The Notre Dame offense has averaged 455 yards per game (158 rushing, 297 passing), while averaging 31 points in its first four contests. This weekend they'll be facing a defense that held USC to 13 points one week and the next surrendered 34 points to Stanford. To say the defense has run hot and cold is an understatement. The Huskies have been horrendous against the run over the past two weeks, yielding 250 rushing yards to USC and a stunning 321yards to Stanford. On the season, the Huskies are ranked 106th against the run giving up 195 yards per contest. They have been better defending the pass, allowing just 183 yards per game. But that begs the question, "Are the passing numbers good because teams don't need to throw the ball?" Opponents have completed 60 percent of their passes against Washington, while averaging 12.7 yards per reception.
Washington plays a base "4-3" under defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Holt is the product of Pete Carroll's system, so you can expect Holt's defensive scheme to be a lot like USC's scheme. The Washington defenders will try to limit big gains, while trying to keep the play in front of them. They'll let Notre Dame drive between the 30's, but once the Irish get a sniff of the end zone, Holt will become much more aggressive and begin to send players from various spots. The Huskies have been outstanding at holding teams out of the end zone; in 16 redzone opportunities, Washington's opponents have scored only six touchdowns. Holt likes to rotate liberally along the defensive line. He likes his guys fresh and they do have enough bodies to pull this off. There isn't much depth at linebacker or in the defensive backfield.
Front Four… and more.
Defensive end: Teo' Nesheim (6-4, 263-pounds, Sr.) The leader of the defense. Teo' Nesheim has started 41 games for the Huskies and is a potential All-PAC 10 selection. Plays with a lot of energy and can be very disruptive. If Notre Dame can't control him on the edge, it will be difficult for the Irish offense to move the ball consistently. He has 12 tackles on the season and one sack.
Defensive tackle: Alameda Ta'amu ( 6-3, 348-pounds, So.) has started nine games. He's the run stopper and a force to deal with inside, but not a guy that dominates the front line. He won't make a lot of plays in the backfield, just tough to move off his spot. His only tackle on the season is a sack.
Defensive tackle: Cameron Elisara ( 6-3, 275-pounds, Jr.) Started 11 games for the Huskies. He's a tough guy inside, but a bit undersized. He will make plays from time to time. Elisara is solid, but a guy Notre Dame should be able to move around. Elisara has 11 tackles in four games, including one sack.
Defensive end: Darrion Jones (6-2, 256-pounds,Sr.) Returning starter from 2008. He's rebuilt his body since the new coaching staff came on board. He got dinged up in Huskies first game against LSU, and missed a couple games. He should be ready to go against Notre Dame. He's strong and quick, and he could be a tough matchup for Paul Duncan.
Everrette Thompson (6-6, 262-pounds, So.) Started three games last season and played in 11 as a true freshman. You'll see him inside for Ta'amu or outside for Nesheim. He's still coming back from an injury in the spring, so he's still developing. He's got quick feet and can get under offensive lineman and get leverage despite the weight difference. Thompson is at his best stringing plays out that go to his side.
Talia Crichton (6-3, 229-pounds, Fr.) Former teammate of current Notre Dame commitment, Justin Utupo at Lakewood High School (Calif.) Started at defensive end while Darrion Jones was out. He's showed a lot of promise and the Washington staff expects big things from him, but he has suffered from freshman mistakes.
Kalani Aldrich (6-7, 250-pounds, So.) A tall rangy defensive end. He's been hampered by injury early in the season. If healthy he can be disruptive. He started against Idaho and played in six games last season.
SAM backer: Mason Foster (6-2, 244-pounds, Jr.) He has 16 starts under his belt. Foster has a nose for the ball. He plays fast and he's very aggessive. If he gets his hands on the ball carrier the play is generally over. Foster is third on the team in tackles with 26. He also has an interception.
Mike backer: Donald Butler (6-1, 235-pounds, Sr.) Returning starter with 19 starts in his career at Washington. He was a force against USC with 12 tackles, two for loss, a forced fumble and an interception. This is the guy that will chase the ball from sideline to sideline. He's the guy Notre Dame has to account for. If he plays well, the defense plays well. Leads the team in tackles with 38, 4.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and one interception.
Will backer E.J. Savannah (6-1, 228-pounds, Sr.) is the starter, but due to a foot injury, it'll likely be a game-time decision on whether he plays. If he isn't able to go, Washington will miss his 27 tackles, with 1.5 tackles for loss.
If Savannah can't go either Cort Dennison (6-1, 220-pounds, So.) or Josh Gage (6-2, 225-pounds, Sr.) will get the call. Neither player is extremely athletic, but they're smart players that can get to the ball.
Free Safety: Justin Glenn (5-11, 198-pounds, RS-Fr.) A converted cornerback. His first start at safety was in the Huskies second game of the season against Idaho. A smart, heady player that is probably the best open field tackler for Washington. Glenn has 16 tackles and has recovered two fumbles.
Strong safety: Nate Williams (6-0, 221-pounds, Jr.) He's been starting since he arrived at Washington. Probably the best player in the secondary. He gained nearly 20 pounds during the offseason to become a force at safety. He doesn't have great athleticism, but he makes up for it with smart play. Fourth on the team with 18 tackles.Cornerback: Quinton Richardson (6-0, 203-pounds, So.) Started 15 games for the Huskies. He's a converted safety that is very aggressive and athletic, which can lead to breakdowns in coverage. As a former safety, he'll come up aggressively on running plays and make a hit. Richardson has 14 tackles on the season.
Cornerback: Desmond Trufant (6-0, 172-pounds, Fr.) a very aggressive, physical player that's not afraid to challenge receivers. He's give up some plays early on, but he isn't afraid to get right back up on guys. Trufant has seven tackles for the Huskies.