Players to watch: Notre Dame vs. Duke

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

A look at a few players to watch in Saturday’s game (2:30 p.m. EDT on NBC) between Associated Press No. 10 Notre Dame and Duke.


One of the bigger surprises on the Notre Dame depth chart, Kyren Williams now has his chance to impress as the lead running back. But how big of a workload will the sophomore assume? Probably not much. Notre Dame will feature a crowded backfield beyond Williams that includes running backs Chris Tyree, Jafar Armstrong, C’Bo Flemister and Jahmir Smith. If the Irish go running back-by-committee, Williams will need to make use of his 10-15 touches to cement himself as RB1 and earn more opportunities.


Following three season-ending injuries and a dislocated elbow suffered last season, Crawford’s biggest concern is still his health. More questions arose, though, once the Irish moved him from cornerback to strong safety. His experience, ball skills and talent in coverage are undeniable. How well Crawford can cover tight ends remains to be seen. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, Crawford is undersized for a safety. The position group’s success will be determined by how Crawford handles that size discrepancy — like when he’s matched up against Duke tight end Noah Gray (6-4, 240).


Duke totaled 197 yards and committed two costly turnovers in its 38-7 loss against Notre Dame last season. For the Blue Devils to have a chance this time, quarterback Chase Brice needs to carry the offense and rarely make mistakes. The Clemson transfer showed he’s capable at times while backing up Trevor Lawrence. He even helped Clemson defeat Syracuse in 2018 while Lawrence was sidelined with an injury. Brice must take advantage of a vulnerable Irish secondary and get the ball to his top playmakers in wide receiver Jalon Calhoun, running back Deon Jackson and Gray.


Maybe no one on Duke poses a larger threat to Notre Dame than defensive end Chris Rumph II. Despite starting just one of 25 games in his career, Rumph has tallied a 72 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, four pass breakups and 13 quarterback pressures. The Irish offensive line figures to be among the best, if not the best, in pass protection nationally. So Rumph’s battles with that position group figure to be a sight to behold.

Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams (23) stiff arms New Mexico’s Michael LoVett III (14) on Sept. 14, 2019.
NFL scouts have taken notice of Duke’s Chris Rumph II (96), who sacks Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara (10) in a Sept. 14, 2019 game.

No. 10 NOTRE DAME (0-0) vs. DUKE (0-0)

Kickoff: Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EDT

Where: Notre Dame Stadium


Radio: WSBT (AM 960, FM 96.1), WNSN-FM (101.5)

Line: Notre Dame by 19½