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. Preseason Camp: Final video breakdown

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Cam McDaniel Cam McDaniel

    It’s been a hectic last week inside the Notre Dame football program. Between suspensions, media day and the home-stretch of our A-to-Z series, it’s time to get to some football.

  2. Tune In: Another Strong & True airs Monday on NBCSN

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:20 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    With training camp over and Notre Dame transitioning to game prep, football is almost here. But for one more look back at the Irish’s time at Culver Academy and another behind-the-scenes look at the program, our friends at Fighting Irish Digital Media present a new edition of the always excellent Strong & True series.

  3. Irish A-to-Z: KeiVarae Russell

    Aug 20, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT

    Notre Dame at USC AP

    Inked to help fill a running back depth chart in need of reinforcements, KeiVarae Russell became a cornerback by accident. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at an All-American candidate with his season up for grabs, an academic investigation determining Russell’s role on the 2014 team.

  4. Riggs ready to lead

    Aug 20, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT

    Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

    Of the players made available to the media yesterday, grad student Cody Riggs wasn’t among them. But the cornerback stopped by UND.com’s Media Day coverage, and after watching his interview with Jack Nolan it’s hard not to be impressed.

  5. Quick thoughts from Media Day

    Aug 19, 2014, 9:57 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder

    With access to Brian Kelly, his assistants and a handful of veteran players, today’s Media Day felt a little different than most. That’s understandable, with the aftermath of unexpected academic suspensions still lingering over the program. With the investigation still on media lockdown, speculation has varied widely, but it’s clear that Kelly is moving forward, the only thing a head coach can do.

  6. Phillip Daniels feels confident son DaVaris will be cleared

    Aug 18, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT

    Notre Dame v Stanford Getty Images

    The Irish practiced today without four suspended veterans, as an academic investigation continues at Notre Dame about potential Honor Code violations committed by DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams. And with rumors swirling and little actual info coming out of anyone inside the program, Phillip Daniels was a guest on NBC 5’s Sports Sunday, and spoke candidly about his son’s situation.

  7. Irish A-to-Z: Isaac Rochell

    Aug 18, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

    Oklahoma v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Providing depth in 2013, sophomore Isaac Rochell just became a very large part of Notre Dame’s plans this season. Irish A-to-Z continues with a lock at Notre Dame’s accidental starter at defensive end.

  8. Back to football: Video breakdown

    Aug 18, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

    New York Post New York Post

    Notre Dame plays Rice in less than two weeks. While that might take a backseat to the interest following the academic investigation that’s underway, the Irish are preparing for a football game, and 15 practices into camp, things are starting to come together.

  9. Irish A-to-Z: Corey Robinson

    Aug 17, 2014, 1:02 PM EDT

    Steffon Batts, Corey Robinson AP

    Among the fleet of celebrity sons playing on Notre Dame’s football team, sophomore Corey Robinson looks poised to make his own name in 2014. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at the young receiver.

  10. Kelly addresses academic investigation

    Aug 16, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    Life goes on for Notre Dame’s football team, as the Irish practiced inside Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday morning. After practice, Brian Kelly addressed the assembled media, talking for over 20 minutes, primarily about the suspensions of DaVaris Daniels, Kendall Moore, KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams and the internal investigation taking place.

  11. With all eyes watching, a dig for truth begins at Notre Dame

    Aug 15, 2014, 9:29 PM EDT

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

    The college football world stared at Notre Dame on Friday. Some snickered as they hoped to see smoke and fire emerge from the Golden Dome. Irish fans braced for impact, with even the most level-headed dreading impending doom, with things getting worse by the minute as Notre Dame brass stayed silent.

  12. Academic misconduct investigation underway at Notre Dame

    Aug 15, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    DaVaris Daniels, Ricardo Allen AP

    An investigation is taking place at Notre Dame, the university announced Friday. With a news conference scheduled for 6 p.m., four Notre Dame football players have been taken off the field and held out of practice and competition until the investigation is complete.

  13. Multiple Reports: Notre Dame set to suspend four players for season

    Aug 15, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT

    ND finished field

    As rumors swirl out of control, multiple reports have Notre Dame suspending four players for the season as the result of an academic probe.

  14. Ready or Not: Young Irish defenders making moves

    Aug 14, 2014, 12:46 PM EDT

    Oklahoma v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Heading into fall camp, surprises were expected on the defensive side of the ball. But while everybody is talking about Brian Kelly naming Everett Golson his starting quarterback, the Irish head coach’s comments about his evolving defense were probably the most illuminating we’ve heard from Kelly in years.

  15. Kyle McCarthy takes leave of absence from Irish

    Aug 14, 2014, 11:20 AM EDT

    Washington v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Notre Dame announced this morning that graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy is taking a leave of absence from the football team to battle cancer. The former Irish captain is in his first season working with the Irish under Brian Kelly after retiring from the NFL.

  16. Irish A-to-Z: Cody Riggs

    Aug 13, 2014, 7:48 PM EDT

    Todd Gurley, Neiron Ball, Cody Riggs Todd Gurley, Neiron Ball, Cody Riggs

    After using the graduate transfer rule to fill niche roles like situational punter, Notre Dame landed a potential difference maker in Florida graduate Cody Riggs. Irish A-to-Z takes a closer look at the diminutive cornerback.

  17. Kelly names Golson starting quarterback

    Aug 13, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    While it may have taken longer than many expected, Brian Kelly named Everett Golson his starting quarterback after practice on Wednesday. The senior beat out sophomore Malik Zaire, who put up a valiant effort.

  18. Irish A-to-Z: Max Redfield

    Aug 12, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

    Oklahoma v Notre Dame Oklahoma v Notre Dame

    A year after struggling to get on the field, Max Redfield has emerged as one of the key pieces of Notre Dame’s defense. Irish A-to-Z continues with a look at the former five-star safety.

  19. Fall Camp video: Full pads practice breakdown

    Aug 11, 2014, 4:18 PM EDT

    Brian Kelly Brian Kelly

    As fall camp continues, we take a (way-too) close look at the latest UND.com practice video, with the Irish going 11-on-11 in full pads.

  20. Irish get first taste of Notre Dame Stadium’s new surface

    Aug 11, 2014, 2:31 PM EDT

    ND finished field

    Notre Dame practiced on Monday inside Notre Dame Stadium, their first official workout on the team’s new playing surface. After following the transformation from natural grass to FieldTurf, getting inside a stadium that hasn’t been enough of a home-field advantage over the past few years was critical.