Lack of sacks becoming a problem for Notre Dame

Lack of sacks becoming a problem for Notre Dame
September 18, 2013, 11:30 am
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A year ago, Stephon Tuitt had five sacks through three games. In 2013, the defensive end has just one sack in Notre Dame's first three games.

The numbers don't tell the whole story — like how Temple attempted to neutralize Notre Dame' D-line by throwing plenty of quick passes — but in terms of dropping the quarterback, Tuitt's impact hasn't been as great so far.

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He only pressured Purdue quarterback Rob Henry once, and that came on what looked like a missed assignment by the Boilermakers' offensive line (Tuitt was unblocked into the backfield and forced an incompletion). Coach Brian Kelly said he thought Tuitt played his best game last weekend, though, citing his contributions to a defensive front that held Purdue to 38 rushing yards on 21 attempts.

"This is probably his best game of the year in terms of just being on every play, just physically at the point of attack, two‑gapping, doing the things we want him to do, effort level," Kelly said. "I really liked his play up front."

A few early NFL mock drafts/big boards, though, haven't liked Tuitt's play as much.

In CBS Sports' latest mock, Rob Rang doesn't have Tuitt as a first-round pick while fellow prognosticator Dane Bulger has him going No. 27. MMQB's Andy Staples dropped Tuitt from No. 8 to No. 14 on his big board, though he cited the same Kelly quote as above.

Granted, these are incredibly early, and Tuitt's draft stock isn't of top concern for Notre Dame right now. A greater concern is that, despite Louis Nix taking up double teams and offensive lines gunning for Tuitt, the Irish only have three sacks in three games: Tuitt, Ishaq Williams and Bennett Jackson each have one. The QB hurry numbers are a little more encouraging: Notre Dame has 12, with Prince Shembo accounting for half of that total (he had 12 QB hurries last year).

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Sacks are just one variable in the equation, but consider this: Notre Dame ranks No. 57 in scoring defense, No. 91 in pass defense, No. 93 in opponent third down conversions and No. 101 in opponent red zone touchdowns.

If opponents are scheming to prevent sacks, though, then the burden falls elsewhere in the defense (and again, it's worth noting the Irish defense has been good against the run — No. 26 in the nation). But for the Irish defense, plays aren't being made at the rate they were last year. Forcing a few more negative plays by sacking the quarterback certainly couldn't hurt.