Irish hope bigger is better along D-line

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Basketball has always been one of Kapron Lewis-Moore's loves, and so the Notre Dame defensive end went out to shoot some hoops recently. But things didn't feel the same.

"I was just like, 'Nah,'" he said. "I wasn't as agile. I couldn't jump as high."

That will happen when you add nearly 50 pounds to your frame in a little over a year and a half. Lewis-Moore came to campus a skinny, 220-something pounder when he signed with the Irish in February 2008. Today, he's checking in at around 270 pounds.

"I don't know what's going on with the body," he said.

He attributes his quick gains to spending lots of time in the weight room, something he rarely did in high school while he played three sports year round. His mama's home cooking back in Weatherford, Texas, didn't hurt either, as he chowed down on chicken, mac and cheese and cornbread during school breaks.

"I've pretty much been eating healthy," he said. "But when I feel hungry, I'm going to eat."

The physical transformation has helped Lewis-Moore, who played on the scout team and never saw a live snap in 2008, ascend to the top of the depth chart at defensive end this summer for the Irish. Notre Dame is hoping he's one of many who have become bigger and better.

Opponents were often able to run the ball right down Notre Dame's throat last year. The Irish allowed an average of 169 yards rushing in their six losses in 2008. Being stronger at the point of attack is a must this season.

And stronger is exactly what the defensive line appears to be.

Nose tackle Ian Williams was one of the team's best run-stoppers a year ago and is now in even better shape at 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds. Head coach Charlie Weis raved about how Williams cleaned nearly 400 pounds in the weight room this summer.

"That's unheard of," Weis said. "That's a guy who is playing on a nose, a guy who can clean close to 400; that's what you're looking for. Doesn't make a difference if you're playing on Sunday, that's what you're looking for, a guy that can hold the point."

Sophomore tackle Ethan Johnson looks to move into a full-time starting role after playing in every game as a freshman. He's bulked up nearly 20 pounds from the start of last season, to 285. Weis called him "a big muchacho."

"I've gotten bigger, but I've maintained the same speed," Johnson said.

Then there's Lewis-Moore, whose athleticism had already impressed the coaching staff a year
ago. Now he's got the power to go along with it.

"[Right tackle] Sam Young is having a little bit more trouble pushing me around," he said.

Like most other positions on the field, the Irish also have lots of depth on the defensive line. They're young there, particularly on the left side with Johnson and Lewis-Moore, but they're getting bigger, which may help them come up bigger against the run.

"I certainly hope so," Williams said. "We should, because we've all gotten stronger. So the answer to that is yes."