Prediction #3: Jackson Picks Four More

O'Malley's first prediction focused on an individual Irish player involves recently snubbed senior cornerback, Bennett Jackson.

It might be because he played his worst game when the world was watching. It might be because he was overshadowed by a linebacker that made nearly twice as many interceptions and batted down more opponents' passes as well.

And it might be simply because he wasn't involved in spring ball (out of sight, out of mind, nationally), recovering instead from off-season shoulder surgery that was necessary but ignored last off-season.

Whatever the rationale, Bennett Jackson's name is not on the 48-man Thorpe Award Watch list. After 13 games, extensive film reviews, and daily dealings with him from 2012, I can say this without equivocation: there weren't 48 better defensive backs than Notre Dame's Jackson last fall, and there won't be in the coming months, either.

Which leads us to Prediction #3 for 2013:

Bennett Jackson will lead the team in Interceptions

Jackson was ready to make good on this same prediction last season, his first as a starter, when he intercepted four passes in Notre Dame's first six games (the highlight a leaping TD-saver vs. Stanford). But teammate Manti Te'o turned legendary over the course of 12 games and Jackson's final number of four paled in comparison to the defensive captain's seven -- the most by an Irish 'backer in program history and by a linebacker for any FBS school since the turn of the century.

Jackson added eight passes defended (second-best on the squad) and 65 tackles (third) while finishing among Notre Dame's top 10 players in the film reviews five times, honorable mention another three, and on its forever list of tough guys a full 13, playing the entire season with a shoulder that required surgery, his torn labrum not repaired until after the Irish completed their run to the doorstep of a national championship.

"Spring of my sophomore year is when I really messed it up," Jackson said this spring. "But I couldn't get the surgery or I would have had to sit out, so I just decided to deal with it. As I went on, I kept tearing it and banging it and tearing it.

"I just got used to the feeling where it really didn't bother me too much anymore."

Close to 100 percent by the time spring ball ended in April, Jackson will use his Thorpe Watch List snub for added motivation. Look for the senior to pick off at least four more passes -- I'll cap the prediction at a possible five -- this fall.

Should he do so, Jackson will finish in elite company in program history. The following is a list of nine players that have picked off four or more passes more than once during their Irish careers. Just two have managed the feat over the last 35 seasons:

Safety Benny Guilbeaux (1996-97): The Louisiana native picked off four in both seasons to lead Lou Holtz's last and Bob Davie's first Irish squads.

Cornerback Tom Carter (1991-92): A 1993 first-round draft pick, Carter thieved five in both seasons, tying safety Jeff Burris for the lead in the latter, Carter's junior season after which he bolted for the NFL. (And yes, a Carter/Bobby Taylor pairing on the corner in 1993 would have likely made the difference between 11-1 and a loss to Boston College and a 12-0 national champion. But I'm not bitter…)

Safety Joe Restic (1976-77): Restic intercepted four passes in '76 then six for the national champions in '77. He later led the team with three as a senior in '78 as well. He was a two-time GTE Academic All-American, to boot.

Cornerback Luther Bradley (1973 and 1975): The greatest corner in program history snared six picks for the national champions in '73, four more in '75, and five in his final season and second championship effort of '77.

Safety Ralph Stepaniak (1969-70): Stole four in '69 and six in '70, one fewer than team leader Clarence Ellis in the latter.

Safety Tom MacDonald (1962-62): Led the squad with a then-record nine interceptions in '62 and followed the effort with five more in '63. MacDonald's record was later broken by Mike Townsend who picked off 10 balls one decade later.

Halfback/Defensive back John Lattner (1951-52-53): Intercepted 5, 4, and 4 passes respectively, the latter as part of a Heisman Trophy season.

Quarterback/Defensive back Ralph Guglielmi (1953-54): Five picks in both seasons for the 1954 All-American QB selection. Guglielmi finished fourth in the Heisman voting for his efforts.

Halfback/Defensive back Bill Gay (1948-49): Stole six passes in '48 and followed with four more in '49 en route to a national championship.

Note: Click the links below for the first two predictions in our summer series:

Prediction #1: Undefeated at Home

Prediction #2: Road Wary Top Stories