Front WallFive regulars rotate among the top five contributors when Notre Dame lines up in its 3-4 sets: senior end Ethan Johnson and freshmen ends Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt (RDE), and senior nose guard Sean Cwynar in tandem with redshirt-freshman Louis Nix. Tuitt and Lynch can move inside when defensive coordinator Bob Diaco calls for a 4-3 front, with outside linebackers Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo shifting to down positions as pass-rushing defensive ends.
Lynch can also move inside vs. passing situations.
A third true freshman, Chase Hounshell, should again see time along the defensive front, though look for senior defensive end Hafis Williams to appear in his final home game as well. If the Irish can create a comfortable margin, Williams' classmate Brandon Newman should play. It would be Newman's second appearance this season and second ever at Notre Dame Stadium.
Senior Kapron Lewis-Moore is out for the year but expected to return for a 5th season in 2012.
Dogs, Cats, and inside ‘backersFleming (Cat) and Shembo (Dog) noted above will start; the former aligned to the defensive boundary, the latter to the field side. Fleming will makes his 34th career start, third behind Ethan Johnson (likely to make his 35th start) and Harrison Smith (45th) among all defenders.
Manti Te'o will again play through an ankle injury – Irish fans will have a good indication of the junior Butkus candidate has progressed in his recovery if he remains on the field in passing situations this week. Lining up next to Te'o inside at the Will position is the junior combination of Dan Fox (starter, 39 tackles) and Carlo Calabrese (reserve, 31 stops). Fox will occasionally shift to Te'o's Mike (Middle) linebacker spot to spell the hobbled star.
Inside backups include redshirt-freshmen Kendall Moore (Mike) and seniors Anthony McDonald (Will) and David Posluszny. The latter is a special teams regular while McDonald has played sparingly from scrimmage this season.
Backing up the Cat and Dog spots are Ishaq Williams (Cat, plus as a pass-rushing defensive end option) and Danny Spond (Dog). Freshman Troy Niklas could also see time at Dog vs. Boston College's conservative, run-heavy offense.
Defensive BackfieldSmith is the unit's leader and top athlete; ranking second on the squad in tackles (73) and first in passes defended (9). He's joined by the tandem of Jamoris Slaughter (8 starts including three at Dog linebacker) and Zeke Motta (5). Slaughter is the most versatile of the trio, lining up as a slot cornerback in the team's nickel sets.
The starting cornerbacks for the 11th straight game will be 5th-year senior Gary Gray (boundary side) and senior Robert Blanton (field) – both will make their last home appearance this evening. Blanton has scored as Irisheyes.com's top defensive player through 10 games this season.
The pair is backed up by sophomores Lo Wood, who scored on a 57-yard interception return last week vs. Maryland, and Bennett Jackson, who converted from wide receiver in the off-season and played sparingly from scrimmage until last week (approximately 30 snaps).
Senior safety Dan McCarthy could see time as should sophomore dime linebacker Austin Collinsworth, a backup safety that enters the game and plays closer to the line of scrimmage when the Irish use six defensive backs.
Look for walk-on Chris Salvi (#24) to make an appearance from scrimmage should the margin become great. Salvi has been a special teams stalwart this season.