- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brian Kelly revealed on Christmas Eve that junior defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt received a second-round grade from the NFL advisory committee, telling IrishIllustrated's Tim Prister that he sat down with Tuitt to discuss options (subscription required), with a decision coming sometime after Saturday's New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Tuitt has until Jan. 15 to make a decision on the NFL and has most recently said he is "50/50" on whether or not to leave Notre Dame.
Recovering from offseason hernia surgery and dealing with early-season back problems, Tuitt has still managed to be the Irish's most consistent defensive lineman, starting all 12 games and tallying six sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hurries while forcing one fumble and recording a pick-six in Week 2 at Michigan.
The 6-foot-7, 312-pound Monroe, Ga., native has 20 sacks for his career, just 4.5 off Justin Tuck's school record.
The second-round grade is a bit surprising considering the junior is ranked as the No. 8 overall draft-eligible player by Mel Kiper Jr. and No. 11 by Scouts Inc.
Fellow Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix, a redshirt junior, is already NFL-bound after signing with agents. As BlueandGold.com's Lou Somogyi notes (subscription required), the potential return of Tuitt, coupled with quarterback Everett Golson's re-enrollment, could compare to the bowl-season boost the Irish received two winters ago, when Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert both decided to return to school. Golson and Tuitt, like Te'o and Eifert before them, would be the Irish's unquestioned best players on each side of the ball, though Tuitt's future at Notre Dame remains very much up in the air.