The Best of the Best: 1991-1996 Linebackers

Irish Eyes reviews Lou Holtz's best linebackers from 1991-1996, including Super Bowl XLIII starter Bert Berry.

Irish Eyes resumes its "Best of the Best" series – a look at the best single-season stars of the last five eras – wit today's edition: Lou Holtz's best linebackers, 1991-1996. To see additional reviews of Holtz's best players to date, click the links below.

The 1991-1996 Holtz/Moore Offensive Linemen

The 1991-96 Holtz Defensive Linemen

The 1991-1996 Holtz Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The 1991-1996 Holtz Backfield

Inside Linebacker Demetrius Dubose (1991)

One year after winning the National Title, the 1989 Irish linebackers remained a sound unit. But the unit was bereft of quickness and raw speed due to the transfer of true freshman starter Arnold Ale and the injury/suspension of All American Michael Stonebreaker. Suddenly the Irish were (back to being) a few years behind the times, and quicker ‘backs and tight ends could give the linebackers issues in coverage.

Enter a freshman from Seattle named Adolphus Demetrius Dubose. Dubose starred on special teams as a freshman, and by the season-ending matchup at Miami, had worked his way into the linebacker rotation as well.

"We have some high standards for Demetrius Dubose this year," said Coach Lou Holtz entering the 1991 season. "I remember we played Miami two years ago down there (1989), we didn't play well and we lost. When we looked at the film, Demetrius Dubose was one player who was not out of place on the field with those athletes. He's got to have a big year for us."

He did. The junior leader was named first-team All America at the conclusion of 1991 by Football News and one of 10 semi-finalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's best linebacker.

Dubose recorded 127 tackles – the highest team total since Tony Furjanic's 147 in 1985 and a total no Irish player has surpassed since. (Bobby Howard posted 118 in '98; Courtney Watson 117 in '03; and, remarkably, Trevor Laws as a 3-4 DE had 112 in '07.) And Dubose's path to those 127 stops is staggering when broken down by game:

  • 14 tackles in the season-opener vs. IU, as well as the first points of the Irish season, a 49-yard interception touchdown (vs. future NFL QB Trent Green) in a 49-27 win.
  • 17 tackles at Michigan (the Desmond Howard game).
  • 4 tackles and 3 pass break-ups in a 49-10 win over Michigan State.
  • 15 tackles vs. Purdue, a 45-20 Irish victory.
  • 10 stops and a fumble recovery vs. Stanford in a 42-26 revenge match in Palo Alto.
  • 8 tackles at No. 12 Pittsburgh (the Irish won 42-7)
  • 19 tackles at Air Force
  • 15 at home in a 24-20 win over USC, a game in which Dubose recovered a fumble deep in Trojans territory to set-up ND's final touchdown
  • 10 tackles in a 38-0 home win over Navy
  • 11 tackles vs. Tennessee (‘The Miracle in South Bend")
  • 4 solos, a forced fumble, a twisted knee, and a bittersweet Notre Dame Player of the Game Award from ABC Sports in the loss at Penn State
  • After sitting out the Hawaii game (knee), Dubose returned for the Sugar Bowl upset over Florida to record nine tackles and two pass break-ups in the 39-28 Irish victory. (Bowl statistics were not included in season totals at the time).

Inside Linebacker Demetrius Dubose (1992)

The 1992 season was not as individually rewarding for Dubose, but the Irish senior co-captain (with QB Rick Mirer) was the key to a revitalized defense. In 1991, Notre Dame ranked No. 73 overall, including an embarrassing No. 84 rush defense and No. 53 scoring defense (just three years removed from fielding the nation's No. 3 scoring defense as National Champions).

One year later, Dubose and the Irish (10-1-1) finished No. 9 in the nation in rush defense (a remarkable 75-spot jump); and No. 20 in scoring defense, allowing just 16.2 points per contest.

Dubose was named honorable mention All America by United Press International and Football News despite missing two games due to NCAA suspension for accepting gifts and loans totaling $1,300 from a Bainbridge Island (Washington) couple (Dubose repaid the loan and was reinstated).

He led Irish in tackles (87) including 17 in the Snow Bowl victory over Penn State and broke up 8 passes (to rank third on a team that featured Tommie Carter, Jeff Burris, Bobby Taylor, and Greg Lane) and added the second touchdown of his career with a fumble recovery in the end zone at BYU. Dubose also contributed seven tackles, a sack, and a fumble recovery to set up an Irish touchdown in the 28-3 Cotton Bowl beating of Texas A&M.

Dubose started the final 24 games of his 44-game Irish career. His senior season culminated in a stretch of seven games in which the Irish defense allowed just 9 touchdowns in the final 28 quarters through the Bowl win. The defense's greatest effort of the season occurred vs. No. 9 Boston College. On the evening before the contest (Notre Dame was ranked No. 8 as well), Golden Eagles fans harassed Notre Dame's speakers and coaches at the Friday Night Pep Rally. It was the last chance they'd have to make any meaningful noise. For the first 55 minutes of the contest the Irish allowed zero 3rd down conversions; 0 points; 50 total yards; and did not commit a penalty in the 54-7 humbling of the previously undefeated Eagles.

Dubose, was carried off the field by the Notre Dame Student Body after the Snow Bowl victory over Penn State and one month later was named the winner of the team's Nick Pietrosante Award, given to the Irish player that exemplifies the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication, and pride of the late Irish All American fullback – a fitting end to a tumultuous season for the senior captain.

Dubose was tragically killed in July 1999 after a confrontation with the San Diego Police (Link Here).

Inside Linebacker Lyron Cobbins (1995)

It's hard to imagine a more underrated player during the Holtz regime, as least among Irish defenders, than middle linebacker Lyron Cobbins. In his junior season ('95), Cobbins finished with a team-high 105 tackles; a team-high three fumble recoveries; and a team-high five interceptions. He finished tied for second on the squad (with cornerback Allen Rossum) with four passes defended. Cobbins' five interceptions (which he returned for an average of more than 17 yards) is the highest total for an Irish linebacker in program history.

Cobbins was underrated nationally as well, receiving only honorable mention All America merit for this incredible single-season effort.

Though 1995 was Cobbins' all-star season, the 1996 Tri-Captain is best remembered for his late-game interception that year vs. No. 6 Texas in Austin to set up No. 9 Notre Dame's game-winning field goal as time expired.

"Leaders make plays," said Irish defensive end Melvin Dansby after the win. "Lyron's a leader and leaders make plays."

Honorable Mention Inside Linebackers: Lyron Cobbins (1996). 72 tackles (three for lost yardage), 4 sacks, 4 passes defended, a fumble recovery and the aforementioned game-winning interception.

Anthony Peterson: (1992) Peterson emerged as a force early in the 1992 season (playing alongside Dubose) and was named Honorable Mention All America by Football News while leading the Irish in tackles over the season's first nine games (Dubose passed him with a 17-tackle effort against Penn State). But he missed most of his senior year (1993, in which the Irish finished 11-1) with a knee injury. He was selected in the 4th round of the 1994 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers.

Kinnon Tatum: (1996) Tatum led the team with 77 tackles and nine tackles for lost yardage. He added a sack, pass break-up, forced fumble and interception. And in 1995 (82 tackles, 3 PD) he added this hit to Irish Football lore (which simply cannot be viewed enough in the off-season).

Outside Linebacker Bert Berry (1996)

Berry was a four-year regular for the Irish but his best season was 1996 when he led the most productive pass rush in modern program history (42 team sacks) with 10 sacks (the third highest single-season total in team history) while DE Renaldo Wynn finished with nine and sophomore LB Kory Minor added eight.

The future Pro Bowler's final numbers included 60 total tackles (five for lost yardage), 10 sacks, 3 passes defended, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. He recorded a career-best three sacks vs. No. 16 Washington, a game in which the No. 11 Irish outgained the Huskies by an astounding 423 yards (650 to 227).

Berry started 33 games in his Irish career (23 consecutive as a junior and senior), leading the team in sacks as both a sophomore (six) and as a senior. His final totals included 187 tackles, 16.5 sacks (No. 9 all-time) and 11 tackles-for-loss.

Outside Linebacker Kory Minor (1996)

The former first-team USA Today and Parade All-America selection is better known for his four-season run of solid play than single-season excellence…but his sophomore season at the end of the Holtz Era should be recognized nonetheless.

As a true freshman rush end in 1995, Minor finished with 48 tackles (three for lost yardage) and 6 sacks. He moved to the team's "drop" linebacker role as a sophomore in '96 and shined, finishing with a career-best 8 sacks (not bad for a guy consistently dropping into the flats and seams to cover running backs and tight ends); 53 tackles (including 7 for lost yardage) an interception, and 5 passes defended, while forcing 3 fumbles.

Minor's 22.5 career sacks are second only to Justin Tuck (24.5) in modern Irish history (the stat was first tracked, and quite sporadically at first, in the early 80s in both college and the NFL).

Honorable Mention Outside Linebackers: Bert Berry (1994); Kory Minor (1995 – as a true freshman).


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