Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Prince Shembo (55) and Manti Te

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Prince Shembo, OLB Notre Dame

The Notre Dame defense is loaded with talent that is going to be considered in the NFL Draft this year and going forward.   Prince Shembo is a guy who plays a number of different positions, plays with a ton of effort, and seems to be a glue guy on the Irish defense.  Shembo plays outside linebacker and defensive end for the most part but is asked to play the run, rush the passer, and occasionally drop into coverage.

Shembo was able to contribute 22 solo tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks during his junior year and enters his senior year looking to continue producing but also needs to improve in his technique as a pass rusher in particular.  He is far better at defending the run at this point and needs to do a much better job taking on and shedding blocks in the running game as well as the passing game.  At this point, Shembo looks like a third day pick unless he can prove to be a more viable threat as a pass rusher and might be better suited to play as a full time linebacker in the NFL.

Vitals & Build

Shembo is listed at 6’2” 250lbs and is stronger than he is fast.  He is decently quick but not overly fluid or flexible.  His motor is impressive and he seems to constantly play with a ton of effort.   In terms of his overall physical potential, it may come down to basically maintaining his weight but making it a more quality 250lbs that can allow him to be more athletic.  If he was to move positions, he might even slim down slightly to help him be a little more fluid and quicker.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Shembo does a good job of anticipating the snap consistently and is able to attack up the field on time.  He will rush both from a 2-point stance as an outside linebacker and as a defensive end and sometimes even lined up as a defensive tackle.  His first step with his hand on the ground is better than it is from a standup position, but is pretty good overall from either spot.  Shembo does take advantage of the opportunity and while his first step is not great to where it really stands out, he can put opponents at somewhat of a disadvantage off the snap.

Block Shedding

This is an area where Shembo really struggles.  When he is able to work half the man, he can beat them with his strength and just the level of activity he brings, but he is not consistent.  When Shembo is taking on an offensive tackle straight up, it ends badly for him on the vast majority of snaps as he is often engulfed by his opponent.  The times Shembo is successful is when he is able to get the offensive tackle off of his spot with power and then will use a spin move that works because the tackle is at such a bad angle to protect the quarterback or loses track of where he is.

Shembo is able to survive having opponents try to cut his legs, but he does not use his hands to protect himself and keep his balance.  Rather, he just tries to absorb the blow to his legs as best he can and just keep going, which is a little bizarre to watch, but it works for him.  If he can use his arms in addition to that, it might only work better for him and help him stay up more and keep going towards the quarterback.

While Shembo has a high activity level when he is rushing the passer, he is not really doing much that enables him to beat offensive tackles.  Other than his spin move, he has not really found a way to defeat blocks or get separation from the offensive lineman once he is engaged.  Entering his senior year, Shembo needs to find something that works for him in taking on and shedding blocks if he is hoping that defensive end is a viable position at the next level.

Run Stopping

Shembo is a good run defender in terms of assignments and how he approaches angles.  He does not appear to have much range when it comes to defending the run, but he seems to make the most of his steps in terms of angles and avoiding trash so he ends up in the right position.  Shembo maintains outside contain and when the plays goes inside is able to close down the hole and help corralled the play to make the stop.

Because of his experience playing on the defensive line and getting after the passer, Shembo is experienced in taking on blocks, but needs to do a better job of disengaging from them.  However, he does have above average strength so he is able to drive blockers back on occasion to collapse running lanes at times.  He does have a good feel for angles on when and where he should take on a block, so that does help him going into his senior year.  If he can turn that into also shedding well, he could be a really good run defender for the Irish in an area they take significant pride.  As a result of his ability to use power to hold his ground and occasionally drive back opponents as a run defender as well as his understanding of angles and his role in the defense along with his instincts, he might be suited to play as a strong side linebacker at the next level.

Pass Rushing

Shembo gets off the ball pretty well but he does not offer much in terms of quickness or raw speed, so he has trouble getting around the edge.  He is more inclined to get up the field and try to convert to power, which is his best asset.  Shembo maintains pretty good leverage, so when he is able to get under the pads of an offensive lineman, he can drive them into the backfield and set them up for a second move, which is usually a spin move for Shembo.

Most of Shembo’s success in terms of rushing the passer is on hustle and second and third efforts.  He is a guy who always plays with a ton of effort and high level energy and with the talent around him in Notre Dame’s defense, he is able to capitalize and finish plays his teammates force to him.  While the high level of effort and energy is great, the problem is that Shembo is not able to make enough plays on the first effort.  Unless he can improve upon that, it could dramatically impact his draft stock.  He does have experience rushing from both sides of the line as a linebacker and defensive end as well as from the defensive tackle spot, though that is not likely to be seen much from him in the NFL.


Shembo is not often asked to contribute in coverage because he is often rushing the passer in the Irish defensive scheme, but he does show some ability to contribute there and more experience in that area could benefit him.  He gets to his drops quickly and is able to patrol the zone decently.  He is not the most fluid athlete in the world, but for a guy with his body type, he is able to do a decent job and it would be interesting to see what he could do with more time in that role.

System Fit

While Shembo will probably get looks as a situational pass rusher in the 4-3 as a defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker, his best fit may ultimately be as a strong side linebacker in the 4-3 or as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 who can also contribute as a rotational pass rusher.  At this point, Shembo’s ability to rush the passer is somewhat ordinary but he does a good job against the run and if he can continue to work on taking on and shedding blocks, he could end up being a full time run defender at the next level and make a decent career of it.  He is going to need to prove himself on special teams as well, but possibly with a slight drop in weight, he could be a nice linebacker.  It also means that he could go to a team and be depth at a number of different positions.


Sat, Aug. 31 vs. Temple
Sat, Sept. 7 at Michigan
Sat, Sept. 14 at Purdue
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Michigan State
Sat, Sept. 28 vs. Oklahoma
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Arizona State
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. USC
Sat, Oct. 26 at Air Force
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Navy
Sat, Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. BYU
Sat, Nov. 30 at Stanford

Notable Games

If Shembo is going to prove he is a viable pass rush option, he will have his opportunity to prove it against Michigan and Taylor Lewan and the regular season finale against Stanford aganst David Yankey.  In terms of his ability to defend the run, the game against Navy should give him the opportunity to show off his skills and Oklahoma will have a combination of quarterback Blake Bell, running back Damien Williams and fullback Trey Millard who are all able to run the football.

NFL Comparison

Shembo’s game could end up looking similar to Jarrett Johnson of the San Diego Chargers.  Like with Shembo, Johnson was a defensive end in college and then moved to outside linebacker in the NFL where he found a role as a run stopper and occasional pass rusher for the Baltimore Ravens.  He has never been a star but like with Shembo at Notre Dame, he has been a good role player and a glue guy who found his way to make an impact for Baltimore.  Shembo’s path to success could be quite similar.

Draft Projection

Based on what he has done to this point, Prince Shembo looks like a day three pick that will succeed because of his motor and high level of effort.  He needs to prove he can be a viable pass rush threat this year and might be better suited to play as a full time linebacker.  And when evaluators dig into Shembo’s past, they are going to ask questions about an ugly incident involving an alleged rape that ended with the suicide of a girl from St. Mary’s College.  While Shembo has only been lightly questioned by police in connection with the situation, the NFL will not be afraid to ask questions about it and depending on his answers, it could cause him to go undrafted or ensure that he is along with his talent.  Overall, Shembo will attract teams because of his awareness on the field, football intelligence and his high level of effort, but unless he can improve his technique, that combined with relatively ordinary physical attributes could hurt him.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Defensive Ends Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Outside Linebackers Prince Shembo

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