SOUTH BEND – Louis Nix III has done the math.
The 6-foot-2, 357-pound Notre Dame nose guard added up the plays he was in last season, subtracted the plays he was out, multiplied the number of games in a season and found a formula in which he can help the Irish more this season.
I averaged what 50, 60 plays a game? Nix said. The defense averages 80. Thats 20 plays Im not in 12 games we play, thats 200, 300 plus plays. If I can stay in the game that whole time, thats 300 plays more I can make something happen, if I push myself. Thats what Im here to do. Im trying to take on that challenge of being in the game those 200, 300 more plays.
While Nix wants to increase his playing time, he isnt decreasing his mass.
The senior added 31 pounds since last season but has retained his quickness and appears slimmer than last year.
I did all the drills and did everything (strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo) threw out there in front of us. I did pretty well, being a big guy, Nix said.
I feel like Im leaner than I was last year. I feel better. I feel healthier, great blood pressure, the hearts working well, knees dont hurt as much, back is all right. Im feeling good and ready to hit the field and start the season.
Nixs tackle numbers held steady between his first year in 2011 to last season. He had 45 tackles as a sophomore and 50 tackles last year.
But he was able to get in the opponents backfield more in 2012. Nixs tackles for loss jumped from 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 , and after getting credit for half a sack as a sophomore, he had two last season.
Coach Brian Kelly said he expects even more from Nix this season.
Here is a young man, again, that knows in his last season of competition, its his chance to make his mark, Kelly said. Its his opportunity to help lead a football team back to a championship. He knows it can be done. So then it becomes on him to be that guy on the field every snap. I know one of his goals, and Coach Longo worked closely with him in getting his volume so he could be on the field. When your best player is on the field every snap, youre a better football team. He committed to that. Thats him making that conscious decision that he wanted to be that guy.
So, again, maturity, right? That senior year does something to you when its your last year. All those things came together. He wanted that to happen.
Nixs contributions are not limited to the defense.
He is also helping offensive lineman Nick Martin, who is expected to start at center for the first time in his career, get better at practice.
Being able to go against, as I think, the best nose guard in the country, its only going to make you better, Martin said.
Seeing how he works, he comes off the ball really hard. Hes quick. Hes a bigger guy. Going against him is going to get me better.
Nix, who is being projected as a first-round draft pick after this season, may not be done helping Notre Dame. As he reminded everyone, he didnt play as a freshman.
We will see. I still have a fifth year, so we will see what happens, Nix said.