Four players to watch when fifth-ranked Clemson football arrives to face Notre Dame

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Defensive end Myles Murphy is just one of a handful of players on the Clemson defense that can be a problem for opposing offenses.



Right defensive end

Murphy has a tendency to get lost in the defensive statistical wash for Clemson, mainly because he’s way down on the tackle list at No. 9. His best tackle effort this season came three weeks ago when he tallied six in the win over Florida State. But you can’t dismiss all he’s done. Otherwise, he’ll do even more to make an opposing offense miserable. 

Murphy has a lot more than just those 28 tackles. He leads the Tigers in tackles for loss (nine) and sacks (5.5). He also has three passes defended and four quarterback pressures. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound junior from Marietta, Georgia knows how to get to the quarterback, knows how to turn games, knows how to make a difference. 

A former five-star, top five recruit, Murphy earned All-American honors as a freshman and All-Atlantic Coast Conference as a sophomore. There’s a lot to like/worry about with the Clemson defense. A lot of that starts with the guy whose Twitter handle is BigMurph25. 

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Back to the scene where it all started for Uiagalelei, who’s been under a critical microscope ever since his debut in 2020 at Notre Dame. Stepping in for starter Trevor Lawrence, who had tested positive for COVID-19, Uiagalelei completed 29 of 44 passes for 439 yards and two touchdowns in the double-overtime loss. That game also ended with people wondering, who is that guy? 

It’s been a hard road since that Saturday night two seasons ago. The junior has been ineffective. He’s been inconsistent. He was benched last time out at home against previously-undefeated Syracuse in favor of five-star freshman Cade Klubnik. Has it all been warranted? Hard to say. 

The 21-year-old California native and former top recruit in the country has thrown for 1,814 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He's second on the squad in rushing with 350 yards and four more scores in an offense that averages 37.1 points per game. There are many teams — including the one on the opposite sideline Saturday — that would gladly take that type of production from the quarterback. 

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Notre Dame left tackle and the Irish offensive line will have their collective hands full with the Clemson front this weekend.


(76) JOE ALT

Left Tackle

We highlight the 6-8, 315-pound Alt because he plays arguably the most important position along the offensive line, but you could slide in any of the four offensive linemen as ones to watch. Like center Zeke Correll or left guard Jarrett Patterson. Or the right side of guard Josh Lugg and tackle Blake Fisher. Watch ‘em all. 

Alt and his fellow O-linemen made it look easy last week in the win over then-No. 16 Syracuse as the Irish ran for 246 yards and allowed only one sack. It won’t be that easy an effort against a Clemson defense that ranks seventh nationally in run defense (87.9 yards per game) and 27th in total defense (332.5 yards). 

An Irish offensive line that manhandled a smaller/lighter Syracuse defensive front will have its collective hands full Saturday. Where’s this game going to be decided? Likely along that trench. Alt and his four fellow linemen get some traction, the Irish can be in this one. If they struggle to run block and pass block and protect quarterback Drew Pyne, it might be a don’t-watch kind of night. 

Notre Dame freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison isn't shy about the bright lights, and they'll be every bit of that on Saturday when No. 5 and undefeated Clemson comes to town.



The freshman from Phoenix had what it took to earn his way into the starting lineup only three games into his first college season, so he’s got plenty to stay there after coming off one of his rougher outings. 

Morrison was beat for the first Syracuse touchdown Saturday. He later was flagged for a pass interference call on a sideline go route. He finished with three tackles. It wasn’t his best game, but he gets a chance to bounce back in a big way against a Clemson pass game that often leaves opposing corners guessing. 

Guessing as to what receiver is going to have a big game. It might be Joseph Ngata. Or Antonio Williams. Or Beaux Collins. They like to spread the pass-catching wealth — seven Tigers have at least 10 catches, seven too have scored at least one touchdown. Four have each tallied at least 265 receiving yards, but nobody averages more than 47 yards receiving per game. 

A Notre Dame cornerback has to make a few plays. Morrison can certainly be that man. He’s not afraid of the moment, and it will be a big/bright one Saturday.