SOUTH BEND – On this side of the line, standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing in at 322 pounds and wearing No. 7 – Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt.
On the other side, standing 6 feet, 8 inches tall, weighing in at 315 pounds and wearing No. 77 – Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan.
It’s the irresistible force meeting the immovable object when Saturday night’s main event between the No. 14 Irish (1-0) and the No. 17 Wolverines (1-0) kicks off at Michigan Stadium.
Everything about a tackle, he has, Tuitt said of Lewan. Me going against him is a great matchup and a great opportunity for me to showcase the things that I worked on this summer, and an opportunity for him to showcase what he worked on this summer. I’m expecting a great matchup between me and him.
The two heavyweights will not line up against each other on every play as Tuitt will be positioned away from Lewan on certain calls. But when the two are lined up opposite each other, it will be a clash of two of the game’s best.
Tuitt opened the season with three tackles and a sack in a 28-6 win over Temple as he led all Irish defensive linemen by being in for 58 snaps. He entered the season as a preseason first-team All-American pick by Lindy’s, ESPN, Phil Steele, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports.
Tuitt had 12 sacks last year and earned second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press, and he is tied for 10th with Darius Fleming on Notre Dame’s all-time sacks list with 15.
They’re a great defensive line, Lewan told reporters Monday. Their front seven is pretty good. Overall, they’re all good. I’m excited for the opportunity that our young offensive line gets to go against them on Saturday.
Lewan was projected to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft before he decided to return to Michigan for a fifth year. He has given up one sack in 36 starts and has started 29 consecutive games.
Lewan was named a first-team All-American by the AP after last season, and he also came into this year with plenty of preseason accolades, being tabbed as a first-team All-American by ESPN, CBS Sports, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News.
When you have (Lewan) on the edge, they’re going to try to run to his side, coach Brian Kelly said. 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 had two tackles with one for loss in Notre Dame’s 13-6 home victory over Michigan last year, but he didn’t play when the Irish and Wolverines hooked up in the first night game in Michigan Stadium history two years ago.
Kelly said Tuitt and then-fellow freshman Aaron Lynch were held out of the 2011 game because he didn’t feel as though they were at a point where they were ready to play in the raucous 109,901-seat Big House.
Tuitt is more than ready to perform on that stage this season.
He understands more of the game plan now, linebacker Jarrett Grace said. He’s definitely understanding his role. He doesn’t just have to be Godzilla out there, throwing everyone around. He can be Godzilla focused in one area and taking everyone out.