Noie: Four players to watch in Georgia Tech-Notre Dame football game
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RB JAHMYR GIBBS
When Georgia Tech wants to do something with the football, odds are No. 1 is involved. Run it? Gibbs has rushed for a team-high 687 yards and four touchdowns on 129 carries. So, there’s that.
Throw it? The 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore from Dalton, Georgia has caught 35 passes for 474 yards and two scores. Return it after the other team scores? Yep, Gibbs is that guy there as well. He's run back 20 kicks for 519 yards and one score, that a 98-yarder in Saturday’s 41-30 loss to Boston College, where he finished with 224 all-purpose yards.
Gibbs is tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns and leads the Ramblin’ Wreck with 1,680 all-purpose yards. An honorable mention All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season as a true freshman, Gibbs had 14 carries for 61 yards and caught five passes for 49 yards in the Halloween home loss to Notre Dame. Do anything? Do everything? That’s Gibbs.On Monday, Brian Kelly opined that Gibbs should be player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He's that good.
LB QUEZ JACKSON
Seems like a week cannot pass without Notre Dame crossing paths with a really good linebacker. This week, that’s again a guy named Jackson, a 6-1, 215-pound senior from Fort Valley, Georgia. Last time these teams met, Jackson made a then-career high 11 tackles. He topped that with a personal best 14 stops in an Oct. 2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Jackson hasn’t missed a game (45) in his collegiate career. He's made 241 tackles and counting. That includes the team lead in solo stops (43) assists (54) and total tackles (97) this season. Throw in five tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries and five games of at least nine-plus tackles. He’s the cousin of five-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Lloyd. Jackson is wearing only one of his usual two 4s on his jersey this season after Tech “retired” 44 for 2021-22 to honor the late Henry Aaron.
QB JACK COAN
You’ll notice a common thread for the two Irish to watch in this one. Saturday is Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium, and the short-timer Coan will play his seventh and final home game for the Irish after arriving as a graduate student from Wisconsin.
Nobody really knew what the Irish had in Coan when he stepped into the starting spot — an impossible spot — for Ian Book, the school's all-time leader for wins by a quarterback. Coan is on his way to maxing out his brief stay in South Bend. His right arm and decision making helped the Irish pull out late/overtime wins over Florida State, Toledo and Virginia Tech en route to a likely 11-1 finish. He’s thrown for 2,011 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games and been everything the Irish could’ve asked for at quarterback in his lone season. It’s not a coincidence that Notre Dame is 9-1 and ranked AP No. 6 with the ever-calm and collected Coan under center. He came here to do a job and has done it well.
NT KURT HINISH
Take a minute to appreciate No. 41 when he runs out of the tunnel for the final time. Nobody has played in more games at Notre Dame than the Pittsburgh native. Think about that. Saturday is career game No. 59 for Hinish, who’s only missed three over his five seasons. Two were earlier this year. It’s often hard to notice the nose tackle, but when he wasn’t in the middle of everything, you noticed.
Hinish has 24 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks this season. Two games ago, he earned the game ball for a career high 10 tackles. He didn’t make a single stop last week in the win at Virginia, but that doesn’t much matter. His value has far exceeded whatever the final stats might say. He gave this defense, gave this program, an edge. That counts for something. Guys will talk about him and what he meant to this program long after he’s gone.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI