Notre Dame freshman Blake Fisher set to start PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at right tackle
The game plan for one Notre Dame freshman offensive lineman changed in a hurry.
The thinking with left tackle Blake Fisher for the rest of 2021 was to get healthy enough and strong enough and in football shape enough to be good to go for spring practice. That's where he'd secure a starting spot and be a staple along the offensive line for the 2022 season.
Starting right guard Josh Lugg then suffered a knee injury earlier this month in bowl practice back on campus. When the No. 5 ranked (CFP) Irish released their depth chart Monday evening in preparation for Saturday’s PlayStation Fiesta Bowl game against No. 9 Oklahoma State, the 6-foot-8, 335-pound Fisher, a native of Avon, Ind., was listed as a starter.
At right tackle.
“I didn’t know going into bowl practice if he was going to be able to play,” head coach Marcus Freeman said of Fisher. “He’s got to the point where he’s ready to play and help us.”
Fisher started at left tackle in the season opener at Florida State, but suffered a knee injury late in the first half that required what was thought to be season-ending surgery. Fisher pushed to return to practice late in the year, but wasn’t expected to see much time, and really not see any snaps during the bowl game. That’s since changed.
The more Fisher worked this month, the more he showed, the more he proved to the coaching staff that he could be an option if needed.
Turns out, he’s needed.
Fellow freshman Joe Alt took over the starting left tackle spot for the game at Virginia Tech. He started the final seven games at left tackle. Fisher, Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody also each started games at left tackle before Alt stepped in.
Alt’s done such a solid job at the spot that Freeman decided it would be easier to plug Fisher into Lugg’s spot instead of putting him back at left tackle.
Now, Alt and Fisher both will start.
“We’re excited about having both of them,” Freeman said.
Lugg was hurt in one of the team’s first practices in full pads. Freeman said that the right tackle’s been battling a knee issue most of the season. When he stepped the wrong way in an 11-on-11 drill, surgery soon followed.
“It was a minor meniscus tear; he’s had it for a while,” Freeman said. “I think when he planted it kind of flipped the meniscus a little more to where we decided, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to get this thing fixed right away.'
“He’s had it throughout the season and has had to fight through it."
Lugg started all 12 games at right tackle during the regular season.
Freeman spent 20 minutes with reporters via Zoom on Monday not long after the Notre Dame traveling party arrived in Arizona. Freeman said he spent much of the four-hour flight watching film of Oklahoma State. Come Saturday, the former Irish defensive coordinator will have defensive line coach Mike Elston serve as the de facto defensive coordinator. Elson will call the defense for the game.
Freeman also said he wanted the Irish to get a quick practice/walk through in Monday. The team will hold its first practice in Arizona on Tuesday. It will mirror that of a regular game-week workout in advance of Saturday.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI