Toledo at Notre Dame: Four players to watch

Tom Noie
ND Insider

TOLEDO AT NOTRE DAME

Notre Dame Will linebacker JD Bertrand made a team-high 11 tackles in his first career start against Florida State.

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

NOTRE DAME 

LB JD BERTRAND 

Pushing projected starter Marist Liufau at the Will linebacker spot during preseason camp, Bertrand always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to make the right play. He jumped into the top of the rotation leading into the Florida State game after Liufau suffered a season-ending ankle injury. In his first career start, Bertrand held up in the Florida heat and humidity. He tallied a team-high 11 tackles, including six solo stops, in Sunday’s overtime victory.  

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior from Alpharetta, Ga., made seven total tackles over his first two years in a reserve/special teams role. There were a lot of questions about the Irish defense coming clear of the opener. The work of Bertrand and how/if he might carry himself as a main guy wasn’t one of them. 

Notre Dame sophomore running back Chris Tyree has the potential to do something explosive each time he touches the ball.

RB CHRIS TYREE 

The true sophomore did a little of everything against Florida State. He ran seven times for 31 yards and scored Notre Dame’s only rushing touchdown. He caught four passes for 10 yards. Each time he got the ball, he seemed to be on the cusp of breaking a big-gainer.  

That included special teams, when Tyree had a chance at a potential big runback on a kick return, but instead chose to fair-catch it. Look for him to get a few more chances at big plays against the Rockets. He’s proven that he can go it alone in the backfield or split work with Kyren Williams. Either way, there’s more there for him to show and to do. Same goes for the Irish ground game, which finished with only 65 yards first time out. 

Former Notre Dame reserve Jonathan Jones is now a starting linebacker at Toledo.

TOLEDO 

LB JONATHAN JONES 

The name and the game should sound and look familiar to Irish fans. Jones spent three seasons (2017-19) in South Bend as a reserve linebacker/special teams contributor before leaving for Toledo as a graduate transfer in the spring of 2020. 

Now in his second season with the Rockets, the 5-11, 230-pound Jones tied for the team lead in tackles with seven in the opener against Norfolk State as a starting inside linebacker. In six games with one start last season, Jones finished with 19 tackles. The Ocoee, Florida native appeared in 38 games at Notre Dame and made 16 career tackles. He’s currently pursuing an MBA in marketing. 

Toledo running back Bryant Koback has rushed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns in his career with the Rockets, who visit Notre Dame on Saturday.

RB BRYANT KOBACK 

A transfer who spent one year at Kentucky, Koback rushed for 52 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in last week’s 49-10 win over Norfolk State. He helped the Rockets finish with 205 rushing yards and also caught a team-high three passes for 35 yards. 

In his fourth season with the Rockets, the 6-foot, 210-pound Koback has rushed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns. A native of Holland, Ohio, the team captain was on the preseason Doak Walker Award watch list. The last time Toledo played a full college season in 2019, Koback rushed for 1,167 yards and 12 scores. That included a career high 259 yards against Eastern Michigan. 

Koback will get some chances Saturday. Will he get some yards against an Irish defense that allowed the Seminoles to run for 264 yards?  

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