Notre Dame Football: Sean Cwynar

On a defense led by the Heisman Trophy runner-up, Nix was arguably every bit as valuable.

No. 2: Louis Nix, NG

Making the case: It was only two springs ago when Nix was told by the staff that he could see 15-20 snaps a game. He said that wasn't good enough, not after he shed nearly 40 pounds following a redshirt season that saw him arrive on campus at 360-plus pounds. Then Sean Cwynar got hurt, and Nix's workload increased dramatically. Following some transfer murmurs in the spring of 2012 -- when he was also stripped of his No. 1 spot in favor of Kona Schwenke -- Nix snapped out of his funk and proved to be one of the most valuable players of Notre Dame's defense in 2012, putting himself in position to get drafted this spring had he chose to. Instead, he chose to spend at least one more year in South Bend following a campaign that saw him notch 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups, five passes defended, three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. He was a run-stuffing force in the middle, often drawing double-teams. One needs to look no further than the Nov. 3 close call against Pitt to see Nix's value. Nix played in that contest after spending two nights that week in the infirmary with the flu -- and only after Schwenke got banged up. Ray Graham rushed for 172 yards against the depleted Irish defense and helped the Panthers nearly pull off the upset. Nix was also the Irish's best defensive player in the Discover BCS National Championship loss to Alabama, and another year of similar production will have him very high on NFL scouts' radars.

Preseason ranking: 6

The countdown

No. 3 Stephon Tuitt, DE
No. 4 Tyler Eifert, TE
No. 5 Zack Martin, LT
No. 6 Theo Riddick, RB
No. 7 Braxston Cave, C
No. 8 Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE
No. 9 Zeke Motta, S
No. 10 Prince Shembo, LB
No. 11 Danny Spond, LB
No. 12 T.J. Jones, WR
No. 13 Everett Golson, QB
No. 14 Cierre Wood, RB
No. 15 Bennett Jackson, CB
No. 16 Tommy Rees, QB
No. 17 DaVaris Daniels, WR
No. 18 Chris Watt, LG
No. 19 George Atkinson III, RB
No. 20 Dan Fox, LB
No. 21 Matthias Farley, S
No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB
No. 23 Robby Toma, WR
No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K
No. 25 Chris Brown, WR

Top 25 player countdown: No. 6

August, 24, 2012
No. 6. Louis Nix, NG

2011 numbers: In his first year of playing following a redshirt season in 2010, Nix started 11 games and appeared in all 13, recording 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.

Making the case for Nix: Nix said entering the 2011 season that the coaching staff said he wouldn't see 20 snaps a game. He was right — for a good reason, as that number often doubled in 2011. He split a lot of time with Sean Cwynar, but Cwynar's broken hand forced him to miss some time early in the season and put even more pressure on Nix, who delivered. Homesickness plagued the Jacksonville, Fla., native this past spring, affecting his play enough for Brian Kelly to put him behind Kona Schwenke. Nix has seemed to rebound nicely this summer, and he and Schwenke should make quite the tandem in the middle.
Add Deion Walker and Hafis Williams to the list of former Notre Dame players extending their college playing careers.

The duo will re-unite with former Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar at Massachusetts,'s Wes Morgan reports.

Walker entered Notre Dame from Christchurch (Va.) High School in 2008 as ESPN's No. 18 wide receiver and the 103rd overall player from his recruiting class. The 6-foot-3, 206-pounder appeared in just seven career games for the Irish, making one catch for 15 yards in 2009.
"It's really exciting just getting the opportunity to make something of myself," Walker said. "I had such high hopes coming out of high school, and not being able to execute on those plans was kind of a setback.

"It goes like that sometimes. You can't win them all. But big picture, I graduated, I had a blast over the last four years and hopefully I can go on to make something of myself in the realm of football. Looking back, it was definitely tough, but I can’t be that mad about it."

Williams landed in South Bend, Ind., from Elizabeth (N.J.) High School as ESPN's No. 19 defensive tackle in the Class of 2008. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound nose guard notched 19 total tackles and two tackles for loss in 24 career games at Notre Dame.

Here is a list of Notre Dame's fifth-year players who will be playing elsewhere in 2012: Nose guard Sean Cwynar and offensive lineman Lane Clelland have told the Chicago Tribune and South Bend Tribune, respectively, that they will not pursue fifth years of football. I do not know of David Posluszny's plans. The other six fifth-years — Braxston Cave, Mike Golic Jr., John Goodman, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Dan McCarthy and Jamoris Slaughter — are back at Notre Dame for their final seasons.

Notre Dame spring wrap

May, 10, 2012
2011 overall record: 8-5

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Tommy Rees, QB Andrew Hendrix, RB Cierre Wood, RB/WR Theo Riddick, RB/WR George Atkinson III, TE Tyler Eifert, LT Zack Martin, LG Chris Watt, C Braxston Cave, C/G Mike Golic Jr., WR Robby Toma, WR John Goodman, WR T.J. Jones, DE Stephon Tuitt, NG Louis Nix, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, ILB Manti Te'o, ILB Dan Fox, OLB Prince Shembo, S Jamoris Slaughter, S Zeke Motta

Key losses
WR Michael Floyd, RB Jonas Gray, RG Trevor Robinson, RT Taylor Dever, DE Aaron Lynch, NG Sean Cwynar, DE Ethan Johnson, OLB Darius Fleming, S Harrison Smith, CB Gary Gray, CB Robert Blanton

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Cierre Wood* (1,102 yards)
Passing: Tommy Rees* (2,871 yards)
Receiving: Michael Floyd (1,147 yards)
Tackles: Manti Te'o* (128)
Sacks: Aaron Lynch (5.5)
Interceptions: Robert Blanton/Gary Gray (2)

Spring answers

1. Tyler Eifert: His offensive teammates -- and the next starting quarterback, in particular -- owe Eifert the world for returning. New offensive coordinator Chuck Martin will use Eifert in a variety of different ways this season, and his position will resemble that of Michael Floyd's more than it will a traditional tight end's. A strong season will likely propel Eifert into the first round of next year's NFL draft.

2. No shortage of skill players: Yes, the all-time leading receiver is gone. But the Irish still boast a plethora of skilled, versatile assets who can make big plays with their speed. Tony Alford is in charge of the running backs and slot receivers this season, and Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick, Robby Toma and George Atkinson III all have the ability to make things happen out of the backfield. Look for a big year from DaVaris Daniels on the outside as well.

3. Defensive leaders: Manti Te'o would appear to be a shoe-in for a captain role this season, and he'll have plenty of help bringing along some of the unit's young talent. Jamoris Slaughter is back for a fifth year, and becoming a father this spring has forced him to grow up fast. Kapron Lewis-Moore is back for a fifth year as well, and the defensive end is one of the more respected voices on the team.

Fall questions

1. What will happen to Tommy Rees and, by extension, the QB race? Rees' immediate future is up in the air following his May 3 arrest, though his chances of starting this season figure to have greatly diminished in light of being charged with four misdemeanors. Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson will likely benefit the most and should enter camp as the favorites, while prep phenom Gunner Kiel continues to adjust after enrolling in January.

2. What about those corners? Bennett Jackson has the talent to play well at the boundary in his first year starting but will likely have to endure some growing pains, especially against some of the elite passing offenses the Irish will face in 2012. At the field, Josh Atkinson has pushed Lo Wood for the No. 1 spot, and that will be one of the more intriguing position battles once preseason camp opens.

3. Can anyone handle this schedule? The two Big Ten favorites, the Big 12 favorite, the Pac-12 favorite. A trip to Dublin. The 2012 schedule is absolutely loaded, and the Irish will have several new pieces in key places entering the season. How quickly everybody can adjust to their roles will go a long way in determining whether Brian Kelly's third season at Notre Dame is a success.
Running back Patrick Coughlin, noseguard Sean Cwynar, quarterback Matthew Mulvey and kicker David Ruffer were honored for their academic achievements Wednesday by being named to the 2012 National Football Foundation Hampshire Honor Society.

In its sixth year, the society is made up of college football players from all divisions who maintained a minimum 3.2 GPA throughout their careers.

The quartet joins former Notre Dame honorees Bobby Burger, Barry Gallup Jr. and Chris Stewart (2011); Mike Anello, Raeshon McNeil and Scott Smith (2010); John Carlson and Trevor Laws (2008); and Daniel A. Santucci and Christopher Frome (2007).

How ND's starters fared as recruits

January, 31, 2012
With signing day one day away, let's take a look back at where Notre Dame's 2011 starters stood as prep prospects before arriving on campus. For the purpose of timeliness, we'll go with the official starters from the Irish's most recent game, the Champs Sports Bowl. We'll sprinkle in a few key contributors here and there, too.

We'll go by ESPN RecruitingNation's rankings. For further explanation on the evaluation system, click here.

QB Tommy Rees: No. 19 QB in Class of '10, 79 Scout Grade
RB Cierre Wood: No. 11 ATH, No. 122 overall in Class of '09, 81 Scout Grade
WR T.J. Jones: No. 10 WR, No 68 overall in Class of '10, 81 Scout Grade
WR John Goodman: No. 43 WR in Class of '08, 79 Scout Grade
WR Robby Toma: No. 199 WR in Class of '09, 68 Scout Grade
TE Tyler Eifert: No. 13 TE in Class of '09, 79 Scout Grade
LT Zack Martin: No. 10 OT, No. 109 overall in Class of '09, 81 Scout Grade
LG Chris Watt: No. 5 OG, No. 68 overall in Class of '09, 82 Scout Grade
C Mike Golic: No. 4 C, 79 Scout Grade
RG Trevor Robinson: No. 8 OG, 80 Scout Grade
RT Taylor Dever: No. 141 OT, 69 Scout Grade

Others worth noting:
  • QB Dayne Crist: No. 2 QB, No. 22 overall in Class of '08, 84 Scout Grade
  • QB Andrew Hendrix: No. 11 QB in Class of '10, 80 Scout Grade
  • RB Jonas Gray: No. 11 RB, No. 89 overall in Class of '08, 82 Scout Grade
  • WR Michael Floyd: No. 9 WR, No. 29 overall in Class of '08, 83 Scout Grade
  • RB/WR Theo Riddick: No. 48 ATH in class of '09, 78 Scout Grade
  • C Braxston Cave: No. 1 center, No. 126 overall in Class of '08, 81 Scout Grade
DE Ethan Johnson: No. 6 DE, No. 81 overall in Class of '08, 82 Scout Grade
NG Louis Nix: No. 6 DT, No. 64 overall in Class of '10, 81 Scout Grade
DE Aaron Lynch: No. 3 DE, No. 15 overall in Class of '11, 84 Scout Grade
OLB Darius Fleming: No. 7 DE, No. 94 overall in Class of '08, 81 Scout Grade
ILB Dan Fox: No. 76 OLB in Class of '09, 76 Scout Grade
ILB Manti Te'o: No. 1 OLB, No. 2 overall in Class of '09, 93 Scout Grade
CB Robert Blanton: No. 50 S in Class of '08, 76 Scout Grade
SS Harrison Smith: No. 26 S in Class of '07, 78 Scout Grade
FS Jamoris Slaughter: No. 5 S, No. 85 overall in Class of '08, 82 Scout Grade
FS Zeke Motta: No. 28 S in Class of '09, 79 Scout Grade
CB Gary Gray: No. 2 CB, No. 13 overall in Class of '07, 85 Scout Grade

Others worth noting:
Of players who saw significant time for Notre Dame in 2011, 16 were ESPNU 150 players coming out of high school. If Cave and Slaughter are granted fifth years, 10 of those 16 will be back next season.

Six of the Irish's current 17 Class of 2012 commitments are ESPNU 150 players.

Notre Dame's most improved players

January, 20, 2012
As the wrapping-up of the 2011 season continues, we take a look at those who improved the most for Notre Dame from 2010 to 2011.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Jonas Gray, running back. Coach Brian Kelly said he had never seen a skill-position player make the kind of leap his senior year the way Gray had this season. Sadly, Gray's season came to an end several days after those comments, as he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Boston College on Nov. 19. Still, Gray left Notre Dame in style, rushing for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He had 309 career yards and zero touchdowns before 2011.

Louis Nix, nose guard. A bit of a wild card here, considering he did not play his freshman season. Still, he made a tremendous leap from 2010 to 2011, starting 11 games and seeing plenty of time in the middle when Sean Cwynar broke his right hand. Nix finished with 45 tackles, 0.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, and, perhaps more importantly, he obliterated his coaches' spring prediction of seeing less than 20 snaps per game.

Jamoris Slaughter, safety. Plagued by an ankle injury much of 2010, Slaughter starred when healthy this season, splitting time at safety with Zeke Motta and contributing in a hybrid-like role as linebacker in nickel coverage as well. He finished with 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a pick and two sacks. No announcement has been made about his future, but it would be shocking if the senior was not back for a fifth year in 2012.

Report: Goodman back for fifth year

January, 18, 2012
The fifth-year picture has cleared up a bit for Notre Dame, as John Goodman will be back for one last go-round with the Irish,'s Dan Murphy reported Wednesday.
“He was hoping for his fifth year and that was the big thing, so the first hurdle is cleared,” the older (Adam) Goodman said. “The next hurdle is to get on the field and start and have a productive year.”

Goodman has 28 catches for 315 yards in his career. He also was the Irish's primary punt returner this season. He was one of 13 Irish seniors with a fifth year of eligibility remaining.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that nose guard Sean Cwynar would not be returning for a fifth season.

Notre Dame has yet to make any official announcement regarding those who will return for a fifth year. Braxston Cave, Mike Golic Jr., Kapron Lewis-Moore and Jamoris Slaughter figure to be the most likely to return.

Report: Cwynar won't return for '12

January, 17, 2012
Sean Cwynar will not return to Notre Dame for a fifth season, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

Cwynar, the Irish's starting nose guard to open the 2011 season, met with head coach Brian Kelly on Monday and will see where his undergraduate degree and MBA take him.
"I talked to coach Kelly last night about it and he reiterated it that he still wanted me, but he knew from previous talks that I was leaning toward other options, being able to utilize two awesome degrees from Notre Dame," Cwynar told the Tribune on Tuesday.

"I just don’t think staying around and taking one credit in summer and nine in the fall is a good use of my time. I loved my experience here but I just think it's time for me to move on and pursue other things."

Cwynar missed one game this season and was limited in four others because of a broken right hand, which forced him to play with a club on it. He had 59 career tackles in 36 games for the Irish and was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V team this season.

The decision was ultimately Cwynar's, as the staff welcomed him back.
"I just think in my mind it was time to move on. It's a pretty complex decision with a lot of dynamics. Playing in Solder Field (in 2012), playing in Ireland. At the same time, I couldn't imagine myself coming back and not being able to pursue anything academically. I just really think it's time to move on."

Notre Dame has yet to announce which fifth-year seniors would return to the team. Tuesday was the first day of classes for the spring semester.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Aaron Lynch and Louis Nix will end their first seasons of playing college football in Florida — just not the way each once thought he would.

The Sunshine State natives both committed to schools in Florida before switching their allegiances to Notre Dame. Lynch, from Cape Coral, was a Florida State commit; Nix, a Jacksonville native, had committed to Miami.

As the Irish prepare to face the Seminoles in Dec. 29's Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Brian Kelly has noticed the extra pep in the step of the pair of first-year players, along with the eight other Florida natives on Notre Dame's roster.

"They're so excited about the game, especially the Florida kids," Kelly said. "Listen, just wait until [Dec. 29], and wait for the game to speak. Don't go outside the realm here. So that's been really the only conversation that I've had."

Lynch and Nix, who were not available to the media in the lead-up to the bowl game, have burst onto the scene this season. Lynch, a true freshman, has started five games at end, recording 4 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hurries, by far the most on the team.

[+] EnlargeLouis Nix
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDefensive tackle Louis Nix is one of 10 Florida natives on Notre Dame's roster.
Nix is in his first season playing after sitting out his freshman season in 2010, losing more than 40 pounds along the way. Ten starts, 42 tackles and 4 tackles for loss have marked his sophomore campaign, which was much more eventful than anticipated as fellow nose guard Sean Cwynar battled a broken right hand in the first half of the season.

"I would say that all of them have stepped into a role that increasingly grew as the season went on based on injuries and based on the need for them to play," defensive line coach Mike Elston said. "I think that they've managed it very well and I think that they've handled the expectations that people have put on them — not necessarily the coaches, but that people have put on them. They've handled themselves really well and I think they're going to be very good players. They're not there yet, they have a lot of work to do. They know that and I'm excited about the progress right now."

Senior end Ethan Johnson, back at full strength following a right-ankle sprain that limited him for much of the season, can understand why the season finale might mean a little more for the younger linemen.

Throw in fellow freshman end Stephon Tuitt, a Monroe, Ga., native who has impressed this season, and the defensive line is in for quite the homecoming next week.

"Of course it's exciting for them to go home," said Johnson, a native of Portland, Ore. "If I was going to Oregon I'd be really excited. But I don't think it will affect the game at all. I'm sure they're gonna play just like they would if it was any other game, which is well. They're gonna play well.

"And they're gonna get after it and you always wanna leave the field, especially the last game, feeling like it was your best game, and I feel like that they're gonna do that — they're gonna have their best game of the year. There's no reason why they shouldn't in front of all their family, and it'll be a great experience for them."

Looking at 2011's best freshmen

December, 13, 2011
Notre Dame received key contributions from several newcomers this season. Here, we honor those who made their mark early while turning an eye toward the future.

Offensive: George Atkinson III
We found a loophole in this one. But simply said, Atkinson was clearly the best Irish freshman with the ball in his hands. He returned two kickoffs for scores this season, giving Notre Dame some breathing room against Michigan State and bringing them right back into it against USC after falling behind 17-0 early. His future is in the backfield, where he received just nine carries on the season for 27 yards, but he certainly injected some life into a special teams unit that needed every jolt it could get in 2011. Atkinson finished the season 15th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 27.4 yards per return.

Defensive: Aaron Lynch
The defensive end exploded onto the scene early, registering a sack, a forced fumble and six quarterback hurries Week 3 against Michigan State. No Notre Dame player recorded that many hurries throughout all of 2010. Lynch has four sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and 13 hurries on the season. Injuries forced Lynch into five starts and more action than anyone could have expected before the season, but he did not disappoint with his performance. A little more discipline after the whistle, and he will have big things ahead of him in a Notre Dame uniform.

Redshirt: Louis Nix
Remember last spring, when Nix was told he would get 12-15 snaps per game? Sure seems like a long time ago. In his first season, the sophomore ended up starting 10 games, finishing with 42 tackles, 0.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. He dropped more than 40 pounds from a year ago and, with fellow nose guard Sean Cwynar limited through much of the first half of the season with a broken right hand, took full advantage of his extended playing time.

One to watch for 2012: Everett Golson
The offensive scout team player of the year and highly-touted quarterback recruit will compete with Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix for next season's starting job. Golson remains much of a mystery as he has redshirted this season and reporters have not been allowed to view practice since the season began. But he is one more man in what is shaping up to be a crowded position battle for 2012, and his skill set could translate nicely in Brian Kelly's offense.
The regular season is over and the end of the semester has arrived. Here, we grade Notre Dame's 2011 campaign by position. Part two of the 10-part series brings us to the defensive line.


Grade: B+

Summary: If I told you that the line's three opening-day starters — Ethan Johnson, Sean Cwynar and Kapron Lewis-Moore — would all go down with injuries this season, you would probably think Notre Dame would be doomed up front. (OK, so a segment of very anxious fans would be pleased to see touted recruits take the field early.)

Well, all three of those players were severely hampered throughout the season, and the young reserves impressed when thrown into the fire. Cwynar broke his right hand and was limited for much of the first half of the season, playing with a club on it. Johnson sprained his right ankle and missed four games. Lewis-Moore suffered a season-ending right knee injury and missed the final five games.

In stepped Louis Nix, a sophomore who lost close to 40 pounds this past year and wasn't expected, back in the spring, to see much more than 15 snaps per game. Instead, he started 10 games at nose guard and saw more action than anyone had any reason to expect. Freshman end Aaron Lynch burst onto the scene against Michigan State, recording six quarterback hurries, one more than any Notre Dame player had the entire season in 2010. Fellow freshman Stephon Tuitt saw plenty of action as well, shifting inside and outside during the season.

All three were forced into more action than they and the staff expected them to see this early in their careers, and all have given the Irish plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.

Backups: Most of the backups who entered the season ended up as starters at some point because of injuries, though Chase Hounshell was another freshman who showed promise in his limited time on the field, recording four tackles in five games. If Cwynar returns next season for his final year of eligibility, he and Nix should be a force in the middle and keep each other's legs fresh.

Previous report cards:


Staying or going? Hafis Williams

December, 2, 2011
This week we are taking a look at each of Notre Dame's fourth-year scholarship players with eligibility remaining and examining whether he will likely return to the Irish next season. Here, we look at the final player of this series, (alphabetically) last but not least, nose guard Hafis Williams.

Before Notre Dame: From Elizabeth (N.J.) High School, Williams entered Notre Dame as ESPNU's No. 19 defensive tackle.

At Notre Dame: The 6-foot-1, 295-pound Williams has played 24 games for the Irish, recording 19 tackles and two tackles for loss. He saw most of his action toward the end of last season in place of the injured Ian Williams. His 244 snaps last season were the fifth-most among Irish defensive linemen.

What's next?: A sociology major, Hafis Williams has said he is undecided on his future. For now, he remains a reserve nose guard heading into the Irish's bowl game, though Louis Nix and Sean Cwynar see most of the snaps at that spot.

The verdict: Going. There are just too many bodies in front of him in the middle, especially if Cwynar returns. Plus, freshman Stephon Tuitt has shown the ability to play inside as well.

Previous players:

Braxston Cave
Lane Clelland
Dayne Crist
Sean Cwynar
Mike Golic Jr.
John Goodman
Kapron Lewis-Moore
Dan McCarthy
Anthony McDonald
Brandon Newman
David Posluszny
Jamoris Slaughter
Deion Walker

Staying or going? Brandon Newman

December, 1, 2011
This week we are taking a look at each of Notre Dame's fourth-year scholarship players with eligibility remaining and examining whether he will likely return to the Irish next season. Here, we look at nose guard Brandon Newman.

Before Notre Dame: From Pleasure Ridge Park High School in Louisville, Ky., Newman entered Notre Dame as ESPNU's No. 17 defensive tackle. He was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

At Notre Dame: The 6-foot, 303-pound Newman has played in just two games in his career, including this year's contest against Navy.

What's next?: A film, television and theatre major, Newman will prepare for the Irish's bowl game as a reserve noseguard, though he is not on the two-deep. He told The Observer last month that he plans to apply for a fifth year and will look to play somewhere else next season if it doesn't work out at Notre Dame.

The verdict: Going. Louis Nix has been great in the middle. Sean Cwynar, when healthy, has been a solid force as well and may return. Freshman Stephon Tuitt has also seen time there, leaving little to no room for Newman moving forward.

Previous players:

Braxston Cave
Lane Clelland
Dayne Crist
Sean Cwynar
Mike Golic Jr.
John Goodman
Kapron Lewis-Moore
Dan McCarthy
Anthony McDonald

Staying or going? Kapron Lewis-Moore

December, 1, 2011
This week we are taking a look at each of Notre Dame's fourth-year scholarship players with eligibility remaining and examining whether he will likely return to the Irish next season. Here, we look at defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore.

Before Notre Dame: From Weatherford (Texas) High School, Lewis-Moore entered Notre Dame as ESPNU's No. 19 defensive end.

At Notre Dame: The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Lewis-Moore appeared in 32 games and started 29 before detaching the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Oct. 22 against USC, costing him the rest of this season. For his career, Lewis-Moore has 140 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

What's next?: Lewis-Moore underwent surgery Oct. 27, and Brian Kelly has said he expects the recovery time to be about 4-6 months. His status for the spring is unclear, though the Irish likely won't rush his return, given that they already know what he can do at full-strength.

The verdict: Staying. Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt have had strong freshman seasons, but they certainly could benefit from a veteran presence like Lewis-Moore. The depth of the line was severely tested this season given injuries and illnesses to Lewis-Moore, Tuitt, end Ethan Johnson and nose guard Sean Cwynar. All but Johnson could be back next season, and the defensive line could be the strength of the defense.

Previous players:

Braxston Cave
Lane Clelland
Dayne Crist
Sean Cwynar
Mike Golic Jr.
John Goodman


'College Football Live' Extra: Biggest Plays
Ed Cunningham and Brock Huard offer up their choices for the most important and season-changing plays of the 2014 college football regular season.


Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12