• Class: Junior (Eligibility: 2)
• On The Depth Chart: Fertitta is third on the depth chart at safety, but a mainstay on Notre Dame’s coverage teams.
• Post-Spring Status: Unchanged
Nicco Fertitta totaled 71 tackles and four interceptions as a senior defensive back at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, which went 15-0 in 2014 en route to the Gaels’ sixth straight Nevada Division I state title and mythical national prep title. The Bishop Gorman defense allowed 54 points against nine in-state opponents.
Along with prep teammate Alizé Mack, Fertitta arrived at Notre Dame in the summer of 2015 and impressed with his tenacity and toughness. He played in all 11 games as a freshman, recording one tackle – versus UMass – and caused a fumble.
Last season as a sophomore, Fertitta had 17 tackles, eight unassisted, one-half tackle for loss, and a pair of passes defensed.
FERTITTA AT HIS BEST
With the Irish trailing by 17 in the fourth quarter at USC, Fertitta filled the gap against Trojan running back Ada’Cedric Ware. The blast injured Ware and forced a fumble, which Drue Tranquill recovered. Fertitta was called for targeting, a penalty for which he’ll have to sit out the first half against Temple in this year’s season-opener. It was one of Notre Dame’s best hits of the season.
Fertitta also made an impact against Syracuse (four tackles), N.C. State and Stanford (a pass broken up in each), and Navy (half-tackle for a loss).
“What he brings to your locker room, what he brings to your playing field, is a toughness that you can’t duplicate.” -- Brian Kelly
“I was always little. I always had to pack a punch. My dad really taught me that. That’s why hitting has always been my strong suit. It’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to knock out the bigger guy.” -- Fertitta
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Similar to Robby Toma back in 2009, Nicco Fertitta arrived at Notre Dame in the shadow of a high school teammate. Also similar to Toma – who would go on to catch 60 passes for the Irish as prep teammate Manti Te’o emerged as a force at linebacker – Fertitta has a chance to make a significant contribution to the 2017-18 squads.
Fertitta’s greatest input will come on special teams, where he’ll be a core contributor to Brian Polian’s units. It won’t be a shock if Mike Elko finds situations that fit Fertitta’s assets at safety. Fertitta is a big-time hitter, and in short-yardage situations, his presence on the field makes sense.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
It will be difficult for Fertitta to rise above third-team at safety with the move of Nick Coleman from cornerback, the presence of sophomores Jalen Elliott and Devin Studstill, the early entry of Isaiah Robertson, and the arrival of another freshman, Jordan Genmark Heath. Fertitta lacks range from the safety position, which makes him a risk on the back end of the defense.
Although Fertitta arrived at Notre Dame as a legitimate three-star prospect, his career likely will mirror that of former walk-on Mike Anello, who was a terror for the Irish on coverage teams, as is Fertitta.
Fertitta had 17 tackles last year, including several from the safety position in ’16. Anello achieved a career-high 23 tackles in 2008 – 15 solo – all of which came on special teams.
Fertitta is a more accomplished safety than Anello. He’ll likely stay in the mix at safety because of his knowledge of the system and his physical style of play. When all is said and done, however, he’ll make his greatest mark on special teams, a la Anello.