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Credit defense for Notre Dame’s No. 11 ranking

SOUTH BEND IN - OCTOBER 20:  Jamaal Williams #21 BYU Cougars is dropped by StephTuitt #7 Louis Nix III

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 20: Jamaal Williams #21 of the BYU Cougars is dropped by Stephon Tuitt #7 and Louis Nix III #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 20, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated BYU 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jamaal Williams; Stephon Tuitt; Louis Nix III

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Updated: September 3, 2013 7:47AM

Notre Dame defensive linemen Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt racked up accolades on preseason watch lists. Nix appeared on six lists, Tuitt on five.

It’s an indication of what others think of two of the leaders of the Irish’s defense.

Another indication of Notre Dame’s potential defensive prowess came with the release Thursday of USA Today’s preseason coaches’ poll. Notre Dame is ranked No. 11 and received 872 points in the poll.

The Irish just missed the top 10 despite losing their top two running backs (Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood), their top receiving option (Tyler Eifert) and their starting quarterback (Everett Golson) from last season. Riddick, Wood and
Eifert are playing the NFL, and Golson is suspended for this season for academic reasons.

The ranking is a testament to a defense that could be just as strong as it was when Notre Dame reached the BCS Championship Game last season. And that’s even taking into account the absence of 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o. The defense features eight players who started at least nine games last season.

Notre Dame opens training camp Monday at Shiloh Park and Convention Center in Marion, Ind. Coach Brian Kelly will provide a precamp update on the Irish on Friday in South Bend, Ind.

A lot has happened since the spring game — a contest, by the way, that was dominated by the

The most surprising twist came with the loss of Golson near the end of May. The quarterback said in a statement released by Notre Dame that he was suspended for the fall term because of ‘‘poor academic judgment.’’

Golson’s suspension means Tommy Rees will step back into the starter’s role. Rees, a senior, has
appeared in 33 games and made 18 starts for the Irish. He has thrown for 4,413 yards, 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions while completing 63.6 percent of his passes.

‘‘Tommy knows exactly what the expectations are for him,’’ Kelly said before naming Rees the starter. ‘‘He was a huge part of our
undefeated season [in 2012], and he’s going to be a part of this season as well. He knows what we expect of him on a day-to-day basis.’’

Notre Dame will prepare for a schedule that features four foes ranked among the coaches’ Top 25. The Irish have a road game Sept. 7
against No. 17 Michigan, a home game Sept. 28 against No. 16 Oklahoma, a home game Oct. 19 against No. 24 USC and a road game
Nov. 30 against No. 4 Stanford.

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