Notre Dame DE Tuitt ready for tough duel vs. Michigan’s Lewan
BY LaMOND POPE Staff Reporter September 4, 2013 8:39PM
Updated: September 4, 2013 10:19PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The first thing Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt notices about Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is his size.
“He’s 6-8, and he can move really good,” Tuitt said Wednesday. “We watched his film. He’s a great tackle. He blocks out well. He has great strength.”
The 6-6, 322-pound Tuitt will go head-to-head with Lewan, who weighs 315 pounds, throughout the top-20 tilt Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
It will be All-American against All-American.
“I love it,” Tuitt said. “You want to go out there with the best of the best. That’s how you become better.”
Tuitt had 2½ tackles and one sack in the season opener against Temple. The junior has 15 career sacks to rank 10th on Notre Dame’s all-time list. He had 12 sacks last season, earning second-team All-America honors from the Associated Press.
“They have a great defensive line,” Lewan said Monday. “Overall, they’re all good. I’m excited for the opportunity that our young offensive line gets to go against them.”
Lewan was named a first-team All-American last season. He also won the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award.
“Certainly, we’re not going to be able to duplicate what [Lewan] does during the week relative to the demo squad,” coach Brian Kelly said. “We just know that we’re going to have to do a great job. When you have him on the edge, they’re going to try to run to his side. You know they want to get the ball outside your defense. So we have to be really good on the edge. We have to do a great job of keeping the ball inside our defense. So whoever is there has got to do a great job of making sure they can control the edge of the defense.
“Sometimes you have to scheme it to make sure that we do that. He’s that kind of player.”
Tuitt said facing teammate Zack Martin at times during practice has helped with the preparation.
“You’ve got one of the best tackles on our team, one of the best tackles in the country,” Tuitt said. “It makes you better. It makes your confidence way higher, too.”
Many analysts had Lewan high on the 2013 NFL draft board before he decided to come back for his senior season. His return has affected the Wolverines in a variety of ways.
“The leadership that he’s provided since that day in January,’’ Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said Tuesday. ‘‘How he attacked the weight room, how he went about his business, which brought a lot of guys with him. His commitment level. I say that because I see what he does in practice, what he does in meetings in team situations and individual situations. His play, he wants to master it. He doesn’t want to have minuses on his grade sheet at the end of the game.”
Tuitt said he expects Lewan to bring his ‘A’ game.
“I definitely have to bring mine when I go against him,” Tuitt said.
Tuitt didn’t play when the teams met in 2011 in Ann Arbor, Mich. He had two tackles and one sack in the Irish’s 13-6 victory last year at Notre Dame Stadium.
“Me going against him is a great matchup and a great opportunity for me to showcase the things that I worked on in the summer, and it’s a great opportunity for him to showcase what he worked on during the summer,” Tuitt said. “I’m expecting a great matchup.”