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Notre Dame Football

Players to Watch in the Citrus Bowl

December 31, 2017

It's Ed Orgergon and his staff vs Brian Kelly and his. It's the Joe Moore Award winner for Notre Dame against a talented LSU defensive line. Those are the greater storylines that have been and will be talked about heading into the game.

However, close games like this one is expected to be are often decided by the game within the game. It's the invidiuals who need to win their matchups that can give each program an edge to come out with the victory.

Here's a look at five players to watch from LSU and five from Notre Dame that are going to be key to the outcome of the Citrus Bowl.

Linebacker K’lavon Chaisson

The replacement for Arden Key in this game, the true freshman has massive shoes to fill. He is only 230 pounds and I expect the Irish to run at him quite a bit. Look out for him as a pass rusher, though. He has the same kind of twitch and ability to bend around the corner that Key has.

Safety Grant Delpit

Another true freshman, Delpit has been a starter this whole season and for good reason. He has elite ball skills (9 passes defensed) and has flashed in a big way versus the perimeter run game. He fills the alley in a hurry.

The Irish may be able to take a shot against him when he is in man coverage. Auburn receiver Will Hastings beat him deep for a touchdown on a double move and Notre Dame should test him with either Chris Finke or Michael Young when they get Delpit isolated.

Defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence

The LSU front three is stout and Lawrence is the one that is the most disruptive. He’s really difficult to move off the ball and it’s probably best to run away from his side of the line as much as possible. When he’s out of the game getting a breather, Chip Long would be smart to go uptempo and attack with the run. Look out for him against Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson at different times. Those should be some battles.

Running back Derrius Guice

Guice has been compared to longtime NFL great Frank Gore, but think of the young Gore that had a lot more juice in his legs. It could be Guice’s last game if he chooses to leave early for the NFL, but don’t look for Ed Orgergon to limit his touches. Expect to see plenty of Guice early and often.

Wide receiver DJ Chark

With only 35 catches on the season, it wouldn’t seem like Chark is that scary of a weapon with LSU’s average passing game. However, Chark is a threat to get deep at all times as evidenced by his 23.5 yards per catch. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada will try to use pre-snap movement to get Chark one on one on the outside even if the original design of Mike Elko’s defense calls for help over the top.

Chark is also a dangerous punt returner with two touchdown returns this season. The Irish finished 85th in the nation in opponent punt return average in 2017.

Wide receiver Miles Boykin

With Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson not playing, Boykin finally gets his chance to start opposite Equanimeous St. Brown. Boykin’s issue has always been consistency with his blocking and catching the football. Now if he drops one or misses a block, he’ll get a chance to stay in the game and make up for it.

He’s made some spectacular catches on 50/50 balls in practice. He’ll need to have a couple of them in this game to help his quarterback out against some outstanding corners on LSU.

Center Sam Mustipher

All of the talk will be about the left side of the line, but the matchup with Mustipher and nose guard Greg Gilmore is going to be critically important for Notre Dame to be able to run the football. He is a load in the middle of the line and Mustipher has to be able to move him with some help from Nelson and Alex Bars or else the Irish will have a hard time running the ball.

Quarterback Brandon Wimbush

Obviously this a no-brainer player to watch, but it would be wrong to not mention how important it is for them to have Wimbush making some plays with his arm and legs in this game. His legs in the red zone in particular could be the difference in the game. He’s been money in that area of the field for most of the year and that will have to continue.

I don’t think anyone is expecting him to complete 70% of his throws, especially because LSU has one of the top passing defenses in the nation. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over and makes the ones that matter on 3rd down, he’ll give the Irish a shot.

Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery

Whether Tillery stays or goes after this game, he’s going to want to go out and be a difference maker against his home state school. Most of his best games have been in the big games and this game is a big game for him. If the Irish want to slow down Guice, it starts with Tillery.

Linebacker Nyles Morgan

Morgan might not have reached the career heights many predicted for him in blue and gold, but he still is the arguably the most valuable piece on the defense as the quarterback of the group. This matchup will be his greatest challenge with Canada’s constant motion and misdirection. Morgan will need to make sure everyone is lined up properly on every snap. He needs a great performance in order to give NFL scouts something to buzz about heading into the pre-Draft process as well.

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