Noie: Watch these four players work when Navy visits No. 8 Notre Dame
PLAYERS TO WATCH
FB ISAAC RUOSS
The defensive make-sure-to-do-on-every-play list when you face Navy is long and unforgiving. Near the top likely is to account for the fullback. See him. Tackle him. Otherwise, Alexander Tiech can happen. Again.
In 2010, Notre Dame never could or would account for Tiech, who turned 26 carries into 210 rushing yards in a Navy win. Up the middle he rumbled down after down again. He was as good as there’s been in that spot, which now belongs to Ruoss, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior from Mohnton, Pennsylvania. Majoring in quantitative economics, Ruoss is listed as an OR starter with fellow fullback James Harris. A starter after spending the 2020 season on special teams, Ruoss leads the Midshipmen with 437 rushing yards on 111 carries. He’s been stopped for a loss exactly once the first eight games. His 54.6 yards rushing per game leads the team. That’s not a lot, but if you let it, it can be. Just ask Tiech. And the Irish.
LB DIEGO FAGOT
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn’t mention many names of Navy players when he ran through a quick scout session during Monday’s media session, but he did highlight Fagot, a 6-3, 240-pound senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Kelly insisted that Fagot could play for any Power Five team in the country. He'd likely play well. He’s that good.
Fagot leads the Midshipmen with 71 tackles – 25 more than the No. 2 tackler. He also has a team-high 10 tackles for loss. He’s a legit problem for opposing offenses, who want to extend drives as long as possible so as to not have to chase around the Navy option. Fagot’s a really good player with a great story. One of seven kids, he was home schooled before enrolling at the Academy, where he’s started 31 of the last 32 games. It’s not hard to root for guys like him.
RB LOGAN DIGGS
An Irish offense that searched the first month-plus of the season for a productive/consistent/reliable third back to spell starter Kyren Williams and backup Chris Tyree may have finally found one in Diggs, a true freshman from Marrero, Louisiana. At 6 foot, 206 pounds, Diggs isn’t going to run past you, or over you or through you. He’s just a good, solid back who knows how to do his job. Give him the ball, and he’ll figure it out how to get the needed yards.
Pressed to play at Virginia Tech only after a turf toe injury shelved Tyree and then Williams was shaken up, Diggs has carried 20 times for 74 yards. He scored his first career touchdown against North Carolina. Oh, and his next carry for minus yardage will be his first. That’s pretty impressive for a true freshman.
Diggs averages only 24.7 rushing yards per game over his last (and first) three, but he’s clearly cemented himself as a back in this offense, to the point where not too many people have asked lately about veteran C’Bo Flemister, relegated to sideline spectator for myriad reasons. One of them is Diggs.
LB DREW WHITE
The guy's listed again as a player to watch for the second time in four weeks? Why? Especially after Kelly mentioned Monday that the graduate student from Boca Raton, Florida shouldn’t have played against North Carolina because of an ailing shoulder?
Why White? Easy. It’s Navy. It’s option football. Notre Dame needs someone who gets it, who recognizes it, who understands it, and then can go and solve it. White’s that guy.
What is it about Irish linebackers who wear jersey numbers in the 40s that know the option so well? For years, it was Greer Martini (No. 48), who averaged a whopping 11 tackles in his four games against Navy. Now it’s White (No. 40), who’s tallied six and 10 tackles against the Midshipmen in his two games. Kelly acknowledged Monday that White has played a lot of snaps this season and could use a break. He’s not going to get one this week. Not with an option offense coming to campus.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI