Notre Dame Football: The 10 Best Players the Irish Will Face in 2018


The Notre Dame football team will face some of the very best individual players in all of college football during the 2018 season.

We recently ranked the toughest games on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule for you. As always, the schedule is brutal and the Irish will be challenged to reach the 10-win mark. It’s the individual talent on some of those teams, however, that makes Notre Dame’s upcoming slate of games so tough. The Irish will be tasked with dealing with some of the best running backs, linebackers and defensive linemen in the country this season.

Here are the 10 best players Notre Dame will face in 2018.

10. Devon Bush, LB, Michigan

Bush is just one of three Wolverine linebackers — arguably the best unit in the country — on this list. He logged 93 tackles and five sacks for a very good Michigan defense in 2017.

9. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford

Okereke will likley be a first-team Pac-12 performer in 2018. He’s an elite run-stopper with size and strength to shed blockers and a great nose for the ball. He put up 88 tackles, four sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2017.

8. Khaleke Hudson, LB/S, Michigan

Hudson filled that famous rover-type role in defensive coordinator Don Brown’s defense — the same spot once occupied by Jabrill Peppers. He’s an outstanding athlete who can literally line up anywhere on the field and cause opponents problems. He logged 78 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions last season.

7. Cam Akers, RB, Florida State

Akers averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry en route to rushing for 1024 yards and seven scores. He plays low to the ground and is tough to tackle. He’ll likely have a much more expanded role in Florida State’s offense in 2018.

6. Ricky Walker, DT, Virginia Tech

The heart and soul of Bud Foster’s menacing Hokie defense in 2018 will undoubtedly be Walker. He’s a quick-twitch athlete on the interior — much like current L.A. Rams great Aaron Donald. It’s rare that he doesn’t beat the guard in front of him with his first step on obvious passing downs.

5. Chase Winovich, LB, Michigan

Winovich sets the tone for the Wolverine defense. He always seems to be near the ball and has great speed for a 250-pound linebacker. He logged 70 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2017.

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4. AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College

Dillon is an absolute load at running back, tipping the scales at 240 pounds. He burst onto the national scene in 2017 as a freshman, toting the rock for 1589 yards and 14 scores. Notre Dame kept him in check for the most part last year, but he got better as the season went on.

3. Cameron Smith, LB, Souther Cal

You could make a strong case for Smith as the best returning linebacker in the country heading into the season. He’s a pure tackling machine who’ll likely be a day-one starter on Sundays. He finished with 111 tackles in 2017 — 10 of those against the Irish.

2. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Love could head into the 2018 season as the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, based solely on the numbers he put up in 2017. He ran for 2,118 yards at 8.3 yard-per-carry and 19 touchdowns. He didn’t score against the Irish in 2017, but he did his part in Stanford’s 38-20 win by rushing for 125 yards on 20 carries.

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1. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Gary’s numbers were not what most expected from him in 2017, but much of that had to do with opponents knowking what he was capable of based on his productive freshman season. He is a physical freak who has all of the size, strength and speed you want in a defensive end. It’ll take the best effort of every offensive tackle he faces to keep him from dominating games in 2018. Gary will be in the conversation as the potential first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.