BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
Standing right in the middle of Notre Dame’s top-10 defense last season was defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who is primed to be one of the stars of the Fighting Irish in 2013. Nix didn’t see the field as a freshman so he technically has another year of eligibility after the 2013 season. That said, he will be finished with his degree in the spring of 2014 and will likely enter the 2014 draft.
In his first playing season in 2011, Nix jumped right in and started 11 games, compiling 45 tackles (4.5 for loss) and .5 sacks. Last season, he started 11 games again and led the team’s defensive lineman in tackles with 50. He also had 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks and led the team in pass breakups with five.
Listed at 6’3’’ and 326 pounds by Notre Dame’s official athletics website, Nix has great size for an NFL defensive lineman. He appears to be one of the top defensive line prospects in the 2014 draft.
Why You Should Watch Nix in 2013
When Nix plays with proper technique and leverage, he is an excellent player who can control the line of scrimmage. He can be extremely quick off the ball and penetrate quickly and powerfully. When he uses his hands, he can steer blockers and shed them with ease.
Nix is a very good bull-rusher and generates good push up the middle on passing downs. He is excellent at getting his hands up when the quarterback delivers the ball, as evidenced by leading the team in pass breakups despite playing defensive line.
Overall, he has good awareness. He can read screens intelligently and track them down while not getting caught too far upfield. His play recognition skills are strong.
For a man of his size, he has great movement skills. He hustles hard on every play. You can often see Nix trying to chase plays down all over the field.
Nix appears to be extremely versatile and I can envision him playing several different positions. I would primarily use him as a shade in even defensive fronts. I like him shading the center, playing one-gap and using his quickness and penetrating ability. I also think he is quick enough to play 5-technique defensive end in odd defensive fronts.
Because of his size, people will naturally label him a nose tackle. While I think that is a fit, I don’t feel that is his most natural position. Nonetheless, his versatility will be very attractive to NFL teams who like to play with multiple fronts.
What Nix Must Prove in 2013
Nix doesn’t play with great leverage and technique consistently enough. He too often comes off the ball standing straight up out of his stance and doesn’t shoot his hands. Lineman will easily get under his pads, stand him up and control him in these instances. Nix needs to improve upon this from a good to a great prospect.
Nix isn’t as immovable as one would like for his size. When his technique and leverage is bad, he will get pushed around to create wide-open running lanes. I would like to see him add strength.
When he gets lazy, he relies completely upon his size. He sometimes leans on blockers instead of battling them to make plays. He does have some bad moments that can be seen on film.
Outside of bull-rushing and shooting gaps, he doesn’t offer much in terms of pressuring the quarterback. He throws an ineffective swim move out on occasion, but his overall pass-rush needs improvement.
Projecting Nix’ Draft Stock
There is a lot to like about Louis Nix as a draft prospect, but there are some inconsistencies that really stand out in his game. Developing consistent technique and leverage will be integral in determining his draft stock.
He will likely continue to flourish at Notre Dame in 2013 as part of an excellent defensive line and system. The versatility that Nix brings to the table is something to be excited about.
All things considered, I think of Nix as a late first-round to early second-round pick. He has the upside to become a mid-first round pick.