Stephon Tuitt, DE, 2011 – 2013
Finally some defensive love on this list! Stephon Tuitt was a freak, standing 6-6 and weighing over 300 pounds, it was impressive watching how effortlessly he could make his way to the quarterback. He is easily one of the best edge-rushers Notre Dame has ever had, and possibly the best defensive end for the Irish since the Justin Tuck/Victor Abiamiri days of the early 2000s.
Tuitt played in nine games and started three as a freshman in 2011, racking up 30 total tackles and two sacks. I’m not sure what the Irish put in the water for player’s sophomore seasons, but apparently it works well. In 2012, Tuitt became an anchor of one of the best defenses in college football. He was an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks every week.
He finished 2012 with 47 total tackles and career highs in tackles for loss (13), sacks (12), and forced fumbles (3). He also returned a fumble 77 yards to the house vs. Navy in the season opener. His dominant year earned Tuitt 2nd-Team AP All-American honors. He followed his breakout 2012 season with a career high 49 tackles as a junior before declaring for the NFL Draft.
When it was all said and done, Tuitt finished tied for third on the Irish all-time sacks list with 21.5 and second for sacks in a season with 12. Tuitt was taken in the second round if the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and has been with them ever since, racking up a 133 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles to date.