Notre Dame football: Nix/Jones clash demands attention

Al Lesar Commentary
ND Insider

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Trench-cam: What a concept for college football.

ESPN needs to dedicate a camera to a high-profile battle in the middle of the line during Monday night's BCS National Championship Game between Notre Dame and Alabama.

Make sure there’s a wide-angle lens in place.

More than 650 pounds of angry young men will be brawling 'til the whistle every time the Crimson Tide offense snaps the ball.

Not many big-time games feature a matchup in the middle of chaos.

This one should be special: Irish nose guard Louis Nix trading punches with 'Bama center Barrett Jones. Strength vs. speed. Notre Dame's 6-foot-3, 352-pound "Irish Chocolate" leprechaun, against the 6-5, 305-pound Jones, who Saturday considered his involvement in Campus Crusade for Christ as one of his most rewarding experiences.

They may come from opposite ends of the "gregarious meter," but when the worlds collide, the action should be startling.

Nix, who isn't shy to share an opinion, isn't sure a camera focused on the war would be a good thing.

"If they did (have a camera focused on the line play), someone would get 7-10 years (in prison), because of everything that happens in the trenches," Nix said, that smile beaming. "What we do in there is illegal in like 37 states. I don't think they want to catch that on film."

As the anchor of the Notre Dame defensive line, Nix's presence has been formidable this season. With 45 tackles, 5.5 for loss and two sacks, he is a key component of a defense that has yielded just 92 rushing yards a game.

"This game is going to be won in the trenches," Jones said. "It's important, in the middle of the trenches, what happens. In 3-4 defenses (like Notre Dame), the nose guard is magnified. He's probably the cornerstone of the defense — a guy who can anchor down and stop the run."

Jones, who won this year's Rimington Award, signifying the country's best center, is coming back from a foot injury in the SEC Championship Game. He has been the guy who has paved the way to the Crimson Tide rushing for 225 yards a game this season.

"(Jones is) such a good athlete in his ability to snap and capture the guy over the top of him," said Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston. "He's one of the bigger centers we've seen. Now, we've seen some big centers, but he's big and athletic with good initial quickness. He's got the whole package.

"Hopefully, (Nix) can overpower him at the point (of attack). It's something he's been able to do all season. (Alabama) kind of neutralizes that with their quickness and athleticism. That's where the matchup is going to be: Lou's power against Barrett's initial quickness and athleticism."

"I've gone up against a lot of good players, but this guy's the cream of the crop," Nix said. "Everyone's talking about him. I'm just happy to have an opportunity to play against him." Jones returned the kind words — for now.

"(Nix) is a great player; he's very talented; he has great hands; great feet," Jones said. "He seems to be very smart and he plays within their scheme really well. It will probably be the biggest challenge I've had all year."

How rare is it that one of the featured battles in the biggest game of the year will be fought in the middle of the line?

"(Nix and Jones) are really, really good players," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "I'm glad that linemen are getting recognized and those types of matchups are being talked about. I think it's going to be a good one."

"If you actually watch football; analyze it; that will be one of the first things you look at — the line of scrimmage," Nix said. "They can see where it really goes down; the trenches."

"That's really where it begins," said Elston, though he's a bit biased. "If Lou can win that matchup, or if Barrett can win that matchup, you're going to see some movement up front and success one way or the other."

Should be fun. Might be worth a close-up or two.

As long as everything is legal.

Staff writer Al Lesar


Notre Dame football: Nix/Jones clash demands attention