Notre Dame's struggles on the defensive side of the ball have been well documented, and rightfully so, but what the Irish will do this week is come after USC with a variety of different blitz packages.
"We are expecting a little bit of everything," quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said. "They are definitely creative."
Notre Dame co-defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is known for dialing up blitzes all over the field, and you can be sure that the Irish will attempt to confuse USC quarterback Matt Barkley with pressure all afternoon.
Tenuta has had great success when facing freshman signal callers, racking up an impressive 18-2 record.
Against Notre Dame's aggressive scheme, Barkley will rely on his veteran offensive line and running backs to provide time in the pocket.
"The good thing is we have seen pretty much every pressure there is because of our defense," said USC center Kris O'Dowd. "It's pretty much just going back to camp and redoing your notes."
Pete Carroll added: "It's just whether or not we're able to handle the heat that they bring. If we can, we can have a chance at moving the ball."
What separates Notre Dame from other defenses is the frequency with which they blitz.
"It's about their willingness to continue to do it. Most teams just wouldn't do it at the percentages that they do," Carroll said. "It's their willingness to stay after you and keep coming…They are pressuring well over half of the time which is a tremendous percentage of pressure."
Teams that are willing to take chances to pressure the quarterback often leave themselves vulnerable to the big play, which has been the case with the Irish in '09.
"There is risk and reward here," Carroll said. "The whole point of pressuring is to disrupt the offense. If you can minimize that there are opportunities to make plays, and we have to create some space and see if we can do that."
The Trojans have opened up the offense in recent weeks and will benefit greatly from the return of speedy wide receiver Ronald Johnson, so look for some fireworks from USC this Saturday in South Bend.
- With Tupou and Spicer banged up, Armond Armstead continues to get work at defensive tackle. Carroll said they will play Armstead this Saturday but want to limit his reps.
"We aren't going to overplay him," Carroll said. "If anything, we will play him less plays than maybe they would like, but they are ready."
- Linebacker Malcolm Smith has worked with the first-team defense this week and Carroll said that the junior linebacker is full-speed.
- While most residents of Los Angeles dreaded seeing the rain clouds overhead this week, Carroll has looked at the lousy weather as a blessing.
"This was great for us. We made it through it, slopped through that and had good solid work today," Carroll said. "This is a blessing for us. It's about footing and paying attention to where you are on the field."
- While Marc Tyler said he is leaning towards having surgery on his injured toe, Pete Carroll said they will wait until next week to re-evaluate their options.
"He's still trying to get the toe healed up," Carroll said. "It's a really, really difficult injury for running backs. We just have to wait our way through it.
"I would think next Tuesday they would probably make a big re-evaluation of where he is and give us an update on whether or not he is close to coming back."
- C.J. Gable, who is the Trojans' best pass blocking back, could see more reps this week because of Notre Dame's aggressive defensive scheme.
"He's always been our most consistent blocker and that is a consideration for us if we are having any issue with it," Carroll said.
- Former USC defensive back Jason Sehorn stopped by practice on Wednesday.
- The Trojans will have an 11 a.m. practice at Howard Jones Field on Thursday before boarding a flight for South Bend, IN.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith is back at full-speed this week. (Paul Pinner Photo)
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