The star-studded names of Notre Dame's recruiting victories during the Brian Kelly era have, at long last, earned their time in the spotlight.
Since arriving at Notre Dame in Dec. 2009, Kelly and his staff have worked arduously to assemble a plethora of talent worthy of competing in the race to the BCS National Championship Game on an annual basis.
No shortage of talent exists along the Irish's defensive line, where two surefire first-round draft selections will be wreaking havoc during the 2013 season.
Louis Nix, NG
The most integral piece of a 3-4 defensive scheme is a game-changing nose guard, and the Irish happen to possess the talents of the most effective nose guard in the country.
The 6'3", 326-pound Jacksonville, Fla., product commands double-teams because of his ability to shatter through offensive lines and get into the backfield. Yet the most effective part of his game is disrupting the flow of opposing rushing attacks.
Against designed zone rushes, Nix immediately clogs either A-gap in an effort to shut the play down before it even had a chance to begin.
And because of the attention he receives, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is afforded the luxury of dialing up a variety of exotic blitz packages through the weak points of opposing offensive lines; Pass-rushing specialist and outside linebacker Prince Shembo's 7.5 sacks were a direct result.
Nix has been recognized as a supreme talent, as he was tabbed as a first-team All-American by Phil Steele's college football preview magazine.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
Another imposing figure along the defensive line, Tuitt has lived up to his expectations at Notre Dame.
A 6'6", 303-pound behemoth, Tuitt boasts the necessary qualities of a professional defensive end: size, speed, agility, footwork, technique and burst off the line.
And for a player of his physical stature, Tuitt moves as quickly as a linebacker coming off the edge, while his height allows him to win one-one-one battles against opposing offensive tackles.
The Monroe, Ga., native led the team in sacks last season with 11, and is on par to eclipse that total in 2013.
Selected as a second-team All-American by the Associated Press last season, Tuitt has been tabbed as a first-team All-American by Phil Steele's college football preview magazine, and has been pegged as a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
DaVaris Daniels, WR
Now that former tight end and the Irish's primary receiving target last season, Tyler Eifert has moved onto the NFL, Daniels has virtually accepted that distinction.
The Vernon Hills, Ill., native finished the 2012 season as the Irish's third-leading receiver behind Eifert and TJ Jones, hauling in 31 receptions for 490 yards.
A shoulder injury suffered against Boston College late in the season held Daniels out of the Irish's final two regular season contests against Wake Forest and USC, though the 6'2", 190-pound receiver displayed his breathtaking potential against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, recording six receptions for 115 yards.
His top line speed and explosiveness make Daniels the favorite to become the Irish's leading receiver in 2013.
Amir Carlisle, Slot
When former slot receiver Davonte' Neal announced his intention to transfer to be closer to his infant daughter, Carlisle's worth to the program skyrocketed.
The shifty all-purpose back, who was billed as a 4-star prospect per 247sports.com, fills the void at the position, and figures to be an integral asset to an offense devoid of identified playmakers.
However, there are health concerns with Carlisle.
After transferring from USC, Carlisle's family and Notre Dame successfully petitioned the NCAA's one-year ineligibility transfer policy, only to see Carlisle suffer a season-ending ankle injury during 2012 spring practice.
Nearly a year later, the injury bug bit the 5'11", 190-pound athlete, this time in the form of a broken collarbone. Fortunately for the Irish, Carlisle will be active for fall camp.
Prince Shembo, LB
Aside from an effective nose guard, the second most essential piece of a 3-4 defense is a pass-rushing specialist.
Notre Dame boasts one of the country's best in Prince Shembo, a 6'2", 255-pound linebacker out of Charlotte, N.C.
Shembo finished second on the team in sacks a season ago with 7.5, and will likely improve that figure this season as a more polished player.
What makes Shembo such an indispensable asset to the Irish defense is his ability as a hybrid player, meaning he can play with a hand in the dirt in a four-man front, or play standing up in Notre Dame's typical three-man front.
Because of his speed attacking off the edge, Shembo is able to penetrate into the backfield, making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
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