Driver, Fisher provide Irish backfield assault
By BILL HART
Tailbacks Tony Driver and Tony Fisher need to be ready at the flip of a coin for Saturday’s home opener against Kansas.With the graduation of Autry Denson, Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, junior Driver and sophomore Fisher are in a close race for the starting job.
So close, Irish head coach Bob Davie may reach in his pocket for a quarter — and a decision.
“I think it’s too close to call,” Davie said in a Tuesday press conference. “We may even flip a coin or do something before the game.”
While the decision may not come to coin-flipping, there is no clear cut leader. Davie said he plans to start Fisher, then alternate Driver and Fisher throughout the game.
“We’re going to alternate those two, and I would say both of them are starters,” Davie said. “They’re going to be alternating just about every series.”
Driver and Fisher have made cases for themselves last season.
Following Darcey Levy’s midseason ankle sprain, Fisher stepped into the top backup slot behind Denson. Playing in nine regular-season games, he rushed 75 yards in 18 attempts. He also played on special teams.
“I feel I have done a pretty good job so far,” Fisher said. “We have guys like Jarious [Jackson] and Bobby [Brown] who helped out a great deal, and I feel that I have been a positive contribution to the team.”
Driver’s presence on offense stretches back to his freshman season, where he went 35 for 125 with three touchdowns.
As a sophomore, he started seven games at strong safety, finishing with 58 tackles to tie for fourth on the squad. He recovered a fumble that set up the go-ahead touchdown against Michigan and grabbed two interceptions in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to clinch a win against Purdue.
“He’s such an explosive player that I want to get him honed in at tailback,” Davie said about Driver. “I want to get him settled in and hopefully he can be an important player for us.”
Losing Driver may not hurt the Irish defense as expected with senior Deveron Harper and sophomore Clifford Jefferson expected to take the right and left spots, respectively.
While Driver and Fisher likely will fill the top spots, Davie said other players may contribute Saturday to the running game.
“You might see Terrance Howard; you may see Julius Jones.” he said. “I think we’re got a lot of guys right now that have the potential to play in this game.”
Driver nor Fisher is used to sharing a starting position, yet each is willing to alternate if it will keep Irish opponents guessing.
“It’s a different situation for me,” Fisher said. “But right now, it’s just something you have to get used to. You’ve got two good running backs trying to run the ball and trying to help the team work. I guess it will be an adjustment for both of us. It’s just something we have to fight through.”
All Sports Stories for Thursday, August 4, 1999