It wasn't much of a surprise when Notre Dame tried to wiggle out of their contract to play Arizona State in Tempe, but former athletic director of Arizona State Steve Patterson was able to work around Notre Dame's "scheduling conflicts" and secure the highly anticipated Nov. 8 date. Patterson left Tempe before getting to see the Sun Devils play host to the Fighting Irish, but Sun Devil fans are excited to see the teams square off again, hoping for a better result than the 37-34 loss Arizona State suffered last year. Here are a few players from Notre Dame to keep your eye out for.
Offense: Everett Golson (6 feet, 200 pounds)
Remember Everett Golson? Yeah, the guy who led the Irish to the national championship in 2012, just to lose to Alabama and a few months later get caught cheating on a test. Golson was suspended from the program for the 2013 season, but he's back on campus and looks prepared to reclaim the starting quarterback position.
In his redshirt freshman year, the only year he's played, Golson showed the ability to be an elite quarterback, completing 58.8% of his passes and totaling 18 touchdowns, six coming on the ground. His first two road starts ever both came against Top-10 opponents, and he was incredibly efficient in collecting victories over Michigan State and Oklahoma.
At 200 pounds, Golson is 15 pounds heavier than he was when he last played competitive football, it could either be a result of dedicating himself to the gym while away from the team or letting go a little bit. That's yet to be seen. Overall, Golson is a still-unproven player who isn't going to single-handedly win you games, but he is more than capable of directing the ship if he's got the right crew. Arizona State is hoping he doesn't make the next step forward following his freshman campaign or he could wreak havoc on the Sun Devil defense.
Defense: KeiVarae Russell (5-foot-11, 190 pounds)
A four-star athlete who was listed by position coming out of high school as simply that, an athlete, Russell hails from Washington. That means in order to commit to the Fighting Irish, he turned down offers from 11 of the Pac-12 schools, including the Sun Devils.
It was a bold decision by Russell to leave the West Coast for the middle of Indiana, but his decision has been met with excellent production. Russell started all 13 games as a true freshman, racking up 58 tackles from the cornerback position. He was named a Freshman All-American in 2012 and produced similar numbers in 2013. He's still young, only going into his junior year, but he's started all 26 games of his career and has experience that's incredibly valuable in a young Notre Dame secondary. He'll likely match up against Jaelen Strong, and that matchup could determine the outcome of the game. Keep an eye on Russell.
Defense: Jaylon Smith (6-foot-2, 230 pounds)
Simply put, Jaylon Smith is a game changer at linebacker. A five-star recruit ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2013 by Rivals, Smith was a duel threat, excelling at both linebacker and running back for his high school, leading them to a state championship.
He carried over his high school success to Notre Dame, focusing in at linebacker. He started all 13 games and made 67 tackles, including eight against Arizona State. He returns for his sophomore year having been named to the Bednarik Award watch list, along with Russell. Smith was named the defensive Newcomer of the Year for Notre Dame last year, and the arrow continues to point up for his future.