How Notre Dame walk-ons Chase Ketterer and Justin Fisher give Irish defense a Navy look
SOUTH BEND — Walk-on college football players rarely get the spotlight. But during Navy week, they are essential for preparing No. 20 Notre Dame's defense for the Midshipmen triple-option attack.
This year two former South Bend-area high school football stars who grew up in the shadow of the Golden Dome are responsible for the practice looks — New Prairie's Chase Ketterer and Mishawaka's Justin Fisher.
"I've been saying it since we started Navy (prep) that Justin Fisher looks like a Navy fullback," senior safety DJ Brown said. "(Along with Sam) Assaf, all of those guys are giving us good looks. Once you get to the game the tempo goes really fast, so those guys are doing a good job replicating that."
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The 20th-ranked Irish (6-3) face Navy (3-6) at noon Saturday in Baltimore for the 93rd time in the series.
Previous Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had a philosophy of recruiting walk-on quarterbacks who ran a triple-option-style offense in high school just for this week. Ketterer, a junior, and Fisher, a freshman, both fit that bill.
Fisher, a former Cavemen quarterback was a beast in coach Keith Kinder's triple-option scheme, winning two sectional championships, and earning All-State accolades as a junior.
Ketterer rushed for more than 5,000 yards in high school for the Cougars, adding another 1,500 yards through the air. He was also key in helping Notre Dame prepare for the Midshipmen last season.
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"Chase as a scout team quarterback is quick and can throw the ball," Brown said. "I think he could be a Navy quarterback."
Added defensive coordinator Al Golden: "It's a big load on those guys, and we appreciate the effort they've been giving."
Preparations for Navy wasn't something that started after head coach Marcus Freeman turned on film of his team's upset last week over previous College Football Playoff No. 4 Clemson. Since summer camp the Irish have made time in practice to install different looks mimicking the intricate details the Midshipmen offense uses.
“You just pick a couple of days, or a day here or day there, whenever it fits into your installation," Golden said about preparing for the option. "And then we hit it again on the bye week. ... There's a lot of things that when we've matched up against Georgia Tech or Navy in the past, that we've tried to utilize and coach. So, there is some background there, and obviously we're trying to execute that.”
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Golden previously schemed against the triple-option vs. Georgia Tech annually when he was the head coach at Temple from 2006-10 and at Miami (Fla.) from 2011-15. And while he spent six years in the NFL before joining Notre Dame this year, he is leaning on that experience to get his defense prepared.
"Against an opponent like this," Golden said, "it’s really important to have experience and guys that can play with poise."
Notre Dame's starting defense on Saturday will have a blend of experienced and triple-option first-timers, like true freshman cornerback Benjamin Morrison who is coming off of a two interception game against Clemson, and Northwestern transfer safety Brandon Joseph.
The key for those newcomers: Just do your job.
"It's all about eye discipline," Brown said. "As long as you are locked in on your job you will be able to read the pass. Navy is run first but the way they catch their opponents is by passing, so just being disciplined."
No. 20 Notre Dame (6-3) vs. Navy (3-6)
- When: Saturday at noon. EST
- Where: M&T Bank Stadium (71,001), Baltimore, Md.
- TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM), WNSN (101.5 FM)
- Line: Notre Dame opens as a 17 -point favorite
- Series: Notre Dame leads 78-13-1
- Last meeting: Notre Dame won 34-6 in South Bend