Forget Manti Te'o, it was defensive end Stephon Tuitt who had the bigger impact on the Notre Dame defense last season.
He produced 45 tackles, 11 sacks, nine quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. He wasn't nominated for the Heisman, but Tuitt's relentless pressure helped others around him shine.
Tuitt is dangerous and the second best defensive end in the country behind Jadeveon Clowney. He is receiving a lot of buzz from NFL draft scouts and will shoot up the board by continuing to perform at a high level. You won't see this talent slip out of the first round of next year's NFL draft.
Tuitt's athleticism helps set him apart. He is listed at 6'6", 303 pounds, but he fires off the ball like he was shot out of a cannon and gets into the backfield in a hurry. Most guys his size are used to clog up running lanes and eat blockers for lunch. Not Tuitt.
His speed and athletic ability really showed on the fumble recovery he returned 77 yards for a touchdown against Navy. He picked the ball up cleanly and was off to the races. Tuitt was able to outrun a dual-threat quarterback and speedy running back the distance. It really wasn't even close. You can count on one hand how many defensive linemen would have made this play.
That same quickness allows for him to make plays on the quarterback.
Scout claimed that Tuitt's moves and techniques were a weakness coming out of high school in 2011. As you can see in the video, Tuitt often beats a single defender with good hand usage and the popular swim move. It's all over once he shakes that one defender free. Tuitt is too quick for a 300-pound lineman to slide over and help out. He clearly has improved in this area, and it has helped him take his game to the next level.
Along with the athleticism, Tuitt is also one of the most versatile defenders. Bob Diaco's defense is very aggressive and demanding. Tuitt's versatility allows for different looks and can help create mismatch problems for the offense. This is why he was so effective last season.
In the BYU game, Tuitt was lined up all over the field.
Sometimes he was a weak-side defensive end.
He saw time as a defensive tackle in a four-down lineman look. This play he shot through the B gap and allowed Ishaq Williams to get free.
Here's another look of Tuitt playing defensive tackle. This play he took on the right guard and helped the pocket collapse while his teammates picked up a sack.
Tuitt has the size and strength to hold his own at the point of attack and eat up running lanes. He also has the speed and athleticism to come off the edge and become an effective pass-rusher. This combination allows for Tuitt to play anywhere on the line without being a liability. He can do anything he is asked to do.
It is rare to find a lineman who has the best of both worlds. Some guys are too small to play in the middle, while others are too slow to play on the outside. Tuitt can do it all.
Tuitt is dangerous.