Pre-spring breakdown: Defensive line

Our series continues with the defensive line.

Starters returning: Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt

Players returning: Sheldon Day, Tony Springmann, Kona Schwenke, Chase Hounshell, Jarron Jones

Players departing: Kapron Lewis-Moore, Tyler Stockton

Newcomers: Issac Rochell, Eddie Vanderdoes

The breakdown: The defensive front was the strength of Notre Dame's defense in 2012, and it returns the bulk of production up there. While Lewis-Moore will be tough to replace from both a production and a leadership standpoint, Nix and Tuitt are both among the best in the country at their positions. Nix recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble last season. Tuitt fell just shy of Justin Tuck's school season-record for sacks, finishing with 12 (along three forced fumbles, a 77-yard fumble return for a score, and a blocked kick).

After enrolling last spring, Day managed to see the field in every game as a true freshman -- he notched 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a hurry -- and he figures to be the frontrunner to replace the open starting spot this spring. Springmann and Schwenke proved to be valuable reserves as well, while Jones redshirted during his first season and Hounshell sat out the season while recovering from shoulder surgery (after playing as a true freshman in 2011).

Vanderdoes was the last prospect to sign with Notre Dame, and quite possibly the best. The five-star tackle is ESPN's No. 10 overall player in the country, and at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, he has the frame that should give him a chance to play and contribute this fall. Rochell is another ESPN150 player coming into the mix, and the numbers will present both coordinator Bob Diaco and line coach Mike Elston with a good problem to have this offseason.