The Notre Dame Fighting Irish beat Michigan in South Bend, Indiana in the first game of the 2018 season by a score of 24-17. The game was full of coulda-shoulda-woulda moments for Michigan, and Notre Dame ultimately did enough to grab a W and ride a winning streak all the way to the College Football Playoff.
For 2019, Notre Dame has high expectations yet again, and although they’ve lost a few talented players to the NFL, they return a bevy of experienced players that can do damage on any given Saturday.
Notre Dame Players to Watch
Ian Book, QB
This will be Michigan’s first look at Book after the Irish turned the page on starting QB Brandon Wimbush last season, who started against Michigan. In Book’s 8 regular season starts, Notre Dame averaged 36.6 points per game and the offense was firing on all cylinders.
Book is a dual-threat QB that can really scoot with his legs. In 2018, Book rushed for 280 yards and 4 TD’s. Notre Dame ultimately got embarrassed by Clemson in the College Football Playoff, but Book still put together a fine season passing the football, with a 68.2% completion percentage, throwing for 2,628 yards, 19 TD’s and 7 INT’s.
Another year in Chip Long’s offense should provide just as good or better numbers for Book, who still has two of his top targets (we’ll get to them in a moment) to throw to.
Book has become a major leader for Notre Dame and as he goes, so does the Irish. The best thing any team can do to bottle up Book is pressure him. Clemson’s formula worked incredibly well, Book was sacked six times and was running for his life all day. Clemson won 30-3. The Tigers set the template for how to attack Notre Dame on both sides of the ball.
Chase Claypool, WR
Standing at 6-foot-5, Claypool is a big and bad dude who has above-average speed to go along with his physicality. In 2018, Claypool racked up 50 receptions for 639 yards and 4 TD’s, all good for second on the team. Expect his numbers to go up, as Claypool slides into WR No. 1 duties with Miles Boykin’s departure. Claypool has above avergae ability on comeback routes and back shoulder catches. He has enough speed to stretch a defense out and ultimately get 50-50 balls.
Chris Finke, WR
Chris Finke is of the Cole Beasley/Victor Cruz mold at wideout, he’s shifty in the slot and can take a big lick in traffic and hold on to the football. Finke was a reliable option last season, totaling 49 receptions for 571 yards and 2 TD’s. Finke should bump up to WR No. 2 duties but is likely to be used a steady amount in the slot as well. Finke provides an excellent security blanket for Ian Book and defenses need to account for him at all times.
Julian Okwara, DE
Okwara has become a nightmare for quarterbacks. In 2018, Okwara amassed 8 sacks and a whooping 21 QB hits, and also hauled in 1 INT.
Alohi Gilman, FS
Gilman was a major asset for the Irish defense in 2018 with 95 tackles (58 solo) and 2 INT’s. Gilman’s best game last season came in ND’s worst game, the 30-3 Cotton Bowl loss against Clemson. Gilman didn’t quit from whistle to whistle and had a remarkable 19 tackles on the day. Gilman is a high effort player who always seems to be by the football.