Keep an eye on these 4 players in Notre Dame home opener against Marshall

Players to watch Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium

Tom Noie
ND Insider

MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD

(8) KHALAN LABORN

Running back

Former Florida State running back Khalan Laborn busted loose for a big game in Marshall's opener against Norfolk State.

Playing a rare sixth season, the Florida State transfer and one-time Notre Dame offer coming out of high school in Virginia Beach, Virginia (Bishop Sullivan Catholic), Laborn ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the Herd’s 55-3 opening-weekend win over Norfolk State. He had zero carries for negative yards as Marshall racked up 380 total yards and averaged 7.5 per rush. 

The yards will be tougher to come by this weekend for Laborn, who was not expected to be the main back in the Marshall run game attack this season. That would be redshirt sophomore Rasheem Ali, who scored the most touchdowns in the country last season (25), including 24 on the ground. Ali ran for 1,401 yards in 2021, but the school announced late last month that he was stepping away from football for an undisclosed amount of time to deal with an undisclosed issue. 

There is no indication that Ali will be back Saturday, so look to Laborn to handle the heavy lifting in the run game.

(7) ABRAHAM BEAUPLAN

Inside linebacker 

Marshall inside linebacker Abraham Beauplan often is hard to handle on the football field.

A second team All-Sun Belt Conference pick in preseason, Beauplan just finds his way to the football from his inside ‘backer spot. He earned first team all-league (Conference USA) last season after leading the Herd in tackles (110) and tackles for loss (11) to go with 2.5 sacks. 

Beauplan also made a team-high 133 tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss in his final year at Navarro (Texas) Junior College in 2019. Two years ago, he arrived at Marshall at 6-foot, 220 pounds. He’s now 6-2, 235. 

Beauplan was one of 100 college football “freaks” identified in preseason by The Athletic. What makes him a freak? The kid’s been clocked as quick as 4.5 seconds in the 40. He has a 37-inch vertical leap, can bench-press 385 pounds and squat 565. 

A redshirt senior from Boynton Beach, Florida, Beauplan made four tackles with one tackle for loss in Saturday’s opener. 

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

(7) ISAIAH FOSKEY

Vyper defensive end

Notre Dame defensive end Isaiah Foskey was too quiet in the opener against No. 2 Ohio State.

Foskey’s first-game numbers were fine. He had two solo tackles and two assists for four total tackles in Saturday’s loss at No. 2 Ohio State. Other than the stops, that was it on the stats sheet for one of the six Irish captains. 

No tackles for loss. No sacks. No passes defended. Nothing else. Four tackles. That was it. For someone like Foskey, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, Notre Dame needs much more. Get to the quarterback, cause a fumble, fall on it, knock down a potential screen pass. Scare the left tackle into a couple of false starts. Do something that tells the guys on the other team that they’re in for the longest four quarters of their college football existence. 

He was just kind of there last time out. He’s better than just being there. Saturday’s game is there waiting to be disrupted, and No. 7 is just the guy that can/should do it. 

(87) MICHAEL MAYER

Tight end

Is this the week that we see why Notre Dame junior Michael Mayer is considered the elite of the elite tight ends in the country?

Much like Foskey from a defensive standpoint, Mayer is held to a higher standard when the Irish have the football. He led the team at Ohio Stadium with five catches, but tallied a mere 32 yards, and no touchdowns. Subtract his longest catch and run — 17 yards — and Mayer went for four catches and 15 yards. He made three catches in the game's first 10 minutes − then only two the final 50.

That's definitely un-Mayer-like. So was seeing him cut a route short on third down, when his catch and quick OSU tackle left the Irish one yard short of a first down. So was seeing him fumble on another catch and run that had big-play potential. Mayer’s a seven-, eight-, nine-catch guy for well over 100 yards every time out. Maybe a few trips into the end zone to boot. 

Mayer was good Saturday, but he’s better than just good. Maybe we see the real Mayer against Marshall. He — and the Irish offense — are due for a bust out after that bare-knuckle, alley brawl against the Buckeyes. Saturday’s when it should start. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.