Depth Chart Notes: Offense

A review of Notre Dame's offensive starters and key reserves for tonight's battle with rival USC.

Offense: Skill Positions

Quarterback Tommy Rees will make his 10th start (8-1); Rees has thrown eight touchdown passes since his last interception in Week Four at Pittsburgh. Joining the sophomore in the backfield is the tandem of Cierre Wood (5.4 yards per carry, 650 rushing yards, and six touchdowns) and Jonas Gray. Gray has exploded in his senior year, averaging 8.4 yards per carry on 43 rushes while scoring the first four touchdowns of his college career.

Wood has amassed 1,102 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns (9 total scores) in his last 11 games dating back to Week Nine vs. Tulsa last year.

Four wide receivers will receive the majority of the unit's reps, with senior All-America candidate Michael Floyd rarely leaving the field. Junior Theo Riddick broke out of a slump last week with eight receptions including four short crosses he turned into two first downs and a touchdown in the opening half vs. Air Force. Sophomore wide receiver T.J. Jones rounds out the group; he's fourth on the squad with 21 receptions, two short of his season total last fall.

Junior Robby Toma is the No. 4 receiver, entering in the slot in relief of Riddick. Toma snared his first career touchdown catch in Notre Dame's last outing vs. Air Force.

The unit's breakout performer is junior tight end Tyler Eifert, whose 13-game stretch of 58 receptions is the most in program history at the position (the 698 yards amassed in that span is second only to college football Hall of Famer Ken MacAfee's 797 yards (12 games in 1977). Eifert has scored a touchdown in three straight games dating back to his late-game go-ahead score in a 15-12 win at Pittsburgh.

A pair of first-time contributor's occasionally join Eifert in two-and-three tight end sets: freshman Ben Koyack (6'5" 252 pounds) and redshirt-freshman Alex Welch (6'5" 245 pounds).

Offensive Line

The starters (from left to right) remain: junior Zack Martin, junior Chris Watt, senior Braxston Cave, senior Trevor Robinson, and 5th-year senior Taylor Dever. Martin (3), Watt (3) and Cave (2) can return for extended eligibility thanks to redshirt freshmen seasons (Cave's medical while Watt and Martin were withheld from action by former head coach Charlie Weis).

Versatile 5th-year senior backup Andrew Nuss will again play at least a series if not two at guard. Redshirt-sophomore right tackle Christian Lombard has yet to see scrimmage time with the game in doubt, nor has senior center Mike Golic, making Nuss the only regular rotation backup when the game remains tight. Lombard, Golic and Nuss are the team's trio of set-back protectors for punter Ben Turk.

The group has allowed just five sacks this season while paving the way for a team-average of 6.0 yards per rush, a number that would shatter the program record set in 1946 (5.4). Top Stories