Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

• Wake Forest will host Notre Dame on Saturday for its third of five straight home games.

• Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman received the starting spot for Wake Forest after redshirt junior Kendall Hinton was suspended for three games to start the season. Hartman threw for 834 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions in his first three starts.

• Wake Forest has featured a three-headed rushing attack with running backs Cade Carney (300 yards), Matt Colburn II (196) and Hartman (193).

RB Tony Jones Jr.

Jones finally received a full workload in Notre Dame’s win over Vanderbilt. He took advantage in his second career start with 17 carries for 118 yards. Jones establishing himself as a reliable runner alongside quarterback Brandon Wimbush and in rotation with running back Jafar Armstrong should make the Irish offense more consistent. Just don’t think Jones produces fewer big plays. He already has accounted for four of Notre Dame’s seven runs of at least 15 yards this season. Jones can play a huge role in helping the Irish keep Wake Forest’s fast-paced offense off the field.

S Jalen Elliott

Notre Dame’s cornerbacks will have their hands full covering Wake Forest’s Greg Dortch in the slot. That means the Irish safeties will need to help them out. Both Elliott and Alohi Gilman have to keep their responsibilities in front of them to prevent big plays. Elliott has shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time with his two interceptions. He made Kalija Lipscomb’s attempt at a leaping fourth-down conversion more difficult late in the Vanderbilt game, too.

WR Greg Dortch

The electric redshirt sophomore is back torching opposing teams after recovering from a punctured small intestine last season. That injury forced Dortch to miss the Notre Dame game in November after a prolific start to the season — 53 catches for 722 yards and nine touchdowns. The Irish will have to deal with the pain Dortch frequently inflicts on opponents Saturday. He leads the nation with 224.7 all-purpose yards per game in 2018. Dortch leads the Demon Deacons with 28 receptions for 336 yards. He’s scored twice on punt returns and once on a reception. Notre Dame will need to identify Dortch in every situation.

CB Essang Bassey

Cornerbacks usually don’t lead teams in tackles. But that’s exactly what Bassey’s done through the first three games of the season for Wake Forest. He has a team-high in solo tackles (12) and total tackles (22). Bassey’s excellent in coverage too. A year after tying the school record with 19 passes defended, Bassey already has registered five in 2018 — one interception and four pass breakups. Notre Dame will need to be careful when throwing Bassey’s way.

Notre Dame running back Tony Jones Jr. (6) has four runs of at least 15 yards this season.
Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch is a threat to score on offense and special teams.