A ‘learning’ year
The BCS national championship game takes place Monday and the player who is arguably the most dominant defensive force in it is a country-strong behemoth incubated in the deep South. The only plot bend would be that he plays for Notre Dame rather than Alabama.
Tuitt’s 12 sacks are the most since Justin Tuck set the season school record with 131/2 in 2003, and a year that began with a 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Navy ended with All-America honors and the Irish boasting their own SEC-level defense, in no small way because of a gargantuan defensive end.
“From a tangible traits standpoint, he still has a lot to work on, in terms of being the complete, fundamental player that he’s going to be,” Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. “But he’s an impact player in the games. He’s hard to block. Fast, aggressive, plays with a high motor. He has been a huge impact.”
Tuitt, meanwhile, deemed this a learning year. Twelve teams on the 2013 schedule just swallowed hard.
“I started this game my freshman year in high school,” Tuitt said. “I didn’t do a lot of camps, nothing like that. Every year for me is a learning experience.
“Even if that means bending my shoulder, or using my hands more, or coming off the ball quicker. Next year, heading into it, I’m going to be learning how to do more pass-rushing moves, which I’m more dominant at on different sides of the ball.”
After that breakout moment against Navy, Tuitt’s origin story became commonly known: With his mother unable to drive him to Monroe (Ga.) High School for tryouts, Tuitt walked 12 miles to get there, arriving sweat-logged and late but promised a ride from coaches after that.