SOUTH BEND - There will be a No. 46 on the field for Notre Dame one last time this season.

It just won’t be Steve Filer.

Irish senior outside linebacker Darius Fleming, normally No. 45, will don his friend and teammate’s uniform Saturday night against Maryland (2-7) as a tribute.

Filer, also a senior and primarily Fleming’s backup, suffered a knee injury (ACL) in practice Wednesday that effectively ends his college career. It occurred in a non-contact pass-rush drill, according to ND head coach Brian Kelly, who announced the injury after practice Thursday.

“He just planted, and the knee went,” said Kelly, whose Irish are 6-3 heading into the off-site home game at Landover, Md. “You look at it, and you feel sick about it.”

Filer and Fleming were as close as their uniform numbers from the time they got involved with Notre Dame in the recruiting process.

Both players were high school stars in the Chicago Catholic League. And both were considered breakthrough recruits on defense for-then head coach Charlie Weis, with Fleming ranking No. 31 on recruiting analyst Tom Lemming’s top 100 for 2008. Filer was just four spots down, at No. 35.

But while the 6-foot-2, 255-pound Fleming’s star gradually ascended, Filer’s was crossed, as first Weis, then Kelly searched for a niche for the 6-3, 245-pounder.

He finishes with 37 tackles for his career, five this season.

Personnel updates

nþKelly said senior defensive end Ethan Johnson had a strong week of practice and should be able to contribute in a game Saturday night for the first time since the first quarter of the Purdue game on Oct. 1.

Johnson suffered an ankle sprain against the Boilermakers.

nþFreshman defensive ends Aaron Lynch and Chase Hounshell are also expected to be in the rotation Saturday. Lynch is coming off an ankle injury in last Saturday’s win at Wake Forest. Hounshell missed the Wake game with a shoulder injury suffered Oct. 29 against Navy.

nþWide receiver TJ Jones was back to 100 percent Thursday after suffering a blow to the head in the Wake Forest game.

De-clawing the Wildcat

Kelly was asked Thursday during his weekly radio show, why no Wildcat formation this season?

It has to do with personnel, he said.

“It’s really to feature two players - a single-wing quarterback, who has to be a dynamic runner of the football,” Kelly said, “and a slot receiver, who’s lights-out running the football.

“We haven’t found the right fit yet.”

Salute from Brady Quinn

Six military veterans, who also happen to be Irish football fans, will attend Saturday’s ND-Maryland game at FedExField, thanks in part to former ND quarterback Brady Quinn’s foundation - 3rd and Goal.

The foundation is committed to making a difference in the lives of U.S. veterans, assisting those facing homelessness and assisting those requiring home improvements to make their lives more comfortable.

Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom’s foundation, Wish of a Lifetime, teamed with Quinn’s group to get the veterans to the game.

One of the men is Vietnam vet Jay Cabacar, a 72-year-old resident of Landover, Md., who has never been to an Irish game.

Staff writer Eric Hansen:
ehansen@sbtinfo.com
574-235-6112