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Irish eager to battle Alabama in trenches

Tide’s veteran offensive line to be tough test

– Notre Dame defensive linemen got just what they wanted when the No. 1 Irish (12-0) ended up with No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.

At least, they got what they wanted, according to nose guard Louis Nix III.

“What I see is a big physical Alabama offensive line,” the 6-foot-3, 326-pound Nix said. “You know, tradition, hard-nosed, they will hit you in the mouth. That’s what we expected. That’s what we wanted, because win or lose, it will better the team.

“It will better me, or it will better (defensive end Stephon) Tuitt. It will better everyone. Because a hard, physical game is what we need. A team from the SEC, a team like Alabama, coached by Nick Saban, those guys will make you better all around.”

There are few offensive lines that have more experience than the Tide’s.

Barrett Jones, a 6-5, 302-pound center, has started 49 games, and this year’s Rimington Trophy (top center) winner won the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman) last year when he started 10 games at left tackle after playing 25 games at right tackle.

He is also a two-time Associated Press first-team All-American.

“I think (Jones) is a great guy,” said Nix, who has 45 tackles with 5 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks. “I’ve seen him get an award the other day. He seems like a humble guy. I’ve seen him on ESPN, he talks great.

“He’s a nasty player on the field. I can’t wait to go up against him. It will make me a better player.”

The rest of Alabama’s line is just as imposing as Jones.

Chance Warmack, a 6-3, 320-pound left guard, has made 39 starts; D.J. Fluker, a 6-6, 335-pound right tackle has made 35 starts; Anthony Steen, a 6-3, 303-pound right guard, has made 24 starts; and Cyrus Kouandjio, a 6-6, 311-pound left tackle, started all 13 games this season.

“They’re a big offensive line,” said Tuitt, a 6-6, 303-pound defensive end. “They’re tough and physical. They’ll keep running the ball. They produce a lot of open runs for their running backs. So it’s going to be a tough game in the trenches.”

Along with Nix and Tuitt, the Irish will also throw in starter Kapron Lewis-Moore, a 6-4, 306-pound defensive end who starts with them.

Lewis-Moore has 39 tackles with 8 1/2 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Notre Dame reserve lineman Sheldon Day, a 6-2, 286-pound end; Kona Schwenke, a 6-4, 290-pound nose tackle; and former Bishop Dwenger standout Tony Springmann, a 6-6, 300-pounder who plays both end and nose tackle, have combined for 36 tackles with 6 1/2 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks.

“We love a physical game,” said Tuitt, who has 42 tackles with 13 tackles for loss. “The offensive line for Alabama is probably one of the best offensive lines we’ve gone against.

“It will be really exciting to prepare for them.”

tkrausz@jg.net

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