Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o has been receiving a ton of hype this year. No defensive player has received as much chatter since Ndamukong Suh’s dominant senior season. Many consider Te’o to be a Heismann Candidate.
I am not saying Te’o doesn’t deserve that hype. I am a documented believer in the Te’o train. However, after seeing a lot of this defense this season, and especially focusing on them during the USC game, I’m not sure the best Irish middle man is the man getting the most hype.
Louis Nix is having a fantastic season leading one of the nation’s best defenses in stuffing the run. Nix seems to fit the profile of about every other top defensive tackle prospect in this class of being an athletic 6’2″-3″ and 320-ish pounds.
Nix is an underclassman but he is eligible for this draft should he decide to pursue the NFL early. The defensive tackle class this year is extremely crowded as it is, and it could just get deeper depending on which underclassmen declare.
Nix doesn’t bring the pass rushing potential of Star Lotulelei or the pure space-eating ability of Johnathan Hankins. He is a versatile game like a Kawaan Short or a Shariff Floyd.
Te’o is the playmaker of that front seven, but both Louis Nix and Stephen Tuitt provide a lot of potential NFL upside.
I think Nix would thrive as a 1-technique role. His arms appear long enough to separate from guards and get in the gaps. He plays with great leverage and college guards struggle to move him. I like how he handles double teams; he always manages to get one arm free to grab at the ball-carrier.
The ND front seven functions extremely well as a whole, but Nix stands out as a very intelligent defender. He doesn’t shoot gaps (or Suh-t gaps, if you pardon my pun) looking for the big play. He is a zone-blocking run scheme’s nightmare. He is patient, moves well horizontally, and as stated before, gets his limbs into the gaps.
Nix won’t be underrated when he ends up in the draft. He could stick around one more year as the Notre Dame’s defense shouldn’t regress too much. It may give him a chance to shine, but he still has Tuitt stealing attention. If he declares, he could be a first rounder.
As it stands, I feel like I have way too many defensive tackles with a first round grade. I feel like that number has to go down or we will see very few underclassmen declaring. If they do declare, defensive coordinators will be drooling.