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Star Power: The Top Opposing Players That Will Challenge Notre Dame in 2024

Written by Owen O'Connor ⏐ Writer ⏐ Twitter/X: @Ocon54

Photo by Texas A&M Athletics

The Notre Dame Football program is ready to face all sorts of new challenges this upcoming season. The 2024 year brings many new obstacles on the path to the playoffs and a chance to win a national title. These obstacles contain the possibility of additional games and elite talent that the Fighting Irish will have to be ready for. With the loss of key players such as Joe Alt, Audric Estime, and Sam Hartman, the Fighting Irish will need to bring energy and focus to their season-long goals. Head Coach Marcus Freeman has not shied away from the new obstacles his team will face. He has shown his commitment and vision to win with the recruitment of multiple highly-ranked transfer portal players.

Most of the transfer recruits Freeman has added are ready to make an immediate impact during their fresh start against playoff-level programs. Maintaining their Independent status has allowed Notre Dame to find some high-caliber opponents with future professional talent, showing their courage on a tough road towards the playoffs. Although there may not be a marquee matchup with a program like Ohio State or Clemson this season, this Notre Dame schedule is anything but a cakewalk - and the talent on some of the teams on their schedule proves this.

Let's take a look at some of the top stars Notre Dame will have to focus on when their matchup arrives:

Taurean York - LB - Texas A&M

The Aggies got off to a bit of a sluggish start last season despite their extremely talented roster and were never able to recover. In week two, they lost a tough battle against The Miami Hurricanes 48-33. A brief bounce back followed the loss, but they ultimately could not overcome the challenges that came in the 2023 season. Texas A&M finished with an overall record of 7-6 and a 4-4 conference record in the SEC. After an offseason tough portal losses, they managed to retain a few young stars such as Freshman Taurean York. Original a three-star recruit, York was a bright spot in a dark season for Texas A&M. The Freshman Linebacker showed tremendous potential to be a dynamic playmaker in the future. Starting in all 12 games, York totaled 66 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble in his first taste at the collegiate level. The young backer also made his presence known on some big stages, such as his 11-tackle performance against the Auburn Tigers. Among his stats, York also received ESPN Freshman All-American and SEC All-Freshman team accolades.

York will be a major focus for the Fighting Irish offense. Coach Freeman will trust his team and strategy to plan around York offensively, which might prove to be difficult. Knowing how York can disrupt an offense will be important when game planning for this highly anticipated matchup to kick off the year.

Peny Boone - RB - Louisville

Louisville is coming off a strong 2023 campaign that resulted in their best finish in the last decade. The Cardinals managed to have a 10-4 record, their first time with double-digit wins since 2013 with Head Coach Charlie Strong. During this campaign, the Fighting Irish were ran out of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in embarrassing fashion. The 33-20 loss ultimately ended any hopes of bringing a national championship home to South Bend last season. This year, both teams will approach this matchup with many new faces. These two programs have used the transfer portal to the best of their abilities by reloading the talent they lost to other programs or the professional level. One of the biggest player acquisitions was the recruitment of former Toledo Rocket Running Back, Peny Boone.

During his collegiate career, Boone showcased his talent and versatility on the field. During his two seasons at Toledo, he established himself as a dynamic force in the backfield, amassing an impressive 1,843 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground. His exceptional performance earned him recognition as Toledo's Offensive Player of the Year in 2023, a title no Rocket running back has earned since 2017. His remarkable achievements included an impressive 7.43 yards per carry, the fifth-highest total rushing yards in the nation (1,400), and an average of 113.2 rushing yards per game, among others. Throughout his tenure, he garnered recognition as the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week three times and amassed an impressive tally of eight 100-plus-yard rushing performances. In conference play, he maintained an outstanding average of 129.8 yards per game across eight matchups against MAC schools.

The rushing attack is something that Notre Dame will look to focus on defensively. During their last matchup with Louisville in October, future NFL Running Back Jawhar Jordan collected 143 yards and 2 Touchdowns on the ground. This performance is one that Freeman and the coaching staff know cannot happen again if they want a chance to win. After a projected easier part of their schedule, Notre Dame will look to get their revenge against Louisville on September 28th in Notre Dame Stadium.

Shyheim Brown - DB - Florida State

Shyheim Brown changed his number to 1 - and rightfully so, as he will look to be the leader of the Seminole defense in 2024. Throughout the season, the redshirt junior demonstrated consistency and impact, starting all 14 games for the Seminoles. In total, he notched 53 tackles, including 2.0 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. Shyheim's contributions earned him recognition as a third-team All-ACC selection and the Monk Bonasorte Award, presented to the defensive player with the most heart. Some of his notable performances against top-tier programs included a career-high-tying eight-tackle game against Florida, where he also contributed a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry in a secured victory. He also replicated this eight-tackle performance in a crucial win against Clemson. Even on the biggest stage, such as the Orange Bowl against Georgia (despite the result), Brown remained a force with seven tackles, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry. The impact Brown had was evident from the season opener, where he contributed four tackles, including a crucial sack on 4th-and-1 against LSU, setting the tone for the undefeated regular season that was achieved by the Noles. The star Defensive Back decided to return this year with his eyes set on a national title. Shyheim Brown now has big-stage experience against premier Quarterbacks, including the 2023 Heisman winner and projected 1st-round NFL Draft pick Jayden Daniels.

The Seminoles experienced players are not the only ones with an upper hand. New Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator Mike Denbrock has also seen the capabilities of this defense first-hand. Denbrock brings an impressive football mind to the offense that will surely benefit from his knowledge of Shyheim Brown. Despite the 45-24 loss, Coach Denbrock's offense produced over 400 total yards of offense with 3 Touchdowns against an elite defense. His previous experience will prove to be very valuable in this highly anticipated matchup later on in the season.


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