Irish Receivers vs. Vanderbilt Secondary
This is probably the most even matchup in terms of returning players and talent. Vanderbilt is replacing some lost production from a season ago, as last year’s starting safety Ryan White and one of their starting corners are both gone.
Vanderbilt does, however, bring back a few talented players that will be a great matchup for Notre Dame’s receivers. Redshirt senior LaDarius Wiley will lead the way at free safety. Wiley started all 12 games a season ago and was the team’s leading tackler with 88 stops, also adding five pass breakups and an interception to the stat sheet. Alongside him will be redshirt sophomore free safety Zaire Jones. Jones will be seeing his first action of the year as he is coming off a two-game suspension to start the season.
On the outside, junior Joejuan Williams will be the key player to watch. Williams is one of the better cover cornerbacks in the SEC, notching ten pass breakups a season ago and recording his first interception of his career last week. Opposite of him will be senior Donovan Sheffiled and two redshirt sophomores will see action in nickel and dime packages.
Vanderbilt ran mostly man-to-man schemes last season, but through two games this year have added more zone coverages — which might be the best option to cover the taller, lengthier Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool.
However you cut it, this matchup features some of the better players on the field for both teams. Boykin is coming off a 119-yard receiving performance vs. Ball State and Chris Finke has already matched his receiving totals from a season ago through two games. If Brandon Wimbush can stay protected and find the right windows in Vanderbilt’s zones, it could be a great bounce-back week for the Irish offense.