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Irish defensive line listed as top in the nation

Jun 12, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

Notre Dame defensive players Tuitt, Nix III, and Te'O celebrate after breaking up a play in the fourth quarter during their win over USC in their NCAA college football game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles

For those worried about the Irish defensive line after the surprising loss of Eddie Vanderdoes, it’s probably worth taking a look at who’s returning along the Irish front.

Just about everybody.

While the Irish lose senior captain Kapron Lewis-Moore to graduation, they return five of their top six players up front, including All-American caliber talent in nose guard Louis Nix and defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Both are expected to be first round picks whenever they chose to head to the NFL.

That’s a big reason why Phil Steele projects the Fighting Irish to have the best defensive line in the country.

Here’s Steele’s rationale:

The Irish had a top-notch defense last year and it was spearheaded by their front seven, as the defensive backs were inexperienced. This year they have five of their top six D-linemen back in South Bend. Notre Dame has two of my top 15 projected first-round picks in their three-man line with 6-foot-6, 322-pound defensive end Stephon Tuitt, a first-team All-American last year with 12 sacks, and 6-3, 357-pound defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who earned third-team All-American honors last year and is the top DT in the country.

The Top 15 Defensive Lines, as judged by Phil Steele.

1. Notre Dame
2. USC
3. South Carolina
4. Arizona State
5. Texas
6. Florida
7. Virginia Tech
8. Florida State
9. Stanford
10. TCU
11. South Florida
12. Ole Miss
13. Alabama
14. LSU
15. Clemson

The loss of Vanderdoes doesn’t look likely to sting the Irish until 2014, when there’s a very real chance that both Nix and Tuitt are playing in the NFL. (That said, don’t get too worried yet, Irish fans. Tuitt has been consistent about getting his degree, meaning he’ll likely join the growing trend of Irish standouts returning for his senior season.)

With Sheldon Day likely stepping into Lewis-Moore’s shoes, and the ability of Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams to put a hand on the ground if needed, there’s plenty of depth both inside and out, with the reinforcements coming from Tony Springmann, Kona Schwenke, Justin Utupo and company.

  1. NotreDan - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Not surprised.

    Go Big Lou!

    Pretty sure we won’t miss vanderdoesn’t

    • dudeacow - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      We will not miss Vanderdoesn’t, and we’ll have another Big Lou in 2014. He will be called Big Jay. 6′ 5″ 270 BEFORE his junior season, and not at all overweight like Nix was? No redshirt season there, boy. First Team Freshman All-American coming right up!

  2. nudeman - Jun 12, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    Is Ishaq out of the witness protection program yet?

    • bernhtp - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      Coaches raved about his effort and performance during the spring. I hope that continues this summer and fall.

  3. oldschoollyons - Jun 12, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Prince Shembo or Ishaq Williams will move to the line when the Irish line up in a four man front. Since Shembo is a starting linebacker and Williams is a backup linebacker, neither of them, strictly speaking, provides backup depth — or at least didn’t until this Spring.. Kelly had Ishaq playing defensive end during the Spring — not only to be a sometime fourth lineman but also to provide depth at defensive end.

    While you are correct that ND has Springmann, Schwenke and Utupo returning as backups, there is a precipitous drop off between our first and second team defensive lines (Ishaq Williams perhaps excluded). Last year we were injury-free on the defensive line. Let’s hope we are again.

    • dudeacow - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      I have the feeling that in 2014 Ishaq will move to the line full-time. Jaylon Smith can easily take Shembo’s Cat position, as the coaches said that they “felt [Smith] was the best pass-rusher in the country…”

  4. fnc111 - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    To think if bonehead Kelly actually knew what an RKG was ND would be preparing for a helluva season with Kevin Hogan as the starting QB in 2013.

    The defense has to be so pssssssdddd right now because they all know the offense this season will leave them hanging out to dry each week, wearing them down. This season will remind us of the 6-6 2009 season where only one side of the ball is good and the side is pathetic.

    • 1historian - Jun 13, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      One word of your post stands out.

      It is appropriate that it is the last word, and that word is:


    • shamrocknroll - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      fnc reminds me of one of those 85 year olds who post on NDerpNation.

  5. buffalomike - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:39 PM

    I doubt Nix would stay beyond 2013 because of family situations and the potential riches of the NFL, but let’s not forget that he does have 2 years of eligibility left. Yes, at Notre Dame he will be a senior, but at any other university, he will be called a redshirt junior. Wouldn’t it be nice to see both Nix and Tuitt on the defensive line for 2 more years!

    • 25kgold - Jun 12, 2013 at 11:49 PM

      what’s his family situation?

      • joeymagarac - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        He has either 11 or 13 siblings and half-siblings (I’ve seen both numbers used by reporters) living in a three-bedroom house. If he goes to the NFL, he can buy them a bigger house. The articles suggest but don’t say that Nix’s mom and dad are together; they do say that Nix’s mom works double shifts to provide for all the kids but also wants Nix to finish school.

      • irishpuma - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:39 AM

        I love me some Irish Chocolate he is a great guy and I wish him all the best whether he stays or goes!!!! I can not begrudge a man taking care of his family…..Neal, wood, Nixie etc……

  6. loadofwash - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:54 PM

    You have got to be kidding me with this headline. This is exactly the reason they’re over rated every year and why the fan base is such a joke. Roll tide.

    • goldenboy3 - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

      And exactly the reason why the fan base should be excited. Remember load, recruit SEC thugs like a champion today!

      Parole Tide!

  7. loadofwash - Jun 12, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    This is the same defense and staff that Manti was the best player on. That says it all. 42-14.

    • papadec - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:00 AM

      A season later, bigger, stronger, and with a significant Bowl loss under their belt & in their memory – without the deer antler spray or any other SEC PED du jour. Have fun now, a-hole – you & the tide will get flushed, sooner-or-later.

    • goldenboy3 - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      The same defense that will do great things for the Irish this season. C’mon load say it with me, Parole Tide!

    • almoose - Jun 18, 2013 at 10:01 AM

      You have a point but it just continues to get better and one day will blow Alabama away!

  8. mediocrebob - Jun 13, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I love other fans reading Inside the Irish and commenting.

    And the offense won’t be “pathetic” by any means. Very strong up front. Should have a strong running game and if TR can manage the game…who knows.

    But you can be sad and depressing all you want.

  9. bearcatirishfan - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    What no obligatory jaron jones mention?

  10. c4evr - Jun 13, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Preseason outlooks should be viewed with same credulity of a UN sanction, just ask USC. The truth of this year’s team probably lies about halfway between Load and Notredan.

    • bernhtp - Jun 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Halfway between load and NotreDan leaves us at fnc – not a sanguine proposition.

      I miss the insightful commentary by sinister and HarveyUpdyke given some positive words about Notre Dame. Where are they?

      • papadec - Jun 13, 2013 at 2:10 PM

        bern – I think I read that Harv was released earlier this week (espn?) – so maybe he’ll be back soon, sinister may be deployed (or was that stealth that was in the Corps, in Calif?)

    • NotreDan - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Probably, ‘cuz on the other side of me is Nudeman, then the almighty himself.

      • nudeman - Jun 13, 2013 at 7:23 PM

        NotreDan … I’ll ride shotgun for you any time

      • irishpuma - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:36 AM

        I guess Puma is riding biattttchhhh……damn I am to big for the middle…..

  11. dudeacow - Jun 13, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    I just got my Phil Steele Preview yesterday–awesome! Except that he has USC in the top ten. and FSU in the top 5.

  12. oleolehey - Jun 13, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    The Irish will remind folks of Da ’85 Bears. Great defense, a running game that takes time off of the clock, QB that manages the game well with the occasional big play mixed in.

  13. loadofwash - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I pray they don’t face one of those high powered teams like Pitt!

  14. loadofwash - Jun 13, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    The list in the article forgot navy and Pitt?

  15. mediocrebob - Jun 14, 2013 at 12:20 AM

    Yeah hopefully we can face that daunting bama schedule…(crickets)

  16. dermmite - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    I got a question for everybody who reads this board. Does Paul Longo really know what he’s doing?

    • irishpuma - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:34 AM


  17. loadofwash - Jun 16, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    42 points and the biggest blow out in BCS history…. D Fence, D Fence….LOL

  18. almoose - Jun 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Defense is the answer! Kelly began to build it and has done so. Good for him and ND. As for the kids.. if they get a few million to leave they must. Could get hurt and that kind of money can set them up for life. Rees will be OK and has some backup. Think Irish 10 and 2. Maybe better. Like it better that some of the noise has stopped from last year and there seems to be focus once again. Go Irish!

  19. loadofwash - Jun 18, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Let’m go undefeated, no one will care anymore, what a waste of a program

    • almoose - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      This program is for life. They expect the kids to be good on the field and be able to manage life. Most are ready to go into significant jobs and are highly recruited. They come out with knowledge. The SEC conference does not have the graduation rate of ND in subjects that will provide the income needed in today’s world. So keep the negativity for specific issues as I can handle that. But stay away from my ND and Program insults! Go Irish!

  20. almoose - Jun 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Just a note. OK Coaches let’s not have the surprises we had last year. Get a little closer to the kids!

  21. loadofwash - Jun 20, 2013 at 7:20 PM

    ND manipulates graduation. It’s easier to get through ND than the Ohio St U! The alum is non existent in the business community. Just pay’n for a private school, can do that anywhere. I wonder what the “rocket” is up to these days? If ND cared the least bit, me wonders why they gave George O’Leary the job. Any idiot knows the achievement of his monsters. Keep drinking the lemonade , you are being manipulated.

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