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Offseason cheat sheet: Defensive line

Aug 29, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT

Tuitt Nix

My how things have changed. Once a position group that was the bane of Notre Dame fans’ existence, the defensive line has powered the renaissance Brian Kelly has orchestrated. That being said, this group isn’t without some setbacks. Two players that looked like key reserves on the line, Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann, are lost for the season. That’s forced young talent like Isaac Rochelle into the two-deep depth chart earlier than planned.

Still, with two starters that’ll likely end up as first round draft picks, and young talent that’s on the rise, this group should be counted on as one of the strengths of the team. While depth is still somewhat of an issue, let’s run through the defensive line.


Across the front three, the Irish should be as good as anyone in the country. With Tuitt, Nix and Day, the Irish have a stout trio that can hold up and play dominant football against the run but also get after the quarterback.

If you listened carefully to Kelly this camp, expect to see Louis Nix on the field for more passing downs, with the staff thinking that Nix has more to add to the pass rush. Add Tuitt’s pass rush skills and the ability for Ishaq Williams or Prince Shembo to put a hand in the ground and a four-down front on passing downs could be scary for opposing offensive lines.

How well the Irish play will likely be determined by the second wave of talent. Guys like Kona Schwenke and Tyler Stockton are veterans that haven’t seen the field much yet, but will be counted on to take quality reps. First year contributors like Isaac Rochelle and Jarron Jones also have responsibilities heaped on them from the start if this group is going to be as good as advertised.


1. Stephon Tuitt, Jr. #7
2. Louis Nix, Sr. #1
3. Sheldon Day, Soph. #91
4. Isaac Rochelle, Fr. #90
5. Kona Schwenke, Sr. #96
6. Jarron Jones, Soph. #94
7. Justin Utupo, Sr. #53
8. Tyler Stockton, Sr. #92
9. Jacob Matuska, Fr. #89
10. Chase Hounshell, Jr. #50
11. Tony Springmann, Jr. #69
12. Marquis Dickerson, Fr. #95
13. Arturo Martinez, Sr. #86


With Tuitt healthy after a hernia robbed him of some explosiveness down the stretch last season and Nix prepared to leave college football with a bang, don’t expect to see these two come off the field too often. That should leave Day with quite a few one-on-one opportunities, and this coaching staff believes they’ve got a player that should be able to feast on them.

With a ton of inexperienced quarterbacks on the schedule and less spread opponents than in the past, expect Tuitt to take a take down Justin Tuck’s single-season sack record. It’ll make for a tough decision for Tuitt after the season: Leave school early or return for his fourth season.

If you’re looking for a sleeper? Don’t snooze on Justin Utupo. He might not have the size needed to play on the interior, but he could be the type of handful that becomes a high energy change of pace. Utupo could earn time because of Tony Springmann’s season-ending knee injury, a blow to the depth chart that’ll necessitate Ishaq Williams’ cross-training at defensive end.

  1. sfspider - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Keith, if Tuitt takes down Tuck’s single season sack record and positions himself to go in the top 1/2 of the first round, I’m not so sure it will be a “tough decision” for Tuitt. We are fortunate to have Big Lou back this season, but I wouldn’t expect to see Tuitt back if he has a monster year. Trust me, I hope I’m wrong.

  2. irishpuma - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:55 AM

    Hands down the best unit on this team and the best unit in the country!!! The domination of this unit will dictate our season.

  3. yaketyyacc - Aug 29, 2013 at 5:16 AM

    there is a rock&roll song: step by step…. I sat in the back of Father O’Hara’s biology with a guy named Yasztrzemski. he said Yacc, leaving to play for the Boston Red Sox. a 100,000 signing bonus. I said, are you that good? he smiled, they think so. to those planning to leave early, if you have the maturity, it trumps talent, and he did, go for it. how did I know he had the maturity? because he came back for college in his off season, and got his final degree from BC. His talent was only the surface of a well-grounded person.
    sometimes, the extra year adds little to talent, but a Heismann trophy to maturity.

  4. upthera44 - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    Man I hope these guys can all stay healthy. We do look pretty thin after first string. I wonder how flexible players like Kona Schwenke are… could he play something other than NG for example if there was an injury, since he is probably the next best guy in?

    • jmset3 - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:18 PM

      Great question. BK actually addressed that exact question earlier this week. He said Kona is one of the most improved players in the team. He specifically mentioned Kona’s flexibility to play anywhere along the line now.

      Kona is going to be a super sub this season.

  5. alsatiannd - Aug 29, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Really looking forward to Day. He brings a lot of speed to the unit. Will be a great complement.

    • bernhtp - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:05 PM

      I was fearful that Day would be a significant step down from Kap, but apparently not.

  6. italianirish - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    Tom Hammond is out:

    • jmset3 - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:26 PM

      Happened months ago, but hell I’ll celebrate again!

  7. jem5b - Aug 29, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Utupo was the LA Times defensive player of the year, he has to be good.

  8. notredameirish1980 - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    Bulletin board (make that billboard) material alert. Temple U. has rented an ad space on an electronic billboard on northbound Grape Rd here. “Owls on the Prowl”. You have to admire the cajones. I think Prince Shembo needs to introduce them to the wrong end of his bicycle seat. Go Irish!

    • seadomer - Aug 29, 2013 at 2:54 PM

      No worries, we play them in the afternoon

  9. seadomer - Aug 29, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    GMAT Level analysis

    Dayne Crist left for Kansas … did not do well
    Another graduated ND student went to join … ended career
    Aaron L went to Florida … ND went 12-0 while he changes diapers
    E V went to Ucla … UCLA 5-7, no bowl appearance
    E Hood goes to UNC … get thrashed by gamecocks

    No Hate, just saying Karma’s a bitch, who did I miss?

    • Hakuna Budi - Aug 29, 2013 at 6:30 PM

      You’re a comedian. Who did you miss? Seadomer went up his ass. Did you miss that one? “No Hate”? Then get your facts right. Your misses are so obvious I’m not even going to bother correcting your ignorance. You’re not even worth the help or rehab. “Karmas a bitch?” I have more respect for women. And for Karma. You just suck. And there’s a difference between Gainesville and Tampa; USF hates UF you piece of crap. But realistically, when “5-star” high school recruits transfer from their initial commitment, this shows one thing: how bad high school ratings are – and how these artificially amped-up recruits are too full of themselves to ever cut it in the big leagues. These guys transferred and sucked because they suck. Wake up. How dumb are you? Seriously. There are better comedians than you. Smbfh. MmmMmm. You make laughing worth while.

  10. Hakuna Budi - Aug 29, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Hey Keither – tiny thing – but can you list height/weight next to the guys when you list them? Hope you don’t slum down here in the comments too often, but if you do – this would be great

  11. mediocrebob - Aug 29, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    Haluna… You mad bro?

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