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Nix, Tuitt a contrast in styles for Notre Dame

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Nix, Tuitt a contrast in styles for Notre Dame

MIAMI (AP) Louis Nix III is the talker. Stephon Tuitt is the thinker.

Put them together, and you've got the start of quite a stout defensive line for top-ranked Notre Dame.

Personality-wise, there would seem to be little that links the loquacious Nix and the church-quiet Tuitt. Yet both on and off the field, they find ways to click in just about every way imaginable - and they're generally considered the two most productive defensive linemen on an Irish team that plays No. 2 Alabama on Monday night in the BCS title game.

``Guys want to talk, I like to talk,'' Nix said Saturday. ``Tuitt, he just hits people. I think that's the talking he does.''

For the Irish, it works.

Nix, Notre Dame's stellar nose guard, leads the line with 45 tackles despite regularly seeing double-teams, at minimum - and he was chosen as the team's defensive lineman of the year. Tuitt had a breakout season, 42 tackles and a team-best 12 sacks from his defensive end spot, along with a fumble return for a score in the season-opening win over Navy.

That seems so long ago. The Irish were unranked then, and now are not only No. 1 in the land, but one win away from maybe a most unlikely national title.

``It's exciting. I'm glad to be here,'' Tuitt said. ``It's something we've worked for all year. We made it. We've worked hard for six weeks and we're ready to come out and play.''

So much about their personalities was made clear on Saturday when the Irish arrived at Sun Life Stadium for the BCS media day festivities.

Tuitt took a spot inside a tent, his backpack obstructing the number and name on the back of his jersey. Nix, on the other hand, stood outside the tent, surrounded by a half-dozen television cameras as he discussed the upcoming return of his reality show of sorts, a YouTube sensation he calls ``Chocolate News'' where he basically shows snippets of behind-the-scenes life at Notre Dame.

``Chocolate News'' has been on hiatus this fall, with Nix simply too busy because of football.

``Hopefully I have one soon, depending on how this game goes,'' Nix said, when asked when the next episode is coming. ``If we win, I'll be happy and I'll have one out the next day.''

Sitting nearby, Tuitt could hear his affable teammate, and just grinned.

``I'm just the person who's just here,'' Tuitt said. ``I don't really do that much talking.''

Except on the field. That is, with his play - not even words there.

``Tuitt? He doesn't talk on the field at all,'' Nix said. ``No. He doesn't talk on the field at all. Like, he'll talk with us, talk with his team. He doesn't talk at all.''

It's probably not a coincidence that Tuitt's two highest-tackle games this season came in Notre Dame's two closest escapes. He had seven tackles in a 20-13 overtime win over Stanford, and six stops in a 29-26 triple-overtime win against Pittsburgh.

Between Heisman finalist Manti Te'o, Nix and Tuitt, Notre Dame's offense gets to regularly go up against three of the toughest challenges in the nation in practice.

Don't think that isn't one of the reasons why the Irish have made it to Miami.

``Going against guys like Manti and Tuitt and Louis and those guys, you have to be on your assignments,'' offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``You have to be on your technique or you're going to get beat.''

Nix may be at the center of perhaps the biggest mano-a-mano matchup in the title game, when he lines up across from Alabama center Barrett Jones.

It's one of those tussles that both players have been thinking about for weeks.

``I think I've gone up against a lot of good players,'' Nix said of Jones. ``But this guy, he's the cream of the crop. Everybody's talking about him. So I'm just glad that I got the opportunity and we've got the opportunity to play against him.''

Added Jones: ``It's going to be one in the trenches. It's going to be a game that certainly comes down to who wins up front, on both sides of the ball.''

Different styles, different personalities aside, Nix and Tuitt have come to rely on one another, both on and off the field.

They do speak and text often, and Tuitt said Nix - even though the positional duties are considerably different - makes him better.

``We're good off the field,'' Tuitt said. ``We're two good teammates. We believe in one another. He's a really good guy and I look up to him, because he can teach me a lot of things. It's a different feeling when it's game time. It's time to go out there with the right mindset to help my teammates out. I don't play for myself. I play for my teammates, so that's what makes it different when it's time to play.''

No other words need be said.

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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