After not meeting with the media last Tuesday, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly took to the podium for his regularly scheduled weekly press conference. While he addressed changes on the offensive line, injury news and the game Saturday night against Syracuse (we’ll get to that later), he also spoke about the status of DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams, still held out of football activities as an academic investigation continues.

  14. Martin to guard, Lombard to tackle in OL shakeup

    Sep 23, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    Temple v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Rumors of some offensive line tweaks have been confirmed. On Notre Dame’s weekly depth chart, the Irish starting five up front have shifted dramatically.

  15. With bye week behind, next four Saturdays will define season

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Notre Dame enjoyed a Saturday off, a casual observer on a crazy weekend that served as the first shakeup of the season. But as Brian Kelly prepares his team for Syracuse, he’ll start a four-week stretch that’ll likely define Notre Dame’s season.

  16. Bye-week Mailbag: Life at the quarter turn

    Sep 19, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    As summer officially ends after this weekend, Notre Dame fans get one last uninterrupted Saturday to soak it in. So while the Irish are off, let’s take a look at who Notre Dame’s future opponents are playing and then get to the mailbag.

  17. Rumors swirl about offensive line shuffle

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

    notre-dame-ol

    Over the weekend, Brian Kelly talked candidly about finding a better performance from his offensive line. With talented personnel that’s still finding its identity after Zack Martin and Chris Watt graduated, Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand have an off week to find the five optimal starters — and their positions — before taking on Syracuse next weekend.

  18. Mailbag: Now Open

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT

    Mailbag

    Questions before a weekend without Notre Dame football? Drop them below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  19. Jenkins addresses football suspensions to Notre Dame faculty

    Sep 17, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT

    Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick Rev. John Jenkins,Jack Swarbrick

    After missing the first three games of the season, the fate of DaVaris Daniels, Eilar Hardy, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams is still up in the air. After announcing an official investigation into academic dishonesty in mid-August, updates on the status of the five players have been limited to head coach Brian Kelly’s weekly loop of uncertainty.

  20. Notre Dame bye week number crunching

    Sep 16, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT

    Everett Golson Everett Golson

    With the Irish getting a much needed Saturday off, we won’t hear from Brian Kelly until he’s previewing Syracuse for us next weekend. But with one quarter of the season in the books, let’s take a look at some of the surprises after three games, digging deep in to the stats after victories over Rice, Michigan and Purdue.