- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Summary: This unit has been marked by consistency and surprises throughout the first half of the season. Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson have been what you would expect from returning senior starters -- sound, disciplined and reliable. The Irish's defensive line, along with the linebackers, have played a strong role in turning Notre Dame into a force against the run. Sean Cwynar has shown his heart by playing with a club for an arm for much of the first half of the season. The starters certainly get some credit for the accelerated growth of the talented freshmen who have made an impact so far.
Backups: What more can you ask of highly-touted newcomers? Aaron Lynch has been everywhere as a pass-rusher, hurrying Kirk Cousins six times in Week 3 and forcing a fumble. He recorded sacks in three straight games from Weeks 3-5 as well, in addition to filling in for an injured Johnson last week against Air Force. Stephon Tuitt has shown his versatility in playing both end and nose guard, and he responded impressively after Brian Kelly suspended him at Purdue for a missed class. Let's not forget Louis Nix, either, as the sophomore has seen extended action in place of Cwynar and is playing roughly twice as many snaps than the staff had in mind back in the spring.
Previous report cards:
14dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf