Notre Dame Football: Key Fighting Irish Players to Watch vs. Michigan Wolverines

Alex KayCorrespondent ISeptember 7, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees (11) hands the ball off against the Temple Owls at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 14 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish are ready to square off against the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday night in a much anticipated contest you can catch live on ESPN.

Because Week 2 of the college football season is—as usual—largely devoid of meaningful matchups, this is a game that almost every fan of the sport around the country is going to be tuning in for.

If you aren't a hardcore Irish fan, here's a primer on some top players to keep an eye on when Notre Dame takes to the field on Saturday night in the Big House.


TJ Jones, WR

Jones appears to be the next elite receiver in South Bend, as the senior started the season off on the right foot.

Although he didn't score against Temple in the season opener—Davaris Daniels hauled in two touchdown receptions and Troy Niklas caught the other—Jones looked incredible.

The 6’0”, 195-pounder showed elite speed, great hands and crisp route-running abilities on his way to six catches and 138 yards.

If he can keep that up against the Michigan secondary, it's going to be easy for quarterback Tommy Rees to get the Irish passing game going.


George Atkinson III, RB

Atkinson may be the most athletic player on the entire Notre Dame roster, but his production has been up and down during his first two seasons with the program.

Now a junior, this 6’2”, 220-pound bruiser with scatback speed has a real chance to become a breakout star.

He earned just eight carries and gained just 34 yards against the Owls, but he did manage to score a touchdown. He should be relied upon more for his game-breaking abilities versus the Wolverines.

Atkinson—whose father played in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos—could be the key to the Irish offense this season. He has the raw physical build and talent to become a superstar; he just needs to realize that potential.


Tommy Rees, QB

Rees is once again Notre Dame’s starting signal-caller, although most never expected he would see much time under center this season.

Everett Golson quarterbacked the Irish to an undefeated 2012 season and national championship game appearance as a redshirt freshman, but academic issues held him back from playing with the team in 2013.

Now Rees, a senior this season, is back as the top quarterback option and has thus far been successful. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns against Temple, completely avoiding turnovers and looking quite poised in the pocket.

Mistakes and poor decisions plagued Rees during a tumultuous sophomore campaign, in which the Irish were ranked to start the year but eventually tumbled to an 8-5 season.

If he can avoid interceptions and fumbles against UM, the Irish will be well on their way to a win.