LinebackersFour will debut/join the team this fall: redshirt-freshmen Jarrett Grace, Anthony Rabasa, and Ben Councell, as well as incoming freshman Romeo Okwara.
Manti Te'o It's hard to beat Te'o's 21-tackle tour de force in a blowout loss to Stanford in 2010 (he added a pass breakup and QB hurry), or in a closer contest, his second half dominance with 11 tackles (2.5 for loss) the previous week in a loss at Michigan State. But Te'o's best game was likely his most recent: 13 tackles, a sack, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble that led to a touchdown in the 18-14 bowl defeat vs. Florida State. Te'o was among the best players in college football for the opening half, one dominated by the Irish defense.
Carlo Calabrese: Calabrese's best game came near the end of his best stretch of football to date: the opening half-season of his redshirt freshman season in 2010. In a prime time matchup vs. Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Calabrese finished with a career-high 10 tackles (8 solo) including 3.5 for loss and a sack in just his fifth game as a starter. Remarkably, Calabrese has just one TFL since.
Dan Fox: Fox's career high in tackles occurred last October vs. Air Force, but it was his 4-tackle effort including two for lost yardage and a sack of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson that ranks as his best vs. the best the Irish schedule had to offer in his first season as a starter.
Prince Shembo: Posted two sacks as a rookie at Boston College in 2010 but Shembo's best occurred in a Senior Day upset of Utah later that season when he finished with 5 tackles, a sack, and two QB hurries, both of which ended Utes possessions in Notre Dame's 28-3 defensive domination of the 15th-ranked visitors.
Ishaq Williams Had just six tackles as a true freshman and recorded his only tackle for loss last season vs. Navy in mop-up duty but Williams late-game, bowl game presence and 2nd Down tackle at the Notre Dame 11-yard line to help limit Florida State to a field goal late suggests Williams had improved enough through late November and December's practices to earn a spot in the rotation behind 4-year starter Darius Fleming.
Danny Spond: Spond posted a career-high 6 tackles last November against Maryland including three in kick coverage duties.
Defensive BacksThe unit adds seven safeties ready to debut/join the Irish for 2012: Redshirt-freshman Eilar Hardy and Matthias Farley; 2010 early enrollee Chris Badger, and true freshman Nick Baratti, C.J. Prosise, Elijah Shumate and John Turner. A new cornerback will also join the fray in redshirt-freshman Jalen Brown.
S Jamoris Slaughter: Slaughter was Notre Dame's best defensive player in last season's disappointing loss to USC, but his best single-game performance came one week earlier when he keyed the D in a blowout of potent Air Force. Earning the start at outside (Dog) linebacker, Slaughter's mandate was to force triple-threat quarterback Tim Jefferson to get rid of the ball early on the team's perimeter running plays, a task Slaughter performed admirably while adding six tackles, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, a tackle-for-loss on 3rd down, and a diving, juggling backfield interception as the Irish raced to a 42-16 halftime lead.
S Zeke Motta: One of at least three Irish players that can claim his best game was his most recent. Motta's fumble recovery touchdown vs. Florida State last December staked the Irish to a 7-0 lead early. He added a pass breakup on a deep post pass later in the contest, skying for the ball at its highest point. Statistically, Motta's best game was an 11-tackle/interception effort in East Lansing during the infamous 34-31 overtime loss to Michigan State in 2010. However, game film from that evening was less kind to Motta than the stat sheet (8 of his tackles occurred after significant gains by the Spartans).
S Austin Collinsworth: Forced a fumble on the team's opening second half kickoff that led to an Irish touchdown on the ensuing play to extend Notre Dame lead to 21-3 over Utah in a 28-3 victory. Also recorded three tackles on kickoff coverage vs. Michigan last September.
CB Bennett Jackson: Played his best game in his first appearance in an Irish uniform, recording four tackles on kickoff coverage in the 2010 season opener vs. Purdue. Remarkably, Jackson made clean, one-on-one tackles of Boilermakers returners on the team's first three coverage opportunities of the season and of his career, the first two for gains of just 12 and 8 yards deep in Purdue territory.
CB Lo Wood: Wood's best moment to date came on Notre Dame's first defensive score of the 2011 season: a 57-yard interception return against Maryland in mid-November.
S Danny McCarthy: Posted a career-high three tackles vs. Western Michigan in a 44-20 Irish victory in 2010. One of McCarthy's stops was on 3rd and Goal from the Irish 6-yard line, holding the Broncos to a field goal late. McCarthy also forced a fumble earlier in the fourth quarter series.
CB Josh Atkinson: Appeared in the season's final eight games as a member of the kickoff coverage unit (and occasionally the return team) with his most important moment coming at Wake Forest. Atkinson chased down from behind Demon Deacons kick returner Lovell Jackson at the Notre Dame 33-yard line after a 59-yard return early in the first half. The effort saved a touchdown and Wake Forest settled for a field goal and 10-3 lead rather than a daunting 14-3 advantage.
CB Cam McDaniel: Appeared in eight games as a true freshman last fall, his best the home finale vs. Boston College in which he recorded his first solo stop of the season, a tackle of punt returner Bobby Swigert a split-second after the Eagles wide receiver fielded a first half punt.