Notre Dame at Florida State: Four players to watch

Tom Noie
ND Insider

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

NOTRE DAME 

QB JACK COAN 

Jack Coan will get to know what life is like as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame right from the start of the 2021 season.

Welcome to Notre Dame, Mr. Coan, who steps in for someone (Ian Book) who took his school-record 30 wins to the NFL in the spring. Coan has made 18 career starts at quarterback, but this will be his first at Notre Dame as a graduate transfer from Wisconsin. 

Coan was favored to earn the job since spring, mainly because he’s older and has been through the college football battles. He's what this Notre Dame needs right now. Last time he played a full season, he led Wisconsin to a 10-4 record. He’s sure and he’s steady, traits that should serve him and the Irish well on a hot night in Doak Campbell Stadium. The job of being Irish QB isn’t easy, but it’s one Coan seems suited to do. He won’t have to win a game by himself, but he also won’t lose one. 

Nov 30, 2019; Stanford, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive back Kyle Hamilton (14) jogs on the field during the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

FS KYLE HAMILTON 

Get a good look at No. 14 roaming the Irish secondary now, because every game down this season means another step closer to the NFL for the three-year starter at free safety. A 2021 first team preseason All-American selection, Hamilton led the Irish in tackles (63) a year ago. Many believe he’ll be even better a third time around as an older soul who better understands how to best put himself in position to make plays. 

In defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman’s scheme, Hamilton’s headed for a lot of plays to be made. As a tackler, as a ball hawk, as an overall problem (eraser) for offensive coordinators. He’ll likely show us every week, and starting Sunday night, why he’s a lock as a first-round NFL draft pick come spring. 

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis is a dual threat, something Notre Dame learned last season.

FLORIDA STATE 

QB JORDAN TRAVIS 

Only a handful of players last season outside of games against Alabama and Clemson pushed the Notre Dame defense on its collective heels, but Florida State quarterback Travis was one. 

Travis was trouble to deal with in a 42-26 loss in South Bend. He rushed for 92 yards and a score and threw for 204 more and another TD. His versatility kept the Irish guessing, and not always in a good way. The redshirt sophomore and former Louisville signal-caller broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (set 28 years prior by Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward) in his first season. After not getting the starting job until the fourth game of the year, Travis ran for 559 yards and seven scores. He also completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,056 yards and six TDs. 

Former Central Florida QB McKenzie Milton also remains in the mix to start. Stay tuned. 

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Amari Gainer has moved inside for the 2021 season

ILB AMARI GAINER 

As Florida State’s leading tackler last season (65), the redshirt sophomore was supposed to move inside to better tap into his myriad talents and turn him loose against opposing offenses. He's still at the STUD spot (outside) he played last year. He can run and cover and rush the quarterback, but he also can tackle. Gainer made 11 stops in last season’s game in South Bend, and likely will have at least that many in Sunday's opener. He’s big (6-foot-3, 237 pounds) and he’s fast and he plays furious. He’s a throwback to when the Seminoles had a dozen guys like that on defense. The Tallahassee native knows where this program used to be – and needs to get back to being.

Irish fans will spend much of Sunday looking to see where the key offensive guys are and what they’re doing. They also may want to keep an eye on No. 33. He’ll likely be around the ball. A lot. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI