(The number in parenthesis represents each player's remaining eligibility entering the 2012 season.)
DEFENSIVE END5th-year senior Kapron Lewis-Moore, 6'4" 306 pounds (1)
Sophomore Tony Springmann, 6'6" 300 pounds (4)
Notes: Springmann played fewer snaps than his norm last week but he's been reliable in spot relief all season, both as a defensive end and three-technique defensive tackle when the Irish shift to a four-man front. Lewis-Moore's last three games of action ranks among the best of his four-year starting career.
DEFENSIVE ENDSophomore Stephon Tuitt, 6'6" 303 pounds (3)
Freshman Sheldon Day, 6'2" 286 pounds (4/5)
Notes: Tuitt ranks among the nation's sack leaders (6.s) and is tied wit Prince Shembo for the team lead in QB hurries (7). Day has excelled in a backup role, recording key defensive plays vs. Purdue (QB pressure that led to a Bennett Jackson interception), Michigan State (a sack and PD on back-to-back plays to push the Spartans out of scoring territory), and Michigan (a late sack to force a field goal). He has 2.5 tackles for loss among his 11 stops. Sophomore Chase Hounshell did not play as anticipated this season and will receive a medical redshirt after shoulder surgery.
NOSE GUARDJunior Louis Nix, 6'3" 326 pounds (3)
Junior Kona Schwenke, 6'4" 290 pounds (2)
Sophomore Tony Springmann, 6'6" 300 pounds (4)
Notes: Schwenke sees more time in the first half than second -- though drop-off remains evident, he's developing into a quality backup for the surging Nix, who could garner All-America mention should the Irish continue to dominate defensively. Springmann provides insurance on the nose in addition to his role as a DE and 3-technique tackle.
CAT LINEBACKERJunior Prince Shembo, 6'2" 250 pounds, (2)
Sophomore Ishaq Williams, 6'5" 255 pounds (3)
Notes: Shembo logs far more time in the base than does Williams, but the latter has a dual-role in the team's nickel package, playing both defensive end in 4-man fronts and dropping to a nickel linebacker (coverage) spot as well. Redshirt-freshman and listed third-string Cat linebacker Anthony Rabasa made his collegiate debut vs. Miami in Game Five.
Said Kelly of Williams this week: "He's long, and in the pass game he covers some ground for us. Believe it or not, his length really does help us in pass coverage. He also has the ability to rush the quarterback. Here's a guy that gives us some really flexible opportunities defensively to either rush them or drop them. That's why you're seeing him in those packages a little bit more, because of his versatility."
DOG LINEBACKERJunior Danny Spond, 6'3, 242 pounds (2)
Sophomore Ben Councell, 6'5" 240 pounds (4)
Notes: Spond plays the vast majority of snaps, though Councell regularly receives a first-half series in competitive contests to date. Spond, who's logged six tackles in two of the last four contests, has also forged a role as the team's strong side linebacker (field side) in 4-3 fronts, with Dan Fox on the opposite flank. Freshman Romeo Okwara continues to see special teams action on both the kickoff return and coverage units.
MIKE LINEBACKERSenior Manti Te'o, 6'2" 255 pounds (1)
Sophomore Jarrett Grace, 6'3" 240 pounds (4)
Notes: Te'o rarely leaves the field, starting in the nickel package as well. He leads the team with six passes defended. Grace is his technical backup though most of the redshirt-freshman's playing time has come on the Irish run teams (kickoff and punt coverage and return) where he's recorded five stops. Junior Kendall Moore is also listed on Notre Dame's weekly depth chart as the third-string Mike.
WILL LINEBACKERSenior Dan Fox, 6'3" 240 pounds (2)
Senior Carlo Calabrese, 6'1 255 pounds (2)
Notes: Fox has started 19 straight games with Calabrese offering ample relief in 18, the exception a one-game suspension to begin 2012. Fox is third on the team with 31 tackles while Calabrese is fifth (24). Fox's tackle-for-loss on an overtime screen pass last week was the play of the day defensively prior to Notre Dame's epic goal line stand. Calabrese was one of the chief heroes of the final two plays, lining up as an extra defensive end and hammering into much bigger blockers, winning at the point.
BOUNDARY CORNERBACKJunior Bennett Jackson, 6'0" 185 pounds (2)
Sophomore Jalen Brown, 6'1" 199 pounds (4)
Notes: Brown saw early action vs. Miami but a missed tackle in space vs. the 'Canes. He did not appear from scrimmage vs. Stanford. Said Kelly of Jackson this week: "We asked him to step his play up. We thought Keivarae Russell was catching him and not that he had not been playing better, but we issued a challenge last week, and Bennett did a great job of stepping up his play and putting himself in a very, very good position to help us."
FIELD CORNERBACKFreshman KeiVarae Russell, 5'11" 182 pounds (4/5)
Sophomore Josh Atkinson, 5'11" 185 pounds (3)
Notes: Atkinson has yet to register a tackle or PD in relief but he does have an uncredited QB hurry (Michigan State) to his name. Russell and Jackson have flip-flopped field to boundary assignments pending the scheme, offense faced, and perimeter talent on the other side of scrimmage.
FIELD SAFETYSenior Zeke Motta, 6'2" 215 pounds (1)
Freshman Nicky Baratti, 6'1" 206 pounds (4/5)
Notes: Motta has morphed from Notre Dame starter to nationally relevant safety, playing far and away the best ball of his college career as a senior. He ranks second on the team in tackles (28) and importance to the back seven (behind Te'o). Baratti secured an end zone interception in the first competitive appearance from scrimmage of his career, taking away a potential score from Michigan in Week Four.
BOUNDARY SAFETYSophomore Matthias Farley, 5'11" 200 pounds (4)
Senior Chris Salvi, 5'10" 190 pounds (1)
Notes: Farley has started four of six games this season, the first at Dog linebacker vs. Navy's triple option, the last three at safety in place of injured 5th-year safety Jamoris Slaughter, out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.
Said Kelly of Farley: 'We thought Matthias came back with a very solid effort (vs. Stanford). The one thing that you need from him is solid tackling. He put himself in a position to make tackles. And of course, the interception, he was in a pretty good position in coverage. So we are getting those guys to improve each and every week."
Farley saved a touchdown with a take down of Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor at the ND 4-yard line in overtime. The Irish defense held on four snaps thereafter.
Nickel DefenseInterior defensive linemen rotate among Nix, Lewis-Moore, Springmann, and Tuitt while the edge rushers include Tuitt, Shembo, Williams, and Day.
The team's linebackers are generally Spond, Fox, and Williams with Te'o never leaving the field. The team's official nickel defender (fifth defensive back) is freshman cornerback Elijah Shumate, who has broken up three passes in his limited role. Due to a lack of healthy bodies, Notre Dame's secondary in the nickel package is largely the same as its starting four listed above, though Atkinson and Brown have made intermittent appearances.
The Irish have not shown a Dime package (six defensive backs) since Slaughter was lost to injury in Week Three at Michigan State.