Notre Dame Football: Alabama Players Who Must Be Focal Point of Irish's Gameplan

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly looks on during the game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Alabama has many talented players, but a few must command special attention from Brian Kelly in his game plan for the 2013 BCS National Championship.

These players could impact a certain part of the game because of their skill set, or they might have an effect on how Notre Dame likes to play on either side of the ball.

The Fighting Irish will have to account for these players no matter what. If not, they could swing the outcome of the game in Alabama's favor. But if Kelly accounts for them properly, Notre Dame could be at a major advantage.

Let's take a look at the three players who must be accounted for at all times.  


Jesse Williams

Williams isn't a flashy player. You probably won't notice him at all, but he will be there nonetheless.

As the anchor of Nick Saban's 3-4 defense, it's Williams' responsibility to take on blockers and allow Alabama's linebackers to make plays all over the field.

Notre Dame must not allow him to occupy multiple linemen. If he does, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood will not have room to run, and the Crimson Tide linebackers will be able to disrupt the Irish's offense.

Kelly's team won't win if Alabama forces Everett Golson to win with a one-dimensional offense. The run game must be there in order to neutralize the Tide's defense. 

If it's not, it's going to be a long day. 

Williams isn't a threat to make any big plays, but he eats up a lot of space. Kelly must find ways to isolate him and allow his blockers to get to the second level of the Tide's defense.

T.J. Yeldon

Yeldon is the most talented running back on Alabama's roster, and his versatility will create problem's for Notre Dame's aggressive front seven.

When he's in the game, it's imperative that all eyes are on him. That doesn't mean allowing A.J. McCarron and the rest of Alabama's team to go unnoticed, but Yeldon will be the most dangerous guy on the field most of the time.

He ran for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns while splitting time with Eddie Lacy this season. He only caught 10 passes, but he's shown the hands to be a threat for the passing game as well.

It's easy to forget that Yeldon is 6'2'', 210 pounds when you watch him run. Notre Dame must account for his north-south running ability, but it must also respect his ability to break to the outside.

Lacy will wear Notre Dame down between the tackles, but this is the guy Kelly must have the Irish ready for.

If they're not, he's going to create a few big plays.


Amari Cooper

With 895 yards and nine touchdowns, Cooper is McCarron's favorite target. Notre Dame better be ready to defend him vertically, or the Irish run the risk of giving up a few big plays over the top.

If the Irish's defense has a weakness, it's at corner. Cooper will test the team's defensive backs with his speed, and he also has the size to go up and attack the ball.

Alabama isn't going to win this game through the air, but Cooper makes the passing game relevant. He gives the offense a unique dimension, and Notre Dame must account for him at all times.

Look for the Tide to move him around to create ideal matchups. The Irish must be careful of how they play him, and they must give him enough cushion.

No one expected Cooper to have the season that he did, but it's important to respect his ability now. If not, he will burn the Irish.