Notre Dame 2012 Top 25 countdown: No. 3

Today brings us to one of hte nation's best pass-rushers.

No. 3: Stephon Tuitt, DE

Making the case: Tuitt burst onto the national scene as a sophomore in 2012, making many forget about Aaron Lynch after the other highly-touted class of 2011 end transferred to South Florida in the spring. Tuitt was an ESPN.com All-America this season, recording 12 sacks for the nation's No. 2 scoring defense, 13th-most nationally. He fell just shy of Justin Tuck's school single-season record of 13.5. He finished with 47 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, one pass break-up, one pass defended, nine quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick. And, of course, there was his 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the opener against Navy in Dublin, when the 303-pound end looked more like a tailback, with no one coming near him. The scary part for quarterbacks on the Irish's 2013 schedule? Tuitt deemed this a "learning" year. He flew slightly under-the-national-radar entering 2012, as he missed three games his freshman season due to a missed class and mononucleosis, and did not play against Michigan. But he will likely have a very difficult decision to make if his 2013 production is anything like that of 2012, as Tuitt figures to be one of the nation's most-coveted prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.

Preseason ranking: 4

The countdown

No. 4 Tyler Eifert, TE

No. 5 Zack Martin, LT

No. 6 Theo Riddick, RB

No. 7 Braxston Cave, C

No. 8 Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE

No. 9 Zeke Motta, S

No. 10 Prince Shembo, LB

No. 11 Danny Spond, LB

No. 12 T.J. Jones, WR

No. 13 Everett Golson, QB

No. 14 Cierre Wood, RB

No. 15 Bennett Jackson, CB

No. 16 Tommy Rees, QB

No. 17 DaVaris Daniels, WR

No. 18 Chris Watt, LG

No. 19 George Atkinson III, RB

No. 20 Dan Fox, LB

No. 21 Matthias Farley, S

No. 22 KeiVarae Russell, CB

No. 23 Robby Toma, WR

No. 24 Kyle Brindza, K

No. 25 Chris Brown, WR