I would personally like to take you back to September 1, 2012. The location was Dublin, Ireland. Some of you may know where I am heading with this already. That day was the 2012 season opener for the Irish. As we know, the Irish dominated Navy from the opening kickoff and won 50-10. I would like to take you back to a game-changing play from that game. Notre Dame was already up 20-0, but the Midshipmen were on the move inside the ND 30. Then all of a sudden, Stephon Tuitt is racing down the sideline 77 yards for an Irish touchdown. Great penetration by outside linebacker Ishaq Williams forced the fumble, but it was Tuitt’s scoop and score that had ND Nation in amazement. Tuitt is 6’6”, 303 pounds and appeared to be the second coming of Usain Bolt after picking up the Navy fumble. And folks, let me tell you, prepare to be amazed once again in the coming years.
Although most of us sadly remember the lack of penetration and pressure put on Alabama by the Irish front, one game should not take away from how dominant this front was all last season. Stephon Tuitt returns to campus along with fan favorite, Louis Nix III. If you watched the Irish through last year’s magical run, you have heard these two names on many occasions. But what about the “other guys” on one of college football’s most intimidating defensive fronts?
Coming back to campus as well for the golden domers are Sheldon Day, a 285 pound monster who played tackle and end up front last season, Tony Springmann, a 300 pound, fiery red-headed kid from my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana and the huge signing for the Irish last minute on National Signing Day: 6’6”, 310 pound Eddie Vanderdoes at defensive tackle. ESPN.com’s rankings had Vanderdoes as the #1 rated defensive tackle in the 2013 class.
One of the quieter names you won’t hear too much about, but could become a good asset for the Irish is Isaac Rochell. Rochell is 6’5”, 265 pounds and has one tremendous upside. Watching him on film was similar to watching a younger Stephon Tuitt. He’s big, physical, great with his hands up front (on both sides of the ball) and just an intimidating presence.
Along with Chase Hounshell and Kevin Carr filling in the defensive end depth chart, the Irish front should not miss a beat, even with the loss of “Old Man Kappie”, Kapron Lewis-Moore. The spotlight will be on Tuitt’s ability to pressure quarterbacks and the large duo of Vanderdoes and Nix is about as scary as getting hit with a clothesline from Hawk or Animal of the Road Warriors. To describe the depth and talent up front for the Irish this upcoming season could be used in one word: terrifying.