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Stay or go? Stephon Tuitt has a big decision to make

Dec 11, 2013, 5:30 PM EDT

Moshood Adeniji, Stephon Tuitt AP

As Notre Dame prepares for the Pinstripe Bowl, defensive end Stephon Tuitt is likely preparing to make his own big decision. The junior defensive end is eligible to enter the NFL Draft, and depending on what you hear from various experts in the media, Tuitt will likely be a first round pick whenever he decides to turn professional.

Of course, we’ve seen just how much influence the media has had in the 32 draft rooms. Guys like Matt Barkley and Manti Te’o have seen their “stock drop,” while guys like Bruce Irvin have come from nowhere to go in the first round. It’s all part of the NFL’s silly season, where analysts spend months debating while NFL teams evaluate college football’s talent pool.

Earlier this week, Brian Kelly talked about the decision Tuitt faces, and where the junior is in that process.

“All we’ve done is put in his paperwork to get an evaluation from the NFL,” Kelly said. “I’ve had some preliminary conversations about his academic work.  He still has some work to do academically.  We haven’t really delved into the depth of that yet.”

That exploration will likely come in the days following the Irish’s bowl game, a match-up that could feature a lot of Tuitt. After a slow start to the season, one Kelly attributed to an offseason hernia surgery that hindered Tuitt during the spring and summer, Tuitt played strong football during the season’s second half and has been the dominant, jumbo-sized, 3-4 defensive end that many expected.

Playing a ton of snaps for a 320-pound defensive lineman, Tuitt put together an impressive regular season stat-line of 45 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and 6 sacks. While he didn’t match the explosive behind the line of scrimmage numbers he put up last season, he played well with a spotlight on him that just didn’t exist last season. (Take a look at Jadeveon Clowney’s numbers if you’re looking for a comparison.)

Tuitt won’t be the pass rusher that Clowney will be, an explosive defensive end that still projects to be among the top three picks in the draft. But six-foot-six, 320-pound defensive ends don’t grow on trees, and Tuitt’s size, skill-set and athleticism make him one of the elite defensive talents available to NFL teams, especially with his ability to play in both three and four down sets.

The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen talked with’s Scott Wright, who is already well into his research for a draft that’s still 147 days away. He talked about the somewhat tricky situation Tuitt finds himself in, as teams look at the edge players behind Clowney.

“Tuitt’s in kind of a tricky situation. Clowney is projected to be the first defensive end taken, somewhere in the top three picks overall. Then there’s a gap. Who is the next defensive end who comes off the board?” Wright told Hansen.

“If Tuitt isn’t the favorite, he’s certainly in the conversation. And some of the other contenders for that spot — Stanford’s Trent Murphy and Clemson’s Vic Beasley — may end up playing outside linebacker. Tuitt is a true defensive end who can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3. Sure, he could go back for his senior season and be a top 5, 10 guy next year. But he may already be in a position to be in the top 10 this year, just based on need and who’s available.”

While “stay or go” might be the question that’s asked of Tuitt the most these next few weeks, Kelly has been consistent on his message to players who have been in similar situations.

“I personally think you come to Notre Dame, you want to get your degree,” Kelly said Sunday. “That wouldn’t just be for Stephon Tuitt, I think it would be for everybody.”

Kelly is well practiced at this point, guiding Kyle Rudolph, Michael Floyd, Harrison Smith, Manti Te’o and Tyler Eifert through the decision. It hasn’t all been advice that brings the players back to South Bend either, with Rudolph, Eifert and Louis Nix having an unused year of eligibility when they went to the next level.

Still, the remaining constant in all of this was a college degree. That seemed immensely important to the families of Irish players saddled with a wonderful problem to have, and was a priority for Tuitt and his mother, Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputy Tamara Bartlett.

Bartlett’s stance on Tuitt’s professional career has been interesting to track. Early in his sophomore season, she was adamant on her son earning a degree. Late this summer, when preseason hype was at its highest, multiple outlets reported that she was doing her due diligence on agents. After Tuitt told The Observer that he planned on returning to school, his mother did her best to control the chaos, telling the Chicago Tribune, “Stephon has not decided what he is going to do. What he meant to say was that school is the focal point and he will get his degree from ND.”

Expect Brian Kelly and his defensive staff to re-recruit Tuitt all over again. Following a playbook that allowed Michael Floyd to get his degree and still be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, Kelly will lay out for Tuitt what the staff can help him improve, and how that can push the hulking defensive end higher in the draft, while also giving him the certainty that a Notre Dame degree provides. 

If you were to follow the bread crumbs, there is optimism inside the Gug that Tuitt will return for his senior season. He stated as much in mid-October, though tried his best to put the toothpaste back in the tube after the news broke. Irish Illustrated also reported last week that any correspondence with potential agents between Tuitt’s family or intermediaries has gone cold, probably the most telling sign.

There’s nothing wrong with Tuitt saying goodbye to Notre Dame now, moving to the NFL and being able to provide for his family immediately. He can always return to South Bend and pick up his degree later, like Jimmy Clausen did a few years ago.

But with Everett Golson already looking like a five-star recruit, Kelly has the opportunity to welcome back his star defensive end, a six-star prospect if there ever was one.




  1. bernhtp - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    My advice will be to stay and get his degree, but somehow doubt he will call me.

    Tuitt is probably worth a couple of wins. He’s that important. Kelly has a great track record with six-star recruits. I hope and expect him to succeed this time as well.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      At this juncture, I think he’s one of a few who’s earned his right to leave early. Go Stephon, I hope giants draft you to replace Tuck. I can’t play the degree card w this kid. ND has been around since 6969 BC. ND degree will always be here. Hell the geezers on this board alone have been around 69696969yrs.

      Go but don’t snort too much cocaine, just a lil, you ll be ok.

    • pacific123ocean - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:32 PM

      He can always come back to earn his degree.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      Guys breaking newzzz! Tuitt just told me he’s sick of being piss poor democrat so now he’s turning Republican, YES!!!! You can Put it onnnnnnn daaaaaa boooooooaaaaarrrrrddddd, YES!!!

      Welcome to the good side Tuitt, land of no food stamps, lower taxes, no abortions and accountability. Well I had to sneak that last one in there because I am.

  2. fredofirish - Dec 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    >Kelly said. “I’ve had some preliminary conversations about his academic work. He still has some work to do academically. We haven’t really delved into the depth of that yet.”

    This alone says all that there’s to be said about why Notre Dame is unique of the college world. Notre Dame players are not prize horses to be be worn out then taken to the back of the barn, but treated as actual student-athletes in the truest sense of the word.

    If Tuitt stays, I pray that he did it because he wishes to stay for his degrees, moreso than peer and fan pressure to stay on the field. If he leaves, I’m thankful for all that he has done for the team and the university.

  3. fnc111 - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    If he gets drafted by Da Bears I hope he leaves and if not may god guide him back to ND. Lord knows the defense is going need him badly.

    Tuitt Heisman ’14

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      FNC I agree about the Bears but I think the giants might have pnis on him.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      He’s not a rapist. He won’t win the heiswoman.

  4. paulhargis53 - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    He’s as good as gone. The only reason to stay in college is to win a National Title. That’s not happening at ND for a long time, if ever. Besides that, ND doesn’t pay as well as the NFL does.(yes, boosters are paying kids at ND, if you don’t think so, you’re willfully ignorant.)

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      You mean to tell me NDchicks swallow too? Holy fock entire time I’ve been avoiding them because of the winter bush. Thanks for the 411 Pauly D. BTW loved you on MTV, I think you truly are the greatest DJ of all time! Congrats on the baby!

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      I don’t see nothing wrong. It’s only cheating if you get caught. Please boosters and players, keep yo azzz SHUT.. Don’t let me find out about it n carry on. Democrats do this sht all the time.

  5. doc-domer79 - Dec 11, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    The only reason to stay in college to win the NC? You are really ignorant- or perhaps a very sad and confused individual who likely has a degree (if at all) from some pathetic acadmic institution which prides itself on being a football team with students, rather than a University with a football team.

  6. mediocrebob - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Diaco to UCONN. Yikes.

    • mediocrebob - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:52 PM

      This probably makes the decision for Tuitt a little easier. Good luck Stephon.

      • mayesdays - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:00 PM

        Any thoughts on who might be the next DC?

      • mediocrebob - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:49 PM

        No clue. But Lovie Smith and Hiestand are very close. That’d be a good get I would think. But Kelly likes to bring in guys he knows , or so I’ve heard from people who seem to know what they’re talking about. They better do something soon. Recruits , such as Hayes and Trumbetti are not happy. Diaco just left their homes today telling them he isn’t going anywhere.

        Could be some more offseason troubles for the Irish, which should not be very shocking at this point. Hope for the best I guess.

      • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:48 PM

        How close bob? Kiss close or Steve sax close? Unless it’s sax close, I doubt he would cum!

  7. paulhargis53 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    doc: Grow up. These kids aren’t in school for a degree. If they are good enough to turn pro early and go high in the draft, they will, even from your precious ND.
    If they aren’t ready, they will stay 4 years.Tuitt is a 1st round draft pick. He has nothing to prove in college, and nothing to play for except going to the Pinstripe bowl?!
    Why would he come back and risk injury? It doesn’t make sense.

    You see kids, its dickheads like this guy with his high and mighty attitude, is the reason I detest ND.

    Go piss up a rope, you sanctimonious ass.

    • mayesdays - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:58 PM

      Maybe some of these guys return because they simply enjoy playing college football. Zack Martin might be a good example of this and he did raise his draft stock from what I have seen.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Paul you forgot THE most important reason, to party n get laid soooooonnnnnn! Plz git wit da timezzz.

    • doc-domer79 - Dec 12, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I stand proud to be the reason you detest ND. I guess it says more about you, than me that you detest a university and it’s student athletes that at least aspire to the ideal.

  8. viktory2013 - Dec 11, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Tuitt should stay for a final season. A dominant season with a strong ’14 team would make him a top 3 overall pick, not to mention the prestige of a degree from ND. And lastly, the irreplaceable college experience for a young man. The NFL money will be there a year from now, and with a degree that ND provides, his future is assured. Enjoy the senior year experience… it’s once in a lifetime.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:52 PM

      Tuitt just told me to enter jerkoff smiley here. It ain’t 1947.

  9. mayesdays - Dec 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    You can tell this program is really struggling……. Yeah right! ND goes 8-4 and two assistants are hired at other colleges as head coaches. I think it was Holtz that said when things are good at ND these things happen, and good for Diaco and Martin. It’s part of the process. Go Irish!

  10. footballace - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    If Stephon Tuitt is guaranteed to be a top 10 pick, I say he has to go. If Tuitt is projected to be a late first, early second round pick, he might have to chance it, and come back for his senior year.

    • dickasman - Dec 11, 2013 at 11:58 PM

      I’m no Mel kiper but I’ll bet my 9 incher he’s going in 1st round

      • duncanslabs - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:11 AM

        You measured that while looking in the mirror, right? Objects SEEM larger as they get closer! Draft position projected: facedown ass up…and the PillowBiters select….DICKASMAN…now shut up!

      • mediocrebob - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        You say 9in but I’m also willing to bet that all these hookers and strippers would say closer to 3

  11. duncanslabs - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    Now that someone has replied to your ENORMOUS phallic mentality…which obviously represents the LACK of total substance that you actually possess, undoubtedly YOU will respond with a well rehearsed and witty comeback that will be of no significant importance.

    • duncanslabs - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:18 AM

      Dickasman…oops…I meant to say impotence!

  12. domerboyirish - Dec 12, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    Keith, “with Everett Golson already looking like a five-star recruit”. Really? Did I miss something? Did someone on campus watch him throw a seventy yard pass flat footed through a swinging tire and proclaim him the next great college QB? While he certainly looked better and more athletic than Tommy Rees, which isn’t saying much, he was above average as a freshman. I’m not yet convinced that he is going to be some kind of savior for what is missing from our offense. Can we wait until he starts playing like Winston, Manziel or Bridgewater before we define EG as a five star ‘looking’ recruit?

    • ndadvocate - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:55 AM

      He was just quoting Kelly who said that getting him back is like getting a 5-star recruit.

      • domerboyirish - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        What Keith has written above is not a quote from Kelly. He is saying it.

  13. 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    it’s hard to imagine tuitt staying, though i’d love for him to stick around and approach next year with a vengeance and a mission to becoming a top 10 pick. either way, i hope he finishes his coursework and walks with his class. i remember when juwan howard left early and still managed to graduate on time and walked with his graduating class. i couldn’t stand the fab 5, but that is pretty impressive.

    as for tuitt, diaco and martin leaving, it stings but in the long run it’s great for the program. if a program can recruit kids who are talented enough and who develop enough to leave early, it means the program is getting top shelf kids and then doing its job to prepare them for the next level. the same goes for assistants. when your coordinators leave to take head coaching jobs, it means you’re bringing in talented coordinators and you’re cultivating them to the point where they get the chance to take the reins somewhere else. it was hard to lose barry alvarez too, but it meant holtz had taken the program to the top level.

    i can’t imagine lovie smith coming back to college to be a coordinator and i read that he wouldn’t consider doing it, but all the same that would be a great christmas present. he is such a classy guy.

    • domerboyirish - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:33 AM

      Yeah, Lovie Smith is not taking the DC job at ND after a fairly successful NFL coaching career. Most people forget that he has a winning record as a coach. He also had a big ego and was not affable. That won’t work with Kelly or the alums. I doubt that it would make him a good recruiter.

    • mtndguy - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      I agree that preparing kids for the next level is good for recruiting. A lot of the top high school recruits have their sights on the NFL. A degree is a fall back option. If you want to recruit at the highest level, you need to understand that, and be able to show recruits that it’s possible. If it doesn’t work out with the NFL, like we all know it doesn’t most of the time, then finishing with a degree from ND is a big consolation prize.

      • 4horsemenrideagain - Dec 12, 2013 at 2:33 PM

        last year someone did a study comparing the average lifetime earnings of an ND grad with non-ND grads and the gap was eye-opening. of course, stanford, northwestern and few others can can make the same argument, but this is a point i’m sure gets made to every recruit that makes an official visit; come here, study hard and play hard, and NFL or no NFL you will have the ND network and plenty of opportunities beyond football to make your money and do great things.

  14. mediocrebob - Dec 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I wasn’t predicting Lovie Smith to be clear. Just thought with his ties to Hiestand that it would be interesting to bring him on board. Who knows who will be heading the defense next fall, but I hope it’s figured out soon.

  15. tsombanj - Dec 12, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Stop with this get your degree thing. He can always finish his coursework in the offseason and beyond. This is about the next step in his future. There is absolutely no reason for this kid to go back to ND.

  16. rcali - Dec 13, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    “Academic work” Kelly? Please, that’s something that future accountants have to worry about…not this guy.

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