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Stanford's Lueders returns home for a final shot at Notre Dame

 

Blake Lueders grew up about 130 miles from Notre Dame and it seemed only logical that he would commit to the Irish football program. And he did.

Lueders was the seventh player to verbally commit to Notre Dame during the summer of 2009. That's when things became complicated.

Lueders was part of Charlie Weis' final recruiting class that was headed toward a top-10 ranking before the school fired Weis and brought in Brian Kelly that December.

"The coaching switch allowed me to re-evaluate my options," Lueders said. "I took an official visit to Stanford and it didn't look bad."

Lueders gets a final visit as a college football player to South Bend on Saturday when No. 14 Stanford (3-1) and No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0) square off at 12:30 p.m. (NBC)

It helped that Jim Harbaugh hired Brian Polian and Randy Hart, who held similar positions as assistant coaches at Notre Dame under Weis. Lueders knew them, of course, though he's never stated they were the reason he switched his allegiance to the Cardinal.

Lueders also made a position switch at Stanford, moving to defensive end from linebacker, the position he played at Zionsville Community High. He became a defensive end for last year's game at Utah.

He was originally projected as a defensive end for the Irish, who were looking to develop depth at the position.

The fifth-year senior was moved at Stanford also because of a lack of depth. Henry Anderson was injured and others were banged up and needed down time.

"I made the switch and didn't look back," Lueders said. "I've been at defensive end for a full season now and the extra weight feels natural. Of course, gaining experience there is still huge for me."

Lueders, out with an injury, missed Stanford's last trip to South Bend, which ended in a Notre Dame victory in overtime and some controversy whether Stepfan Taylor broke the plane of the goal line before the play was whistled dead.

"I've been looking forward to this game for a while now," said Lueders, who expects at least 20 family members and friends to attend. "It's exciting, especially as a fifth-year senior, to be flying to my home state to play."

He did play against the Irish as a special teams player his true freshman year (2010) and recorded a tackle as the Cardinal won in South Bend for the first time in 18 years.

Stanford is 3-11 in South Bend, and 10-18 overall against Notre Dame.

Lueders has helped the Cardinal's defense reach the top of the national charts in total defense (198.0 yards per game), passing defense (74.0) and scoring defense (6.5).

"It's hard to judge a defense on stats and numbers," Lueders said.

Stanford has allowed fewer than 30 points in each of the past 27 games, the nation's longest such streak. Opponents have been held to 20 or fewer in each of the past 12 games. Those numbers are a little easier to judge; especially considering how many points the offense has given up due to turnovers.

"We're playing at a real high level right now," Cardinal football coach David Shaw said of the defense. "We haven't given up the long run or the long pass."

Stanford sophomore linebacker Peter Kalambayi stepped in and became the first Stanford player to record three sacks in a game since 2011, helping the Cardinal beat host Washington, 20-13, last week. He recorded six total tackles, five solo. He was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week as a result.

"He has a chance to be a great football players," Shaw said. "This is just the start of it. When Pep Hamilton was recruiting him, he called me from a track meet. Most linebackers are in shot put or discus. Pep said he was running the 100. He's fast, he's explosive and he's physical."

He leads the team with four sacks and five tackles for a loss. James Vaughters, who Shaw said had a big game against the Huskies, has four tackles for a loss. Palo Alto grad Kevin Anderson has 2 1/2 tackles for a loss among his overall 23 tackles. Henry Anderson also has 2 1/2 tackles for a loss. Blake Martinez leads the team with 31 tackles overall.

Senior strong safety Jordan Richards has a team-high 17 solo tackles.

"I feel with this defense, anything is possible," Richards said. "We don't mess with stats. We play within ourselves and play within the defense. We just want to keep big plays off our back. It's not rocket science; it's being the best we can be."

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