Notre Dame midterm grades: Defensive line

Notre Dame midterm grades: Defensive line
October 12, 2013, 4:15 pm
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As expected, Notre Dame's front four has been the strength of its defense this year, although that strength hasn't been as great as expected.

Part of that isn't necessarily anyone's fault. Offense have schemed to take Notre Dame's defensive line out of the game, with plenty of short passes or plays toward the edges. Stephon Tuitt's dealt with the lingering effects of his offseason hernia surgery and hasn't been 100 percent, too. 

It wasn't until the sixth game of the season that Notre Dame's pass rush resembled the quarterback-terrorizing unit it was in 2012. Prince Shembo sacked Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly three times, while Tuitt got good pressure on him as well.

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Nose guard Louis Nix hasn't filled up the stat sheet -- that's not his role -- but arguably has been Notre Dame's best player this season. He's consistently taken on double teams to clog up the middle to power an Irish run defense that's allowed 122.3 yards per game, 29th-best among FBS teams. 

Mobile quarterbacks gave this unit fits for most of the first half, though, although again it was an issue that wasn't present against Arizona State. It's worth noting, too, that Notre Dame hasn't had defensive end Sheldon Day for the last few weeks, and his return would be a nice boost to the unit.

If the game Notre Dame's defensive line played against Arizona State becomes the norm, this'll be a unit that reclaims the elite status is earned last year. Overall, it's merely been good through six games, although that still means it's a strength. 

Midterm position grade: B+

More grades: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line