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Irish defenders cover the watch lists

Jul 9, 2013, 3:17 AM 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

If preseason accolades are any indication, don’t expect the Notre Dame defense to take a step backwards this season. Even without the most highly decorated defensive player in the school’s history, the preseason Maxwell and Bednarik watch lists are covered with Notre Dame defenders, a sign of elevated expectations for one of the most surprising units in the country last year.

Leading the way are preseason All-Americans Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. Not only are the two Irish defensive linemen on the (kinda) short list for the Bednarik, given to college football’s defensive player of the year, they both were nominated for the Maxwell Award, given to college football’s player of the year. In case you forgot, Manti Te’o won both the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards last season.

Other Bednarik watch-listers are senior cornerback Bennett Jackson and senior outside linebacker Prince Shembo. Notre Dame is the only school in college football with four players featured on the Bednarik list. Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Stanford have three each.

It’s hard to get too pumped up about Watch List season, but it does do a nice job of qualifying the mainstream opinion on your team and players. While just about everyone following college football knew that Nix and Tuitt were among the country’s best players, seeing guys like Jackson and Shembo receive national awards notice does a good job of qualifying expectations for two veterans that should play big roles on the field this season.

Earlier in the offseason, ESPN tabbed Shembo as one of college football’s top five linebackers, quite a statement for a guy that only truly emerged last season after struggling to find his footing in 2011 as a field-side linebacker.  Likewise, Jackson has a sneaky chance to make his way into All-American consideration, with the physical, athletic cornerback doing a lot of elite things last season, even with a shoulder that needed surgery.


  1. papadec - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    The Irish Defense will lead the way to the promised land of the National Championship! I don’t care what the trolls think and/or post. (I really cleaned this post up – I was going to say something more like rat, flying —-)

  2. yaketyyacc - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:34 AM

    not only does the Irish have a “mob” on defense, but one that is able to hit the bull’s eye with regularity. add to that aggressive, tough and fast, whew. glad I don’t have to play against them.
    these young men are working very hard to deserve these accolades. they are no fluke or overhyped. as the slogan goes, the’re the real thing. great article Keith, thanks.

  3. fnc111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Excellent Notre Dame defense. Maybe the best front seven in all of college football.

    Problem: They can’t do it all by themselves. This is going to be one tired out unit in the fourth quarter because of the QB position. The offense has been boring ever since Kelly got to ND. Now it’s just going to be bad.

    Then, if the offense doesn’t move the ball the punter will leave the opposing offense exceptional field position after 10 yard boots.

    Fans will be calling for Kelly after a season of below average QB play again.

    • shamrocknroll - Jul 9, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Go home, fnc! You’re drunk!

    • tampabayirish - Jul 9, 2013 at 11:02 AM

      I think the Notre Dame offense is going to be a pleasant surprise…and the defense is going to be “topnotch”…in the words of Judge Smails.

      • bb90grad - Jul 9, 2013 at 11:57 AM

        Smails has sentenced posters younger than fnc to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. Felt he…owed them.

    • gtizzo - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      Fnc111 who is your team?

    • ndfansince69 - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      I’m confused. Didn’t Kelly hire the defensive staff or were they left over from Charlie’s awesome defensive teams? Help???

      Go Irish!

    • 1historian - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      do you write all your own material?

  4. kiopta1 - Jul 9, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Fnc we get it you hate Kelly. Move on.

    • c4evr - Jul 9, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      I’m the designated Kelly hater on this board. Fnc111 is simply pointing out the glaring problems that existed before last year’s inspired season – a season inspired by the play of T’eo and Golson. Now that they are gone, this season has elements of the 2011 season (musical chair QB’s, anyone?) and the 2012 season. Fnc is simply pointing out a potential reality based on Kelly as a leader and developer of young men… both of which will be self evident by mid-season 2013. No doubt, with the backing of the ND brand, Kelly can recruit, now the jury will finally be in on his coaching and ability to inspire kids to play beyond themselves the way Lou could. So pardon us if we’re not pushing to get into the kool-aid line just yet, we prefer a tall, cold glass of reality.

      • shamrocknroll - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        It’s pretty obvious that c4ever & fnc prefer Metamucil.

      • ndirish86 - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        Kelly took a team with multiple major question marks (redshirt freshman QB, true freshman DBs, etc) and won EVERY SINGLE GAME in the regular season. A team unranked in the preseason goes to the NCG – and you still wonder whether he can “inspire kids to play beyond themselves”? What in the world does he have to do?

        You want reality? 12-1 is reality. Man, there is just no satisfying some people.

      • c4evr - Jul 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        Point taken… even though they clearly backed into a few of those wins and, whereas in 2011 they got no breaks, ND got almost every bounce and call last year – or no call if you’re Pitt. Regardless, by the end of the year, the gap was clearly closing and by the NC game, Kelly and crew had come crashing back to the harsh reality that they could have gotten all the calls and bounces in that game and would still have lost by double digits. And I don’t have to look any further than that game to prove my point that Kelly had a month to prepare for CFB’s biggest stage and his team laid an egg. This year, he has no excuses – no Weis’ recruits to throw under the bus. It’s really not that difficult… if he finishes 10-2 or better, he will have proven me wrong and I’ll be just another blow hard who doesn’t have a clue. But, if he finishes with anywhere from 5 to 7 wins in 2013, which I fully anticipate, then where do you place blame? For a team with so much talent to have it’s glaring weaknesses after 3 years in the areas, that were Kelly’s apparent strengths coming in, is inescapable.

      • 1historian - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:23 PM

        Permit me, if you will, to point out the following – in the recent NFL draft 6 Notre Dame players were drafted and 7 others signed free agent contracts.

        Get out your calculator, add 6 & 7 and you will find that the total is 13.

        Still with me? Good.

        Here’s where it gets complicated – Brian Kelly started at Notre Dame in February 2010. That means that so far he has coached 3 seasons at Notre Dame.

        THAT, in turn means that the seniors on the 2013 Notre Dame squad are from his FIRST recruiting class, and that means that the 13 players we are talking about were recruited by Charlie Weis, and they were COACHED UP by Brian Kelly and his VERY capable staff to the point where they were thought worthy of a shot at ‘the next level.’

      • 1historian - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        Response to your 4:39.

        There is no question in my mind that last year’s team was not of NC caliber. They had a lot of lucky breaks, the Pitt game being the most glaringly obvious, but at the end of the season they were the only undefeated team.

        If Notre Dame is the ONLY team with a perfect record at the end of the regular season Notre Dame is going to be ranked #1, the sun will rise in the east, and Massachusetts will vote democratic – these are things we all know.

        The Alabama game – you could see that coming from a mile away. And it has come and it has gone and the only people who really remember it as far as I am concerned are the seniors juniors and sophomores on this year’s squad, and they are the only ones who SHOULD remember it. The Irish were in way over their heads and there is no question about that. On the other hand they – the team and the coach – got a first hand look at what it takes to be National Champions.

        What did they take away from that game? We’ll find out in a few months, but we should consider this – 2 out of Notre Dame’s last 3 NCs have come in the season following a butt-kicking in the bowl game of the previous season – 1973 and 1988.

      • c4evr - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        So, even though we have different takes on the same story, we both arrive at the same conclusion – we’ll find out in a few months.

      • ndirish86 - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:38 PM

        Still not buying it

        Kelly takes a program in a 20 year slump to the NGC in 3 years, and for you, the jury is still out on his coaching and ability to inspire?

        This idea that the first half of 2013 will finally be the true revelation of Kelly’s measure as a coach is just strange. Who cares that his starting quarterback, go-to receiver, running backs, and all-world linebacker are gone… not to mention the 5 star quarterback on the bench… once he loses a couple games with a QB widely regarded as limited and easy to scheme for, we’ll all be confirmed in our conviction that he actually sucks and 2012 was a fluke.

      • c4evr - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:42 PM

        Good coaches aren’t determined by their circumstances. His RKG mantra should have him well positioned for the upcoming season. My question is if he only wins 7 games this year, what say you then? You’ve already tipped your hand by stating all he’s lost from last year’s team.

  5. irishaggie - Jul 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    I don’t know why people are so concerned about the offense. Most SEC teams have middle of the road offenses and still win because of their defense. If our defense gives up 12/avg or less we will win every game. 20 will be the win/lose bar. We score more than 20 we will win each game!

  6. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    What I want to know is when can we say that our program is “back”? After two 8-5 seasons, we climbed the hill to the NCG. Now, we have more players on the Bednarik watch list than any other school. Are not these facts the very essence of relevance that our detractors seek? Are we, in fact, relevant? It seems so on the recruiting trail but what will it really take? Must we win another title? Is that the sole criterion upon which relevance is based? I know, I know… the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, I ask a lot of questions for a guy from Jersey. However, I do feel that the media and the college football world in general now have to consider us relevant again. If we aren’t relevant, then we are on a big old boat that has sailed right up next to it. What do you think fellas?

    • 1historian - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      we’re back

    • mtb1996 - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM


      The “relevance” thing used to really bother me. It still does to some degree, but much less. The way I look at it is that I don’t need the seal of approval from the media and/or the rest of the college football world to know that ND football is, and always has been, relevant. The presence of trolls on this board and the national media jumping on any story that sheds negative light on ND are a couple examples of how ND football is always relevant, regardless of whether the program is up or down. Sure, we’ve been in a 20+ year slump, but has anyone really ever stopped talking about us?

      To pull a quote from my favorite author Ayn Rand, “Evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us.” The relevance of ND football stands on it’s own and needs no sanction from anyone.

      • 1historian - Jul 10, 2013 at 1:21 PM

        I don’t recognize that quote from AR. Where did you get it?

        Quoting Ayn Rand on a Notre Dame website – interesting.

    • goirishgo - Jul 10, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      All I know is ND won every regular season game, played for the NC, had another great recruiting class, and returns 15 or so starters. Looks pretty damn good to me.

      I’m betting that Rees will be much improved. Isn’t everyone on this board better at your craft than you were two years ago? Diligent, hard workers get better.

      • papadec - Jul 11, 2013 at 12:56 AM

        emmmmmm, not really. I’m just a fat old guy, yelling at the trolls to get off the lawn, and stay out of the yard. I gave you a thumbs up, because I agree with you; not that I’m diligent, or any better at yelling at the trolls.

  7. mediocrebob - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:15 PM


    I couldn’t have said it better. Reality is even if Kelly wins 10 this year with Rees there will still be the naysayers.

    All these guys that think they know what they’re talking about. It’s funny BC none of them are behind the scenes. I’m not behind the scenes so I go based on what I do see. And what I saw last year was an inspired football program that won 12 when nobody thought they could. A team that was well coached and disciplined.

    But I’m sure if FNC or any of the other goons are right with their prediction, they’ll do a better job once they’re hired to be the HC at THE most storied programs in the country.

    Go Irish

  8. irish4006 - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    ND was, is and always will be relevant to me; why should I care about what others think? I want ND to win every game it plays because it’s my school and I reserve the right to bitch and moan and criticize the coach, the players, the administration, the man in the sky and Keith Arnold when it doesn’t. We don’t need validation from others on our ‘relevance’ as long as we keep winning and do it the right way.

  9. mediocrebob - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    You seem to forget the losses in personnel that Kelly has dealt with since he’s arrived. There are weaknesses due to recruits not working out. Not Kelly’s fault. None of these guys have left BC of BK.

    The fact that Notre Dame “laid an egg” against bama is Kelly’s fault? I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve some of the blame but once again were talking about a team that nobody expected to do what they did with a RS Frosh QB against THE best team in the country and one of the better coaches that I can remember. If you don’t see the positive change in this program you’re confused.

  10. 11thstreetmafia - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    You people are irritating.

  11. dermmite - Jul 10, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    Fuck you haters. Tommy’s the man. Yeah I know he threw some bad passes off the bench with hardly any time to warm up. He also threw some great passes off the bench with hardly any time to warm up. Haters going to hate, players going to play. Tommy’s a player mother fuckers.

  12. mikes1160 - Jul 11, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    C4ever is fnc111

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