Fighting Irish to Watch

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Fighting Irish to Watch

Ian Book (12) - Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Ian Book (12)
Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics

IAN BOOK (QB, #12)

The Bulldogs’ defense will surely have to “stay at home” Saturday night. That’s because Book (6-0, 212), Notre Dame’s senior quarterback, can not only pass the ball with the best of them but, also, can tuck the football under his arm and run for big gains. Taking over the starting reins from Brandon Wimbush in the Wake Forest game last season, Book passed for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns — completing 68 percent of his passes — and ran for 280 yards and four scores. He opened this season with 193 yards passing and 81 rushing in a win over Louisville. Georgia must absolutely bring pressure on Ian Book from the opening snap Saturday night.

CHASE CLAYPOOL (WR, #83)

Likely Book’s top target against the Bulldogs will be Claypool, a 6-4, 229-pound senior who recorded 50 catches for 639 yards and four touchdowns for Notre Dame in 2018. In the opening 35-17 win over Louisville on Sept. 2, Claypool pulled in five balls for 94 yards. No question, Claypool is a strapping wideout with good speed and a guy the Georgia secondary must deal with in this huge matchup ‘tween the hedges.

Alohi Gilman (11) - 
Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics
Alohi Gilman (11)
Photo courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics

ALOHI GILMAN (SAF, #11)

And, in turn, when the Bulldogs go on offense, they have to be aware of the presence of Gilman (5-11, 202, Sr.) at all times. This talented safety anchors the Irish secondary and is the team’s leading returning tackler after notching 95 stops in 2018. Gilman was named Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week for his two interceptions and eight tackles against Syracuse and set a Notre Dame bowl record with 19 tackles in the Cotton Bowl playoff loss to eventual national champion Clemson. Certainly, Georgia will have to account for Gilman much better than Louisville did in Notre Dame’s 2019 opener when he rang up 10 tackles against the Cardinals.

JULIAN OKWARA (DE, #42)

Another tough Irish defender the Bulldogs must stymie, the 6-5, 248-pound Okwara comes off the edge and gets to the opposing quarterback as well as any defensive end in the country. In his junior season in 2018, Okwara notched eight sacks for 57 yards in losses. He also had 12.5 tackles-for-loss and 21 quarterback hurries. The Georgia offensive tackles simply can’t allow Mr. Okwara to disrupt the attack by getting in Jake Fromm’s face Saturday evening.

TONY PRIDE (CB, #5)

One of the Fighting Irish’s fastest players — he’s a sprinter on the Notre Dame track team — this 5-11, 194-pound senior out of Greer, S.C. teams with Gilman in the Irish secondary to create havoc for opposing receivers. Pride totaled 45 tackles in his junior season and had two interceptions and nine pass breakups. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and the Bulldogs’ wideouts must be at their best to find holes in the Notre Dame secondary Saturday.

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly (photo from Notre Dame Athletics)
Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly
(photo from Notre Dame Athletics)

BRIAN KELLY (Head Coach)

This veteran mentor will surely have the Irish prepared to come into Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium and gain revenge for the Bulldogs’ 20-19 win over Notre Dame at South Bend in 2017. In his 27 seasons as a head coach, Kelly has compiled a record of 231 wins, 90 losses, and two ties. Now in his 10th season at the reins of the Irish, Kelly has steered Notre Dame to a 62-33 record. Under Kelly, last year’s team waltzed to a perfect 12-0 regular season mark before falling to eventual champion Clemson in the College Football Playoff … a season that brought Kelly both Associated Press and Home Depot National Coach of the Year honors.

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Author /

Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.