Notre Dame Football: Most Vital Defensive Players on the Fighting Irish Roster

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2012

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Louis Nix III #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tackles Anthony Wilkerson #32 of the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Notre Dame's offense will put up its fair share of points this season, but the defense must do its part if Brian Kelly's squad wants to sniff the 10-win mark.

Fans are well aware of Manti Te'o's talents, so I'm not going to include him here. He's racked up 320 tackles through his first three collegiate seasons, and his presence is a given on the Notre Dame defense.

Outside of Te'o's formidable abilities, the Fighting Irish have some question marks. That's not to say their defense isn't talented (it is), but a few players must step up to give Te'o the help he needs.


Louis Nix

Last season Nix had 45 tackles (4.5 for loss) and half a sack. He isn't a fast player, but as a nose tackle, he doesn't need to be.

Nix has one job: keeping blockers away from Te'o. At 6'3'' and 326 pounds, Nix doesn't have a lot of trouble doing his job.

He's a little taller than you would like in the middle, but Nix has excellent balance for a man his size. As long as he's commanding double-teams in the middle, he's doing his job. 

The Fighting Irish need their run defense to be excellent this season, and that all starts up front. Nix's mountainous presence in the middle of their three down lineman is the anchor of that.


Kapron Lewis-Moore

Lewis-Moore is a senior, 300-pound lineman who will be expected to provide physical two-way play on the Notre Dame defensive front.

Last year he had 32 tackles (four for loss) and 1.5 sacks. As a senior this year, he will be expected to hold the edge, provide leadership and make sure opposing quarterbacks don't get too comfortable, if opportunities present themselves.

Lewis-Moore's strength is his strong suit. That sounds odd, but he's able to hold position because of his upper body.

The Fighting Irish need Lewis-Moore, like Nix, to hold his own up front. Their defensive front is responsible for allowing their defense to make plays.

Lewis-Moore's experience will be a necessary ingredient to Notre Dame's defensive success.


Jamoris Slaughter

With a last name like Slaughter, how can't you be a ball hawk at safety? 

He lives up to his name's billing. Last year he had 45 tackles and an interception from his safety position, but his stocky 6'1'' frame can lay serious wood in run support.

Notre Dame's front seven will be the strongest part of its defense, but Slaughter will be extremely important on the backside. He's athletic, experienced and capable of playing against the run or the pass.

The Fighting Irish will need a concerted effort from everyone on the field at all times, but these players must give Te'o some help. 

The talent is there. Now they just have to find the necessary consistency.