Four players to watch in Saturday game between No. 14 Notre Dame and Virginia Tech
PLAYERS TO WATCH
MLB DREW WHITE
One of the team captains, White stood at the post-game interview podium following the Cincinnati loss and insisted that one game – one loss – would not define the Irish season. In games like Saturday – coming off a loss, going on the road, playing in a hostile atmosphere, teams need to lean on their veterans. Their captains. Guys like White, who have to deliver.
White’s been a difference maker from his mike linebacker spot the last two weeks. Against Wisconsin, he returned an interception 48 yards for a touchdown. Against Cincinnati, he picked up a fumble and ran 28 yards. White currently ranks fifth on the team in tackles with 21. The 6-foot, 226-pound graduate student has had a solid and steady season at a position that has been hit hard by injury. This defense will be in bounce back/prove it mode for this one. White will make sure of it.
RB KYREN WILLIAMS
Last time Notre Dame visited Virginia Tech – on an October Saturday night in 2018 – it was an Irish running back named Williams who helped bust open a close contest with a big play.
That year, it was Dexter Williams and a 97-yard touchdown run early in the second half that allowed Notre Dame to roll to a 45-23 win. This year’s Irish back named WIlliams is overdue for a big game. Or just a big play. He’s rushed for 289 yards and three scores on 77 carries the first five games, and has caught 14 passes for 174 yards and two scores.
But he’s just been kind of there. He hasn’t busted loose. Saturday would be a good time to see more of the Williams we saw last year. His bio on the school’s athletics web site hasn’t been updated since the Purdue game. That’s too long for someone so key.
RB RAHEEM BLACKSHEAR
A transfer who gained 2,239 total yards during his two-plus seasons at Rutgers, the 5-9, 198-pound Philadelphia native does a little of everything for the Hokies. Blackshear leads Virginia Tech in total yards (365) through four games. He’s rushed for 144, has 122 receiving and 99 yards in kick returns. Blackshear won the job in the spring, when the Hokies’ backfield featured eight would-be contributors.
A redshirt junior, Blackshear’s best outing this season rushing is 53 yards, but he’s capable of hurting teams in all other areas. He’s not going to get the ball 20 or 30 times doing only one assignment, but may get it 15-20 doing a little of everything. With 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Blackshear has admitted that he sometimes plays too fast. When he slows down, he’s good.
LB DAX HOLLIFIELD
Find the football and get to it are the marching orders for Hollifield at his middle linebacker spot. Through four games, he ranks second on the squad in tackles (30) and tops in tackles for loss (4.5 for a team-high 22 yards). He also has three sacks, tied for the team lead, and an interception. The 6-1, 239-pound senior (junior eligibility) played in 36 games his first three seasons.
A native of Shelby, North Carolina, Hollifield was a U.S. Army Bowl All-American coming out of high school, where he made a school record 629 tackles. He had eight stops in Virginia Tech’s previous game against Richmond. Last time Notre Dame and Virignia Tech played in 2019, Hollifield made seven tackles and had his first career interception.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI