Aug. 19, 2003
by Alan Wasielewski
Need to know how big of a factor junior defensive end Justin Tuck can be in a game? Just ask the Pittsburgh Panthers, who Tuck torched for six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass broken up last season.
Better yet, ask teammate and junior Pat Dillingham. Dillingham was harassed by Tuck during the 2003 Blue and Gold Game to the tune of three sacks for a loss of 18 yards. Tuck was eventually named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the scrimmage.
With talent oozing out of every muscle in his long and lanky frame, his teammates are not even sure what to make of him. Described as a freak-of-nature by his teammates, Tuck continues to amaze people every time he steps foot onto the field.
“Tuck has an exceptional talent level,” defensive line coach Greg Mattison says.
“He has one step left to become a complete player. He needs to play the run as well as he plays against the pass.”
Tuck earned third-team All-America honors by The Sporting News in 2002 after compiling 44 tackles (10 for a loss of yards) and five sacks. He also broke up two passes and forced a fumble.
But, as Mattison alluded to, Tuck was not an every-down player for the Irish last fall. He usually was out of the game during running situations and came in at end to rush the passer on passing downs. The Kellyton, Ala., native appeared in all 13 games last season, after sitting out as a freshman.
The number-one goal for Tuck this season is to play every down. Even in his limited role last season, the junior ended up fourth on the team in tackles with 44. Just how much that number will grow depends on Tuck’s development against the run.