Notre Dame vs. Navy: Highlighting Key Players for a Fighting Irish Victory
Brian Kelly has led Notre Dame to consecutive 8-5 seasons, and he will be looking for players to step up against Navy and show they are ready to lead the Fighting Irish to a better record this year.
With a grueling schedule that includes games against Michigan, Oklahoma and USC, young players will have to get acclimated to a high level of football quickly in order for Notre Dame to succeed.
This will start with the season opener against Navy, which the Irish should win despite having four players suspended.
Here are three players whose performances will be important during the first game of the season and will continue to play an important role going forward.
Everett Golson, QB
The new starting quarterback will be the subject of intense scrutiny this season.
Tommy Rees was Goldson's main competition for the starting job, but he is suspended against Navy due to an offseason arrest. Golson will have the entire game against Navy to make his case to Kelly.
With the ability to beat teams with his arm or his legs, Golson has the talent to be a dynamic player. He is inexperienced—and this will show—but if he can make significantly more plays than mistakes against Navy, he will make a strong case to be under center in Notre Dame’s next game against Purdue.
However, a poor performance could leave the Irish vulnerable to an upset. Kelly will be watching every step and hoping that the young quarterback will be the man to lead his team this season.
Notre Dame’s offense will feature a heavy dose of the ground game, but when they do take to the air, the tight end will likely be Golson’s target.
Eifert, in particular, will be a dangerous player in the passing game. The 6’6” 251-pound senior reeled in 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns this season.
He is a massive target with soft hands, and he is projected by CBS Sports to be a first-round draft pick.
Tight ends are a quarterback’s best friend, and when Golson is in trouble, he would be wise to look for Eifert—who will not be difficult to find. If these two can establish a connection in the Navy game, it could turn into a lethal combination that carries the Irish to more impressive performances.
Which player will be most important to Notre Dame's success this season?
On the defensive side of the ball, everything revolves around Te’o.
The 6’2”, 255-pound senior was a Second-Team All-American this past season after recording 128 total tackles last season. As CBS Sports’ Evan Hilbert notes, Navy rushed the ball more than any team in the country except Army, and Te’o should be able to get a head start on improving on his statistics from a year ago.
Te’o is an NFL-caliber talent who will also likely be taken in the first round of the next draft. He will bring talent, toughness and leadership to Notre Dame’s defense.
In his last college football campaign, Te’o will be an exciting player to watch. He will be a general in the huddle, and a nightmare for opposing offenses. Navy’s running backs will become very familiar with him on Saturday.
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