Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt doesn’t care about being preseason darling
BY LAMOND POPE Staff Reporter August 10, 2013 1:00AM
Stephon Tuitt is looking to improve on the 47 tackles he made last season. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Updated: September 12, 2013 6:49AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It doesn’t matter.
Stephon Tuitt earned second-team Associated Press All-America honors in 2012. But the Notre Dame defensive end couldn’t care less.
Tuitt has received numerous 2013 preseason accolades. He was recently named to SI.com’s preseason All-American squad. The fact he’s on those lists might draw a shrug from the 6-6, 322-pound junior.
None of that matters to Tuitt.
Just ask him.
‘‘It’s irrelevant to me because you have to do it all again,’’ he said Friday. ‘‘To be noticed for that, I’m blessed, I’m glad I had the opportunity to be. But you still have to go out there and do the same thing that you did.’’
Tuitt did a lot in 2012. He led the Irish with 13 tackles for loss and 12 sacks.
‘‘He’s a great player. He’s impressive,’’ Notre Dame linebacker Dan Fox said. ‘‘He’s working hard every day. I can see that. There’s no complacency in him. That’s awesome to see.
‘‘Seeing every day how he’s trying to move his game forward. Some guys would think, ‘I’m at the pinnacle of my game.’ He does not think that at all. He’s working every single day to get better.’’
Tuitt is in line to be one of the leaders of an experienced defense.
‘‘If Stephon Tuitt is out there doing his job, doing what he’s asked to do on a day‑to‑day basis, he de facto becomes a leader for us,’’ coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘That’s how we go into developing our players on a day‑to‑day basis. It doesn’t mean they have to have a ‘C’ on their jersey to be a leader.
‘‘Our expectations are, absolutely, yes, we expect him to be a leader for us on defense.’’
Tuitt saw action in nine games as a freshman in 2011. He had 30 tackles, including two sacks, and he got better as the year went along — 26 of the 30 tackles came in his final six games.
That set the stage for a bigger sophomore year. He finished with 47 tackles and also returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown. Tuitt played well despite a sports hernia.
‘‘I don’t want to get into last season, but everybody knows that was one of the reasons,’’ Tuitt said of the injury slowing him in the second half. ‘‘This year, I’m working hard, my body feels great. I’m perfectly in shape and ready to go.’’
Tuitt had surgery to repair the sports hernia and missed a portion of spring drills. He came back and noticed the difference.
‘‘A major difference,’’ he said. ‘‘From that point on, I’ve worked hard to come back. Bigger, stronger, faster. I feel great. I feel great right now.’’
He has a similar positive vibe about the defense as a whole.
‘‘Our defense right now is a hard-working defense,’’ he said. ‘‘We go out there everyday with the mind-set of getting better, everybody, all 11 players and the backups. It’s great. Our defense is a work in progress.”
Forget all of the awards. Tuitt is more concerned with what’s next.
‘‘Right now, every day, I get on that field, I do something to be better than I was yesterday, in all areas,’’ he said.
‘‘I go out hard. I go out with a mission. I go out with a plan to be better than I was yesterday, better than I ever was. Right now, it’s taking it to another level.’’