Watch these four when Notre Dame and BYU meet in Las Vegas
No. 16 BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS
(18) GUNNER ROMNEY
Coming off a 2021 season in which he caught 34 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns to help the Cougars go 10-3, Romney seemed headed for the NFL. With his quickness — 4.45 seconds in the 40 — sure hands and route running, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder certainly would find a spot on Sundays. Instead, he insisted there was unfinished business at BYU and returned for a fifth year. One reason was that Romney aimed to play a full season at full health after being hampered by injuries over his career. On the third day of fall camp, Romney suffered a lacerated kidney and missed BYU’s first four games.
He returned last week in the home win over Utah State with four catches for 51 yards. There’s still more for him to show, and he aims to show it against Notre Dame in Las Vegas. Last year in the season opener against Arizona at Allegiant Stadium, Romney, a distant relative to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, suffered a sprained MCL. He's pointed to this return visit as a second chance to make a big impression in Vegas.
(31) MAX TOOLEY
Here’s all you need to know about the 6-2, 215-pound junior flash linebacker (i.e. rover) from Bountiful, Utah, who served his Mormon mission in London during his redshirt freshman season. Tooley has scored more touchdowns off interception returns — including one last week on a tipped pass that he took to the end zone from 34 yards — than all of the Irish wide receivers combined. Seriously.
Tooley’s two picks both have been returned for scores. Irish wide receivers have found the end zone only once through the first four games. Tooley has 29 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack this season. He made a career high 13 stops in the double overtime win against Baylor. In 45 career games in Provo, Tooley has 191 tackles.
He also plays on the edge — not from a defensive position standpoint, per se, but a maniacal one. Tooley was tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Utah State after he wrestled free the cleat of Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas and tossed it aside. Can’t do that.
On a defensive unit that can use a little more of it, there’s some swagger there from Tooley.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
(4) LORENZO STYLES
Now four games in, the sophomore wideout from Pickerington, Ohio remains the answer to a stagnant trivia question — who has the longest play from scrimmage this season for Notre Dame?
It’s Styles, whose catch and run for 54 yards on the first play of the season from scrimmage at Ohio State remains the top play for an Irish offense that seemingly started to find itself in the Sept. 24 win at North Carolina. That includes Styles, who also found the end zone for the first time this year and second in his career. Styles has 16 catches for 221 yards and the score, but there seems like there’s still more waiting to be unlocked.
Coordinator Tommy Rees dived deep into the playbook in the win over North Carolina. More of the same could be on tap against a BYU defense that looked at times like UNC in the win over Utah State. Rather than dial up some different looks from all-everything tight end Michael Mayer or running backs Logan Diggs and Chris Tyree, how about a little something extra for Styles? The wide receiver core sure could use it.
(24) JACK KISER
A position group that was expected to be one of strength heading into the 2022 season has instead been one of struggles. Bo Bauer has struggled. JD Bertrand has struggled — just to stay on the field. His second targeting tackle in as many weeks will cost him the first half of Saturday’s game. Marist Liufau has struggled.
All have showed signs, but then there’s Kiser, the 6-1 5/8, 223-pound junior from Royal Center, Indiana. All he’s done is deliver. Kiser’s coming off a career high nine tackles against North Carolina. He had five stops on the Tar Heels’ opening drive. He leads the Irish in tackles with 26 this season. He’s played a little here, a little there and has produced everywhere.
Bertrand is down for another half, so look for Kiser to again hold it all together from wherever he might line up in coordinator Al Golden’s defense. With a third of the season already in the books, Kiser’s on pace for 104 tackles. His career best, which occurred last season, is 45.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.