Aggies vs. Notre Dame Week 1: Fighting Irish Defensive Players to Watch

The Texas A&M Aggies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will meet for just the sixth time in history to begin the college football season.
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The new-look Texas A&M Aggies will get their first real test of the season as they open up the 2024 season and the Mike Elko era with a non-conference matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Kyle Field.

It's the first meeting between the two programs since 2001, a 24-3 slaughter at Kyle Field. But the Irish hold the overall series lead 3-2. The first three meetings were in Cotton Bowl matchups in 1988, 1993 and 1994.

Notre Dame's new quarterback, Riley Leonard, was Elko's quarterback last season at Duke, so there is some familiarity there, but Leonard had surgery on his injured ankle during the offseason and his status is uncertain for opening week.

The Irish made some significant moves in the transfer portal and with the coaching staff this offseason, but the offensive line is still a huge question mark.

While Week 1 poses a big litmus test for the Aggies, it does the same for the Irish.

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH

DL HOWARD CROSS III

Cross finished second on the team in tackles last season to linebacker J.D. Bertrand, who was drafted in the fifth round of April's NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Cross tallied 66 total tackles last season with 28 solo to go along with two sacks, two passes defended and two forced fumbles.

DL JORDAN BOTELHO

Botelho was second on the team in sacks last year to edge rusher Javontae Jean-Baptiste who was drafted in the seventh round of April's NFL Draft by the Washington Commanders. Botelho registered four sacks and looks to have an increased role in the Irish's defense after the departure of Jean-Baptiste.

S XAVIER WATTS

Watts finished first on the Irish defense with seven interceptions last season. He was also fourth on the team with 52 total tackles with 30 solo. He registered a team-high 137 yards on return yards after his interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.


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Timm Hamm

TIMM HAMM