Keep an eye on these guys when Notre Dame plays South Carolina in the Gator Bowl

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune
With Isaiah Foskey off to the NFL, veteran Notre Dame defensive lineman Justin Ademilola gets a chance to step in and contribute more in the Gator Bowl - and maybe beyond.



Vyper defensive end

Gone from this starting spot is Isaiah Foskey, who took his school record 26.5 sacks and decided it best to prepare for his NFL career rather than play one more game. His exit opens opportunity for someone. Not to set the edge the same way Foskey did, but to play the way that they can play, and maybe make a difference. 

A 6-foot-1¾, 253-pound graduate senior, Ademilola figures to get the first chance to start. We may see junior Jordan Botelho here; we may see freshman linebacker Junior Tuihalamaka here. Both have chances to claim the position moving forward, but so does Ademilola, who has a sixth year of eligibility should he choose to chase it. 

More:'Little Joe Alt' just keeps growing into Notre Dame's All-America left tackle

Ademilola is coming off a career best season of 37 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. He also had three sacks. Tucked inside the defensive line and playing the same position as the veteran Foskey, Ademilola was a guy easy to forget about — oh, yeah, he’s still around — but a big game could be a springboard for a big 2023 for him. And for this defense. 



Seeing what quarterback Tyler Buchner, who missed the last 10 games with a shoulder injury, can offer against South Carolina arguably is the most curious storyline for the Irish.

We last saw Buchner in an actual game 110 days ago when he was being driven to the turf by Marshall linebacker Eli Neal. The force of the hit — really, the landing — caused Buchner to suffer an AC sprain in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Surgery was supposed to put him on the shelf for four months. 

Instead, the guy who opened the season the starter finds himself again the starter to close the season with the transfer departure of Drew Pyne. The first hit the sophomore from San Diego takes in the Gator Bowl will be the first one since that fourth quarter in early September. 

Transfer turnabout:Transfer turnabout: Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne enters the portal

Buchner insists he’s a better quarterback, someone who sees the game clearer, than he did in September. Who is the 6-1, 215-pound Buchner behind center? A runner? A thrower? A combo guy? We still don’t know. He’s such a blank slate, but he has to do something in this game for the puzzle pieces of his playing career to take shape. We know that a transfer quarterback is coming for the starting job. Buchner has to show something in this game that tells him, and everyone else, that it’s his. 

Recruiting:How Notre Dame refined its recruiting class with a quartet of flips, Pyne to Arizona State




Jordan Burch has gone from backup linebacker/special teams contributor to a consistent contributor as an edge rusher for South Carolina.

Expectations were set ridiculously high when Burch, a South Carolina native, signed with the Gamecocks in 2019. At the time, he was the highest-rated recruit (No. 2 in the state) to pick USC since 2011 and fellow Carolina native Jadeveon Clowney, who went on to become the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. Many tabbed Burch as a Clowney clone, but his ascent to college football elite has taken time. 

Burch spent his early years as a backup Buck linebacker and special teams guy before coming into his own on the edge with 26 tackles in 2021, his first season as a starter. The 6-6, 275-pound junior started all 12 games and finished third on the squad in tackles (56), second in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (3.5) and first in quarterback hurries (10). He also had three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. 

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl:Gamecocks forced to adjust offense after losing three tight ends

Burch has done plenty this season, but may have to do more in Jacksonville. Heading into the game, South Carolina was without at least three defensive starters who chose not to play. It might be a mix-and-match effort, but Burch will be there. 



South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler played with a certain gunslinger swagger over the final two weeks of the regular season. Can Notre Dame slow his roll in the Gator Bowl?

For the second straight postseason, Notre Dame gets a chance to make a Spencer impression. Last year, in Marcus Freeman’s first game as a head coach, Oklahoma State’s Spencer Sanders helped his offense roll up four touchdowns, 37 points and 605 yards in a Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Along comes Spencer Rattler, arguably one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country to end the regular season. Second-to-last game, Rattler completed 30 of 37 for 438 yards and six touchdowns in the upset of Tennessee. The following week, he threw for 360 yards and two scores in the upset at Clemson. 

A native of Phoenix and Oklahoma transfer, the 6-1, 215-pound Rattler has completed 66.6 percent of his passes this season for 2,780 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s thrown 11 interceptions. Rattler plays with a swagger and likes to take chances for a USC team that has won two straight and three of four. That bravado could work in favor of a Notre Dame defense that could use a big flex to help erase last season’s bowl game bust of an effort. 

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

78th Annual TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 

  • Who: No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) vs. No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) 
  • When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m. EST 
  • Where: TIAA Bank Field (67,164), Jacksonville, Fla. 
  • TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM) 
  • Line: Notre Dame is a 4.5 -point favorite  
  • Series: Notre Dame leads 3-1 
  • Last meeting: South Carolina won 36-32 in South Bend in 1984.