Stephon Tuitt Sophomore 6’6’’ 303 pounds
I am sure that this isn’t a shock to most of you. Tuitt is only a sophomore and you can tell this year that he will be playing on Sundays. He came in as a highly recruited defensive end out of Monroe, Georgia, rivals ranked him the 22nd best player in his class and the second best strong side defensive end. The best defensive end in this 2011 class was Jadeveon Clowney, who plays at South Carolina. Tuitt has 23 tackles on the season, with 6.5 of those being sacks. Besides his performance this year and last, what else does he have? Well he has the NFL size no doubt and at that size he can move unlike any three hundred pounder I have ever seen. During the Navy game Tuitt picked up a fumble and scampered 77 yards for a touchdown. So he has the NFL speed. He still has some work to do, using his hands more and mixing up his arsenal of pass rushes. He overpowers most offensive lineman, but he needs to add a quick move to get to the quarterback a little faster. Look for big things from this guy the rest of this year and into next year.
Louis Nix III Junior 6’3’’ 326
The upbeat always smiling Nix doesn’t get much love, but he is the real deal. Anchoring the defensive line at nose guard, which in a 3-4 isn’t an easy job often being double teamed. Last year he started 11 of 13 games, but played in all of them recording 45 tackles, 4.5 of those for a loss. Nix has the tools to be an NFL player. He is quick off the snap and uses his hands well to shed blocks and make plays. This year Nix has 22 tackles with 3 of those being for a loss and adding 1.5 sacks. Nose guard isn’t a glamour position in football and doesn’t get as much credit as the defensive ends. Simply put most offensive lines use 2 guys to block him, which will give one of the defensive ends a one on one situation with the offensive tackle. Also, it frees up the middle linebackers as well. Nix keeps blockers off of his teammates and still makes plays. Very underrated and should be recognized.
George Atkinson III Sophomore 6’1’’ 210
The definition of fast will read George Atkinson III. Last year he spent most of his time returning kicks for the Irish and tied the record of most kickoffs returned for a touchdown in a single season (2). He averaged 26.1 yards per return amounting to 915 kickoff yards in 2011. He is the first freshman at Notre Dame to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a season, since the “Rocket” was on campus. GAIII is electric and one of the big play threats that Notre Dame has. 2012 has been good to him so far and we haven’t seen much of him, because he is the 3rd string running back. He still has to develop a lot to be a consistent every down back, but his speed and vision alone will get him into the NFL. This year GAIII is leading the team in yards per carry average at 9.06, on 32 carries for 290 yards and 3 touchdowns. The speedster will need to add some more strength, but that will come with time. Next year will be his coming out party, while this year is just the rehearsal.
Bennett Jackson Junior 6’ 185 pounds
Jackson has been improving every game and is starting to settle in at the cornerback position. He started his football career as a special teams player his freshman and sophomore years. NFL scouts really like his size and speed he brings to the table. He is a sure tackler and has totaled 27 so far this year and leads the team in interceptions with 4. His coverage skills are getting better every week, but needs to not turn too early during his backpedal. Keep an eye out for Jackson, because he will surprise you as this year goes on and into next year.