Despite the departure of Aaron Lynch and some depth issues, Notre Dame’s defensive line was expected to be one of the team’s strongest position groups in 2012. While the Irish will not face personnel and option plays similar to Navy’s the rest of the season, it is hard not to be very pleased with the performance of Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix, Kona Schwenke, Stephon Tuitt and the rest of the D-line after shutting down the Midshipmen in Dublin.
Outside of Tuitt’s touchdown (we’ll get to that in a second) none of the linemen – including Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams, who lined up as ends – put up gaudy statistics. But, against an option attack where the main assignment is to crash and prevent the fullback dive from even being a possibility, this is exactly the result you’d be hoping for.
The highlight of the game was big Stephon Tuitt not rumbling, not stumbling, but straight-up hauling-ass 77 yards for a touchdown to put the Irish up 27-0 in the second quarter. Ishaq Williams set the stage for his fellow sophomore by kinda/sorta forcing a Trey Miller fumble that bounced directly in Tuitt’s path. I really can’t explain the joy I was overcome with while I watched Tuitt glide down that Aviva Stadium pitch like a 300-pound gazelle. This type of athlete is one we have not seen in a loooong time on the defensive side of the ball for the Irish (the last one wears a similar facemask and plays for the New York Giants)…and he’s only a sophomore. That, folks, is a beautiful thing.
As Tuitt bolted away from Trey Miller and Darius Staten, a run-first quarterback and a running back that both weigh more than 100 pounds less than him, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the relative ease he scored with was due to simply being a freakishly fast 300 pound man and how much was due to playing against a slower team. So, I did the only thing I could do: I timed his run.
After a multitude of stopwatch trials, it appears that #7 ran 77 yards in about 9.45 seconds. If he kept that pace against Usain Bolt in the 100m dash, he would finish in 13.5 seconds. Not quite Bolt-type speed, and over 3 seconds slower than teammate George Atkinson (10.36 seconds) but still phenomenal speed for a defensive lineman [Also, this is clearly not comparing apples to apples as you don’t run track meets on grass wearing football pads].
Since nobody runs a 77-yard dash, how about a 40 yard dash? Breaking down his time, you are looking at a forty time of around 4.6 seconds for Tuitt at full speed and of just over 5.0 seconds for the first forty yards he had the ball in his hands. By comparison, George Atkinson ran the last 40 yards of his kick return against USC in between 4.0 and 4.1 seconds. For some context, Bruce Irvin of the Seahawks led defensive linemen at the 2012 NFL Combine with a time of 4.50 seconds, while the Bears’ Shane McClellin had the second best time with 4.63. The difference? Irvin weighs 58 pounds less than the 303-pound Tuitt, and McClellin weighs 43 pounds less than Tuitt. In fact, only one D-lineman with a top 10 forty time even weighed more than 270 pounds at the time of his run (the Jets’ Quinton Coples). For a multitude of reasons – grass, football pads, holding a ball, having a running start, not necessarily running in a straight line, ineptitude of guy trying to time another guy running on TV – this is a very rough comparison, but it is incredibly interesting nonetheless.