A STAFF REPORT
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND —
Senior CB Bennett Jackson, senior DL Louis Nix III, senior OLB Prince Shembo and junior DL Stephon Tuitt of the University of Notre Dame were selected to the 2013 Bednarik Award Watch List. Nix III and Tuitt were also chosen to the 2013 Maxwell Award Watch List.
The Bednarik Award is given to college football’s defensive player of the year, while the Maxwell Award is presented to the college football player of the year.
The four Irish players featured on the Bednarik watch list are the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision program. Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Stanford were each represented by three players.
Nix III and Tuitt represent two of the six total defensive players on the Maxwell watch list. Notre Dame is the only FBS program with multiple selections on the defensive side of the ball. The tandem is also included on just about every preseason All-America team in the country.
Nix III anchored Notre Dame’s dominant defensive front in ’12 and was consequently named a CBSSports.com Third Team All-American. He started 11 of 13 games and collected 50 tackles, the most among all defensive linemen. Nix III registered seven and a half tackles for loss, two sacks and a team-high five pass breakups. His ability to draw and beat constant double teams has been one of the main reasons the Irish defense was so stout in ’12. Notre Dame led the nation in two different categories and ranked among the best in a number of other defense categories, including total rushing touchdowns allowed (four, 1st), red-zone rushing touchdowns allowed (four, t-1st), scoring defense (12.77, 2nd), points allowed per red-zone trip (3.4, 2nd), red-zone touchdowns allowed percentage (34.21%, 3rd), total red-zone touchdowns allowed (13, t-3rd), red-zone points allowed (130, 4th), total defense (305.46, 7th), red-zone defense (68.4%, t-7th), first downs/allowed (17.00, t-8th) and overall rushing defense (105.69, 11th).
Tuitt, who was named first-team All-American by CBSSports.com, ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated, collected a team-best 12.0 sacks in ‘12. He threatened Justin Tuck’s school-record total of 13.5 (2003), but settled for the second most in single-season school history. Tuitt was the first Notre Dame underclassmen to ever register 10 or more sacks. He ranked seventh in the FBS in sack yardage (89), 13th in total sacks (12.0), 14th in sacks/game (1.00) and tied for 16th in solo sacks (10). Among FBS underclassmen last season, Tuitt led the nation in sack yardage (89), ranked second in total sacks (12.0), second in sacks/game (0.92) and third in solo sacks (10). Only four FBS underclassmen over the last five seasons have averaged more sacks per game than Tuitt in ‘12.
Shembo totaled 51 tackles, including 22 solo stops, in last season. He added 10 and a half tackles for loss, seven and a half sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. Shembo added one pass breakup and a fumble recovery. He leads all active Notre Dame players with 19.0 tackles for loss and is tied with Tuitt for the most sacks (14.0) amongst current Irish players.
Jackson started all 13 games at cornerback last year. He proved to be an exceptional cornerback, moving into one of two vacancies at the start of the season. Jackson ranked third on the Irish with 65 tackles, trailing only Manti Te’o and Zeke Motta. He recorded 45 solo stops and collected four interceptions. Jackson tied for 39th in the FBS in interceptions (0.31/game). He was the first Irish cornerback to record four interceptions in a season since Mike Richardson finished with the same amount in 2006. Jackson had four tackles, a key interception that prevented a touchdown and combined for another tackle on the crucial fourth-down overtime play that gave Notre Dame a victory over Stanford (Oct. 13). He helped an Irish pass defense rank second in the country in passing yards/completion (9.95) and tied for sixth in the nation in passing touchdowns (10).