Robey embraces challenge of defending Floyd

After drawing Irish receiver Michael Floyd in coverage in nickel defense and at the goal line last season, sophomore cornerback Nickell Robey is ready for more.

LOS ANGELES – Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is a 6-foot-3, 224-pound behemoth.

He has rewritten the Irish record books, ranking first in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, and 100-yard games.

Floyd is a true matchup nightmare, and USC is tasked with containing him this week. It will likely have to do so without redshirt sophomore corner Torin Harris.

Harris missed practice once again Wednesday and seems unlikely to play Saturday. He has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, and his absence further taxes limited numbers in the secondary, which lost redshirt freshman Anthon Brown to a season-ending broken ankle last week at California.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin said walk-on James Harbin would serve as the emergency corner against Notre Dame, and would not take redshirts off senior T.J. Bryant or freshman Ryan Henderson.

Kiffin added that Henderson, a three-star recruit from Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, could be pressed into action next week if there are more injuries.

Junior college transfer Isiah Wiley, who had five tackles and broke up one pass against the Golden Bears, is expected to start against Notre Dame, leaving the challenge of defending Floyd to sophomore Nickell Robey.

Robey did face off against Floyd a little in last season's 20-16 loss, at the goal line and lined up in the slot. Floyd finished with 11 receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown.

The diminutive Robey came away impressed.

"Floyd, you can't compare him to no other receiver that's in the NCAA," he said. "I feel like he's kind of set his own standard, set his own bar for himself. He has his own little dimension about how he plays."

USC has faced several elite receivers in its past two games, Juron Criner of Arizona and Cal's duo of Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones.

"Oh boy, he's something," assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said of Floyd. "I don't like to compare them, but sure wish we had a week where there wasn't one of those number one draft picks. We're getting them every week.

"This guy, he's something else."

"I felt like everything was building up to him, all the good receivers building up to him," Robey added.

It is his physicality of Floyd, who has 53 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns this season, which sets him apart.

"He likes to get up on defenders, he likes to manhandle them and he likes to get around them," Robey said. "I just can't get into that. I got to use my quickness and my speed and cover him down."

"It's my understanding he was like that at Cretin-Derham high school," the elder Kiffin said. "He's been like that his whole career. It would have been a great time for him to out as a junior."

Listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, Robey sees this as a chance to put to rest any doubts about his ability to handle bigger receivers.

"I feel like I got to play with a big chip on my shoulder. I feel like I got a lot to prove this game because it's Michael Floyd and this is an opportunity for me to come out and showcase my talent and show what I really have," he said.

"I just want to eliminate all doubts about my coverage."

Tyler a "Game Time Decision"
While running back Marc Tyler declared he would be available to play Saturday, Kiffin was a bit more cautious regarding the redshirt senior's dislocated shoulder.

"It'll be a game-time decision," Kiffin said.

Tyler cited to his last chance to play in Notre Dame Stadium as a key factor in his quick recovery.

"It says a lot about his dedication to this program after all he's been through. It's great to hear," Kiffin said. "But it's our job as coaches and as the head coach to make sure we're doing (what is) in the best interest of the whole season."

Kiffin said he would also closely monitor freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee, who sprained his shoulder at Cal, given his style of play, aggressively going after the ball in the air.

"He falls awkwardly a lot because he does go get the ball so much," Kiffin said. "Also, he's so tough, he's not going to tell us any different. If there's any way for him to play, he's going to try to play."

Quick Hits
-Safety Demetrius Wright (leg contusion) returned to practice Wednesday.

-Kiffin praised the performance of freshman kicker Andre Heidari, who has made 10 of 11 field goals this season.


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