Matchups vs. Notre Dame

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Senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes scrambles for extra yardage against Kansas on Nov. 11, 2015. Swoopes is locked in a quarterback battle with freshman Shane Buechele, and head coach Charlie Strong has yet to announce Sunday’s starter.
Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Quarterback

  • Advantage: Notre Dame

Both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will split snaps. Zaire torched Texas last year with 313 passing yards and three touchdowns. After Zaire was injured in the second game, Kizer played the rest of the season and put up very respectable numbers — 21 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and 2,884 yards passing on a 63 percent completion rate.  Head coach Charlie Strong has refused to name a starter, but he did say he already knows who it will be. Whether that’s senior Tyrone Swoopes or true freshman Shane Buechele, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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  • Running Back
  • Advantage: Texas

Texas boasts two physical backs in junior D’Onta Foreman and sophomore Chris Warren III. Foreman led the team in rushing last season with 681 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Warren broke onto the scene late last season and finished the year with 470 yards, averaging 6.6 per carry.

Notre Dame lost its thousand-yard rusher from last season in C.J. Prosise. But, the Fighting Irish do return senior Tarean Folston from injury.  

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  • Wide Receiver
  • Advantage: Texas

Texas is loaded on the perimeter with returning speedsters in sophomore John Burt and junior Armanti Foreman. The Longhorns also have a bevy of young receivers who give the offense many different options, including freshmen Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay.  

Notre Dame lost its top three receivers from last season’s team, including Will Fuller, who burned Texas last year with seven catches, 142 yards and two touchdowns. Look for Torii Hunter Jr. to lead the way this year. The senior totaled 28 catches, 363 yards and two touchdowns last season. 

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  • Offensive Line
  • Advantage: Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish lost three key starters from last year’s unit, but, like Texas, has young and talented players. One of whom is left tackle Mike McGlinchey, who stands 6-foot-8, 310 pounds.

Texas returns three starters from last year’s unit in senior Kent Perkins and sophomores Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe. However, Vahe and projected starters in freshman Zach Shackelford and junior Tristan Nickelson all suffered injuries in the preseason. All three are questionable to play on Sunday. 

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  • Defensive Line
  • Advantage: Notre Dame

Two starters return in Isaac Rochell and Daniel Cage, along with other experienced players. Notre Dame held Texas to only 60 rushing yards in last year’s game. Put simply, Notre Dame has more proven players up front.  

Texas’ defensive line struggled immensely last season. The loss of tackle Hassan Ridgeway only adds insult to injury. Texas returns senior Paul Boyette Jr. and junior Poona Ford inside, with junior Naashon Hughes and sophomore Charles Omenihu on the edges. 

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  • Linebacker
  • Advantage: Texas

Sophomores Malik Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler, as well as senior Timothy Cole, are back for the Longhorns. Jefferson had his breakout game last year against the Fighting Irish, recording nine tackles.

Texas can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Notre Dame’s ex-star linebacker Jaylon Smith is now in the NFL. James Onwaulu is the lone starter to return at the position for the Fighting Irish.

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  • Defensive Back
  • Advantage: Texas

The Longhorns are very deep and have many talented returners, including senior safety Dylan Haines and sophomore corners Holton Hill and Davante Davis. Haines has nine interceptions over the last two seasons. 

Notre Dame does not have much experience in its secondary. Cole Luke is one of the unit’s few proven players, and they will have their hands full against an explosive Texas receiving core. 

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  • Special Teams
  • Advantage: Notre Dame

Sophomore Justin Yoon, who converted 15 of 17 field goal attempts as a freshman last season, is back for the Fighting Irish at kicker. . Sophomore C.J. Sanders is a dangerous returner who recorded both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown last season. 

Senior Trent Domingue who made 13 of his 17 attempts last season for LSU, transferred to Texas in the offseason to help fill the void at kicker. Sophomore Kris Boyd is very dynamic and leads the return game.