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60 Players to Watch Out for on the Irish Schedule (Part 2 of 3)

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Welcome to part two of the top 60 players to watch out for on Notre Dame’s 2010 schedule. Part one had some really great football players who will give the Irish a lot of problems this fall and this second edition is sure to bring twenty more superb athletes.

Let’s get right to it.

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) Junior

2009 stats:

2,680 passing yards (60.4 percent)

19 TD

9 INT

Last year versus Irish:

302 passing yards (65.7 percent)

1 TD

1 INT

Cousins eventually took over the job at quarterback last year from Keith Nicol and went on to have a fairly successful season in 2009.

Like many other signal-callers, he put together a strong performance against the Irish that was ruined by a last-minute interception that cost Michigan State a chance to win the game.

Still, Cousins has several big weapons to throw to and if the offensive line can gel early, he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The Spartans play two soft opponents to start the season before hosting Notre Dame in East Lansing, so the Irish will be Cousins’ first big test of the year.

Robert Marve (Purdue) Junior

2008* stats:

1,293 passing yards (54.5 percent)

9 TD

13 INT

I’ll be honest, I think Marve is a complete wildcard at this point and is someone who could either be throwing three touchdowns against Notre Dame or be just as likely getting into a fight on the sidelines.

All the reports out of Purdue practices have head coach Danny Hope raving about Marve and how he has bought into everything over there. There’s no question that he has the size, arm and speed to be a very good quarterback, but there’s just no way of telling how he’ll react to playing at a new school after transferring from Miami, not having played a game in about 18 months and also dealing with a once torn-up knee.

Tune in September 4th to find out.

Jordan Wynn (Utah) Sophomore

2009 stats:

1,329 passing yards (58.1 percent)

8 TD

4 INT

Wynn didn’t begin the year as Utah’s starting quarterback but ended up starting the last five games of the season while looking fairly impressive.

And before you go off saying that he isn’t playing against very good competition, let it be known that Wynn was the MVP of the Poinsettia Bowl after defeating California to the tune of 338 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.

He’s still very young but Utah has proven again and again to field capable offenses that can score a lot of points. You can expect Wynn to light it up this year and compete with TCU (whom they play the week before coming to South Bend) in conference play.

Running Backs

Dion Lewis (Pittsburgh) Sophomore

2009 stats:

1,799 yards (5.5 avg.)

17 TD

Last year versus Irish:

152 yards (7.2 avg.)

1 TD

Take a look at those numbers from a true freshman last year and you’ll understand why Lewis is probably considered the most feared player on the Irish schedule.

In fact, Lewis was scary productive last season and maybe more importantly, incredibly consistent. His worst game statistically was a 23 carry day against Navy in which he gained 79 yards and scored one touchdown. Otherwise, Lewis rushed for over 85 yards in every other game, including gaining at least 100 yards in ten out of Pitt’s 13 games.

He’s that perfect running back who is small but yet just as strong as he is shifty, a combination that wreaks havoc at the collegiate level. In order to beat Pitt this year, Dion Lewis will need to be stopped.

I don’t think Bob Diaco needs me to tell him that.

Larry Caper (Michigan State) Sophomore

2009 stats:

469 yards (3.9 avg.)

6 TD

Last year versus Irish:

51 yards (4.3 avg.)

2 TD

Caper wasn’t a huge threat last year, but he had a pretty decent season for a true freshman. Don’t be surprised if he’s banging out tough yards and putting the ball in the end zone again this year against Notre Dame.

With a capable quarterback and a handful of quality receivers on the Michigan State roster, Caper will be able to find big running lanes and make plays in 2010. If the Spartans can field a decent offensive line, this sophomore could become one of the Big Ten’s better running backs.

Fullbacks

Stanley Havili (USC) Senior

2009 stats:

138 yards (6.6 avg.)

22 receptions

298 yards

2 TD

Last year versus the Irish:

5 yards (5.0 avg.)

1 reception

19 yards

Pound for pound probably the nation’s best fullback, Havili isn’t used quite as often as Murray in the Navy offense, but it’s still nice to have a top-notch blocker back there in a pro-style offense.

And while his numbers aren’t crazy or anything, averaging two catches a game with a couple of touchdowns is pretty darn good for a fullback.

I would bet that Havili will continue to break open holes for USC running backs and possibly see the ball in his hands a little more often in 2010.

Wide Receivers

Chris Owusu (Stanford) Junior

2009 stats:

37 receptions

682 yards

5 TD

Last year versus Irish:

2 receptions

29 yards

For those who think that Stanford will struggle without Toby Gerhart, look no further than Chris Owusu for evidence to the contrary.

The incoming junior had a very good campaign in 2009 and looks to become one of the best receivers in the Pac-10 this year.

What’s more, Owusu is a pre-season All-American on special teams after totaling 1,167 yards and three touchdowns on kickoff returns in 2009. The Stanford offense is shaping up to be very potent, and Owusu will be an integral part to their success.

Ronald Johnson (USC) Senior

2009 stats:

34 receptions

378 yards

3 TD

Last year versus Irish:

1 reception

13 yards

Johnson missed USC’s first five games last year before returning for the Notre Dame game, so his numbers don’t look all that impressive. Still, once he was healthy and in the lineup Johnson was among the best players on the Trojan offense.

In addition to being a speedy receiver who is a constant deep threat, Johnson has also been a very dependable kick returner and will be a prime target this fall for numerous Matt Barkley passes.

Keshawn Martin (Michigan State) Junior

2009 stats:

18 receptions

411 yards

5 TD

Last year versus Irish:

N/A

Martin didn’t do a whole lot of damage last year against Notre Dame, although he did complete a 30-yard pass for a touchdown. Other than that, his name was left off the box score.

But don’t sleep on Martin who is a versatile athlete just ready to have a breakout season in East Lansing. Despite his lack of catches as a receiver, he is a big home threat who averaged a whopping 22.8 yards per reception last year.

Martin is also a big play guy in the return game and ended 2009 with a remarkable 1,491 all-purpose yards while adding a two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one score off of a kick return.

Roy Roundtree (Michigan) Sophomore

2009 stats:

32 receptions

434 yards

3 TD

Last year versus Irish:

DNP

As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Roundtree had a very good year despite not seeing the field a whole lot in a handful of games, including not playing at all against Notre Dame.

His numbers are strong especially considering that Michigan didn’t air the ball out a ton and got really inconsistent play from the quarterback position last fall.

If Michigan is to have an improved season offensively, look for Roundtree to be a big part in any renewed success.

Offensive Line

Anthony Castonzo (Boston College)

Castonzo is being showered with All-ACC and All-American awards this pre-season and is one of the best tackles in the nation.

In fact, he’s probably the best offensive lineman the Irish will face all season.

Boston College may not have run the ball well last year against Notre Dame, but Castonzo played a big part in keeping freshman quarterback David Shinskie upright and able to shred the Irish secondary for the entire game.

The Eagles will bring a stiff test to the Notre Dame defensive line and Ethan Johnson will have his hands full coming off the edge this year and meeting Mr. Castonzo.

Butch Lewis (USC) Senior

A highly decorated defensive tackle coming out of high school, Lewis switched over to offense in his first fall in Los Angeles and has been a very consistent player for a long time.

A former freshman All-American, Lewis has bounced around on the Trojan offensive line playing both guard spots while also seeing some time at tackle.

Ready to finish his career off strong, Butch Lewis will be among the best guards in the Pac-10 in 2010.

Tight End

Charlie Gantt (Michigan State) Senior

2009 stats:

22 receptions

348 yards

2 TD

Last year versus Irish:

2 receptions

31 yards

One of the best tight ends in the Big Ten, Gantt may not be an elite player at his position, but he is in that group just below the best in the country.

A solid run blocker, Gantt gives Michigan State a little bit of everything on the field and shows decent ball skills and speed down field.

I will bet that he will have a big game against Notre Dame this year as he is heading into his final season in East Lansing.

Defensive Line

Jurrell Casey (USC) Junior

2009 stats:

59 tackles

9 TFL

4.5 sacks

Last year versus Irish:

10 tackles

1 TFL

1 fumble recovery

Casey absolutely dominated last year in the game against Notre Dame and earned Pac-10 defensive Player of the Week honors in doing so.

Only a true junior, Casey is on most First Team All-Pac-10 lists and is among the best defensive tackles in the entire country.

Playing against the stout USC defensive line with Casey anchored inside will be a huge test for Notre Dame in Brian Kelly’s first season.

Nick Perry (USC) Sophomore

2009 stats:

24 tackles

9 TFL

8 sacks

Last year versus Irish:

3 tackles

1 sack

An ultra-speedy edge rusher, Perry was a freshman All-American in 2009 and ended up leading USC in sacks last year despite not being an every down defender.

Although not as seasoned as Irish opponent Greg Romeus from Pittsburgh, Perry is still in the same category as a dangerous and lethal sack master. If he can find a way to add more consistency to his game, which will likely occur as he matures, then Perry will surely become one of the nation’s top defensive ends.

Linebackers

Greg Jones (Michigan State) Senior

2009 stats:

154 tackles

14 TFL

9 sacks

Last year versus Irish:

9 tackles

Jones is returning as the starting middle linebacker at Michigan State for the fourth straight year and has earned a giant list of awards and recognitions heading into his senior season.

The 2010 Pre-Season Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Jones is a high energy linebacker with a nose for the ball. Coming off his most impressive season yet, he’ll be the leader of a very strong Spartan linebacker corps that looks to dominate the Big Ten this fall.

It’s little surprise to most Irish fans to say that Jones is the most complete defender Notre Dame will face all season.

Chris Galippo (USC) Junior

2009 stats:

70 tackles

8 TFL

1.5 sacks

Last year versus Irish:

9 tackles

Galippo was one of a handful of USC Trojans on this list who played against Notre Dame last year and came away with a fairly dominant performance.

The returning middle linebacker for USC in 2010, Galippo looks to continue the strong tradition in Los Angeles of brutal and unforgiving defensive play.

With a couple of seasoned veterans on the defensive line, we could see Galippo break out in 2010 and become one of the Pac-10’s best defenders.

Luke Kuechly (Boston College) Sophomore

2009 stats:

158 tackles

13 TFL

Last year versus Irish:

14 tackles

While Irish fans were drooling over some of the plays freshman Manti Te’o made in 2009, Eagle freshman Luke Kuechly went out and finished second in the entire country in tackles. That’s pretty incredible to say the least.

Kuechly was an absolute beast last year who stormed all over the field to record the most tackles in one season at Boston College since 1993. He also showed up big time against Notre Dame finishing with a ridiculous 14 tackles.

With former All-American Mark Herzlich returning from cancer, Boston College is going to have one heck of a combination at linebacker this fall.

Cornerbacks

Brandon Burton (Utah) Junior

2009 stats:

47 tackles

1 INT

10 PBU

A good sized corner with sub-4.4 speed, Burton is an All-American candidate for the Utes and could be the best corner Notre Dame faces all season long.

After starting on defense for the first time last year as a sophomore, teams quickly found out that he was a great cover corner and decreased the amount of balls thrown to his side of the field.

The Utah defense lost a lot of bodies from last season, but Burton will be one big play maker to keep an eye on this year.

Safety

Dom DeCicco (Pittsburgh) Senior

2009 stats:

88 tackles

3 INT

Last year versus Irish:

5 tackles

The quarterback of the Panther defense, DeCicco is the big-time leader of a relatively weak Pittsburgh secondary. With a potentially dominant defensive line up front, DeCicco will be charged with leading his teammates in the secondary and making a run at the Big East title.

At 6’4" 230 pounds, DeCicco is described as a linebacker playing safety and has great vision and awareness in the back end of the defense. There may be other flashier safeties that will play against Notre Dame this year, but no one will probably be better than DeCicco.

Part three coming soon featuring:

A two-for-one special at quarterback in Ann Arbor, a sneaky good replacement for Toby Gerhart in Palo Alto and a big play making receiver from Pitt.