Depth Chart Notes: Defense

A look at Notre Dame's defensive starters and key reserves for today's battle with the Midshipmen.

Defensive Skill Positions Starters

Left Defensive End #19 Aaron Lynch: True freshmen is expected to start his third consecutive game in place of injured senior Ethan Johnson. Lynch leads the Irish with 10 QB hurries this season and ranks second with 3.5 sacks.

Nose Guard #9 Louis Nix: Expected to start his sixth straight game with senior Sean Cwynar earning ample reps as his backup inside. His six tackles over his last two games.

Right Defensive End #7 Stephon Tuitt: Posted a career best seven tackles in last week's loss to USC. The 6'7" 295-pound freshman is expected to earn his first career start today.

CAT Linebacker #45 Darius Fleming: Ranks fifth in tackles (33) and third in tackles-for-loss (5) while trailing only Lynch with five QB hurries. Fleming has 13 tackles over his last two games.

DOG Linebacker #26 Jamoris Slaughter: Usual starter at safety should earn his second start at outside linebacker this season vs. Navy's triple option. Was Brian Kelly's defensive MVP in his last outing vs. an option-based team, forcing a fumble and intercepting a pass in the Air Force backfield in a 59-33 win over the Falcons.

MIKE Linebacker #5 Manti Te'o: The Butkus and Lombardi semi-finalist has posted at least 10 tackles in four of the last five games and five of seven contests on the season.

WILL Linebacker #48 Dan Fox: Will make his seventh career start, all this season. Ranks sixth on the team with 28 stops this season including 11 in the last two games.

Free Safety #17 Zeke Motta: Returns after missing most of the USC contest due to a concussion. The junior has started twice and played nearly half of the team's defensive snaps this season but has just 19 tackles to his credit.

Strong Safety #22 Harrison Smith: Second on the team with 54 tackles including 26 in the last two outings. Leads the squad with eight passes defended.

Boundary Cornerback #4 Gary Gray: Ranks fourth on the team in tackles (38), tied for second in passes defended (5) and is tied with Blanton for the team lead with two interceptions.

Field Cornerback #12 Robert Blanton: Has 16 total "Big plays" to his credit through seven games: 2 INT, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 5 PD, 1 QBH, and 1 FR.

Key Reserves

Left Defensive End #90 Ethan Johnson: Senior has missed the last two games due to a high ankle sprain suffered early in Week Five at Purdue. Irish desperately need Johnson – the team's best run-stuffing defensive lineman, vs. Navy's #3 ranked rushing attack Saturday.

WILL Linebacker #44 Carlo Calabrese: Has 25 tackles in a backup role; should see 40 percent of the reps with classmate Dan Fox the starter at his position. His two pass breakups this season are the first pair of his Irish career.

Defensive Lineman #50 Chase Hounshell: Expected to play his third consecutive game after debuting vs. triple-option offense of Air Force in Week Six

Nose Guard #98 Sean Cwynar: Just rounding back into form from a broken hand suffered vs. South Florida in the season-opener.

DOG Linebackers #55 Prince Shembo and #58 Troy Niklas: Neither expected to see much time vs. disciplined triple-option of the Midshipmen. Shembo has started four games this fall vs. standard offensive attacks.

Cornerback #23 Lo Wood: No. 3 cornerback has played sparingly this fall; surrendered key touchdown vs. USC star Robert Woods in the fourth quarter last season.

Defensive Linemen #94 Hafis Williams and #96 Kona Schwenke: Senior and sophomore (respectively) could be called upon in a reserve role due to depleted Irish defensive front. Top Stories