Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Louisville

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Below are players to watch in Notre Dame’s Sept. 2 season opener at Louisville.

LG AARON BANKS, Notre Dame

Louisville possesses one of the smallest defensive starting lineups among Power Five schools. Only one of UL’s starters weighs more than 255 pounds. That should play into the hands of Notre Dame’s biggest offensive lineman in 6-foot-6, 325-pound Aaron Banks. At 6-4, 295 pounds, nose tackle G.G. Robinson plays a major role as the centerpiece in the 3-4 Cardinal defense. Banks will be tasked with blocking Robinson and the inside linebackers behind him. Look for Banks’ run-blocking to set the tone if the Irish play with the lead.

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LB DREW WHITE, Notre Dame

An opportunity presents itself for White to show off his best attribute — stopping the run. Cardinal head coach Scott Satterfield features a run-heavy offense with a propensity of zone-blocking schemes. As Notre Dame’s middle linebacker, White will be tasked with shaking off blockers and using his instincts to jump into running lanes before it’s too late. Te’von Coney led the Irish with 123 tackles as last year’s starter. In order to mimic Coney’s production, White will need to prove he’s not just a niche linebacker. White can make a solid first impression by flashing impressive coverage skills if a trailing UL squad begins to air it out.

LT MEKHI BECTON, Louisville

Left tackle Mekhi Becton will not be responsible for just Julian Okwara or Khalid Kareem. He will be tasked with blocking both of Notre Dame’s standout defensive ends. Because the Irish alternate their ends based on the opposing offense’s formation, Becton’s duties will swap between Okwara and Kareem. If anyone can handle such a responsibility, it’s the 6-7, 369-pound Becton. No player on the Cardinals ranks higher on NFL Draft boards than Becton. Head coach Brian Kelly said in his Wednesday press conference that the junior looks like a high draft pick. Becton might not have a better opportunity to prove that in another game this season.

SS RUSS YEAST, Louisville

Remember Russ Yeast? The in-state product out of Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove ultimately chose the Cardinals after taking an official visit to Notre Dame weeks before National Signing Day. The Irish extended a scholarship offer to Yeast in the eleventh hour after missing on all of its cornerback targets in the 2017 recruiting class. Yeast has earned rave reviews from his coaches after transitioning from cornerback to safety this offseason. The 5-11, 196-pound junior mans the strong safety position. Last year’s starter in Dee Smith saw plenty of action in that role, leading the team with 73 tackles. Yeast brings solid coverage skills and will need to help stop the run if Notre Dame take an early lead.

Aaron Banks Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks (69) could play a big role in the Sept. 2 season opener at Louisville.
Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton has first-round NFL Draft potential.
Aaron Banks NavyNotre Dame offensive lineman Aaron Banks (69) made his first career start last season against Navy, which included this celebration with wide receiver Miles Boykin.