Louis Nix became a household name last fall by helping to anchor the Notre Dame defensive effort that led to a national title game berth.
Heading into his senior season, he is Mel Kiper’s No. 1 DT (subscription required) in the 2014 draft and there are a few keys to his game that make him the best college has to offer this season along the line.
His first step is his biggest asset, especially considering his 340-pound frame. He is patient in the pile and trusts his instincts. Nix’s most elite quality is his hustle, never quitting on plays and always ending up near the pile.
As a nose tackle, Nix is intent on plugging the center for the defense and getting penetration through the center of the line.
How Nix is able to accomplish this is with his explosive first step. For a guy that plays in the 340-pound range, beating a center and guard combo off of the football is impressive. He was able to get past the best last year’s schedule had to offer, including national champion Alabama.
In this clip, you will see him pushing through the talented Alabama front line:
He finished the national title game with a season-high five solo tackles and played his best game on the biggest of stages.
His penetration and explosive first step are what made it possible.
This is one more look at Nix deep in the Tide backfield:
At nose tackle, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle when a pile forms close to the line.
Nix is only 6’3”, but he is able to use his body and eyes to maneuver successfully through large piles up front.
Finding the right pursuit angle on a running back is the difference between a touchdown and two-yard loss. Nix is very good at pushing through traffic and picking the proper approach on the ball-carrier.
There will be times when Nix gets lost with lack of speed, but he always finishes plays and ends up around the football.
Hustle and Finish
The unique part of Nix’s game is his hustle. For a big man, he runs out every single play and at times makes back-side stops.
Plays can be drawn out when a player is looking for extra yards, but rarely do defensive linemen travel the length of the field and kill the ball-carrier. Nix is one of the few players capable of that.
This is a clip of Nix against the Tide where he finishes the play 10 yards downfield:
The original line of scrimmage was the 25, and after forcing A.J. McCarron out of the pocket, Nix finishes the play.
Here is another look at Nix ending up 15 yards downfield in pursuit of a receiver who has caught a screen pass:
When you have a talent like Nix who possesses a never-give-up attitude, championship teams are built. He will be a leader for the Irish defense this fall, but he will also carry the national spotlight at his position.