Pals, now enemies in No. 9 Notre Dame-Florida State Matchup

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Dillan Gibbons is back in the Sunshine State and the Florida State’s offensive lineman won’t just be with his family when the Seminoles make it to No. 9 Notre Dame record, but with a large number of old Indiana friends as a good.

A native of Clearwater, Florida, will be making his first start for the Seminoles after moving from Notre Dame this summer. Gibbons – who played in 29 games and took on Syracuse for Notre Dame in 2020 – will face some former teammates along the Fighting Irish defensive line Sunday night.

“I’ve played thousands of reps against these guys,” Gibbons said. “Some of these guys are and always will be my best friends in the world. I’ll probably have to ruin a few friendships, but I look forward to coming after that. “

It will also be the first game in the state of Florida for the majority of the nine transfers coach Mike Norvell has brought in for the 2021 season. In addition to Gibbons, this group includes quarterback McKenzie Milton (UCF), defensive ends Jermaine Johnson (Georgia) and Keir Thomas (South Carolina) and wide receiver Andrew Perchment (Kansas).

Notre Dame will also feature some notable transfers, quarterback Jack Coan (of Wisconsin) and AP preseason All-American guard Cain Madden (of Marshall) who have been added to the offense.

How transfers play out on both sides is likely to have a big impact on Sunday’s result.

Madden is an extraordinary plug and play piece for a Notre Dame offensive line that reloaded after three linemen were selected in the NFL draft. The Fighting Irish will run behind that line, putting a trio of backs in Kyren Williams (1,125 yards and 13 newcomer touchdowns) along with Chris Tyree and C’Bo Flemister.

“We have to play football, there is no doubt about it,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. “For me it was always about balance. If you are able to direct it, you should do better. But for me it’s about collecting points and getting more, it will be an effective and efficient running game. “

Some other things to keep in mind about Sunday night matchup:

BOWDEN REMEMBERS

The state of Florida will honor great coach Bobby Bowden, who died of pancreatic cancer on August 8 at the age of 91 while wearing a rear helmet bumper with Bowden’s signature. The polo shirts of the coaching staff have a Bowden patch on the sleeve. The “Bobby” signature and his trademark straw hat are also painted on every 25 yard line. Bowden won national titles in 1993 and ’99 in his 34 years as the Florida state head coach.

ENERGY RETURN TO DOAK

Due to pandemic logs in 2020, audience crowds were limited to approximately 25% of the 79,560 fan capacity of Doak Campbell Stadium. Sunday’s game is not a sell-out, but it is expected to get energetic audiences. The players look forward to returning to a typical matchday atmosphere.

“We’re just about ready to go back to some kind of normal because we haven’t seen that in the last two years,” said Kyle Hamilton. “The guys are ready to perform in front of an away crowd that wants us to lose and it’s an environment we haven’t felt in a while.”

MILTON’S RETURN

McKenzie Milton hasn’t played football since sustaining a traumatic leg injury at UCF in November 2018. Milton is listed as a co-starter on the Florida state’s depth chart, although coach Mike Norvell has given no indication of whether Milton will start or whether he could be used in any role to complement Jordan Travis.

BEHAVIOR COANS

Coan was commended for his accuracy in the pocket as well as his leadership. Kelly sees two other key attributes in a quarterback.

“Poise would probably be the first,” said Kelly. “Crucial. We’re not starting a newbie. We’re starting a guy who played this game. We want him to be sovereign, but we want him to be determined. He saw it and knows what it looks like.”

GUEST OF HONOR

Florida State lineman Dillan Gibbons will have a good friend in the stands, Timothy Donovan. He was born with VACTERL (a not accidental association of birth defects). Through his GoFundMe campaign, which went viral in July – the first day NCAA athletes could use the new name, image, and legislation – Gibbons organized an attempt to get Timothy and his family to Tallahassee.

Florida State and Notre Dame fans, as well as others across the country, have donated more than $ 50,000 to not only help make the trip a reality, but also to help Timothy’s parents, Tim and Paula, care for their son needs.

Gibbons wants the weekend to feel like an official visit for Donovan, who is a fan of Notre Dame. “I just want it to be his day in the sun,” said Gibbons. “I try to share his story with as many people as possible. All kinds of nice events are planned. “

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Associate Press Writer John Fineran of South Bend, Indiana contributed to this report.

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