Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Duke

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

A look at a few players to watch in Saturday’s game (7:30 p.m. EST on ACC Network) between No. 15 Notre Dame (6-2) and Duke (4-4).

RB TONY JONES Jr., Notre Dame

Jones is expected to make his first return to action since tearing cartilage in his ribs against Michigan. The senior’s involvement in the Irish offense is worth monitoring. With Jafar Armstrong as the featured running back in last week’s game against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame struggled to run the ball between its offensive tackles. The Irish amassed 25 yards on Armstrong’s 13 inside runs, and only two of those 13 surpassed three yards. A healthy Jones makes the Irish running game more complete, especially for short yardage situations.

CB TROY PRIDE Jr., Notre Dame

The switch from field to boundary cornerback has been challenging for Pride at times. Virginia Tech’s Damon Hazelton was the latest wide receiver to best Pride on a few occasions. Pride often finds himself in the right position, but he struggles to finish plays or break up jump balls with success or without drawing a pass interference penalty. The senior has not recorded an interception since game four of 2018 against Wake Forest as well. Look for Pride to bounce back against a Duke squad that lacks a dynamic receiver.

QB QUENTIN HARRIS, Duke

A dual-threat quarterback will always be a threat against Notre Dame’s run defense, ranked No. 72 nationally. But the Irish defense tends to sellout against the run or pass depending on the opposition’s strengths. Expect them to challenge Harris — who enters the contest with a team-leading six rushing touchdowns, gaining 408 yards on 104 carries — to throw. The senior completed just 50 percent of his passes in four October games combined and has eclipsed 180 yards passing against a Power Five opponent only once in six attempts. Harris cannot afford to perform like Virginia Tech quarterback Quincy Patterson Jr. did through the air last week.

S MARQUIS WATERS, Duke

If Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book continues to struggle, junior safety Marquis Waters could be the one to take advantage. The two-year starter ties for Duke’s lead in interceptions (two) and pass breakups (five) and ranks fourth in tackles with 43. Waters may also be tasked with bracketing top Irish targets in tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Chase Claypool over the top in coverage. Another main responsibility for Waters will be tackling Notre Dame’s other playmakers in space. That includes Book, who has rushed for at least 45 yards in four of Notre Dame’s eight games.

Notre Dame cornerback Troy Pride Jr. (5) has yet to record an interception this season.
Duke quarterback Quentin Harris (18) passes against North Carolina on Oct. 26
A pass gets past Michigan’s Ronnie Bell (8) as Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. (5) defends him during the Notre Dame-Michigan NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.