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Notre Dame stars Michael Floyd, Manti Te'o got away from Trojans

USC Coach Lane Kiffin is well aware that Floyd, a receiver, and Te'o, a linebacker, expressed interest in attending USC before ending up in South Bend.

October 19, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o reacts after making a tackle against Air Force on Oct. 8. Te'o, widely considered Notre Dame's best defensive player, nearly signed with USC.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o reacts after making a tackle against… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)

When it comes to recruiting, USC Coach Lane Kiffin rarely misses a chance to subtly jab the Trojans' previous staff.

So with the Trojans preparing for Saturday night's game at Notre Dame, Kiffin was again reminded of the prospects that got away after he left his post as USC's offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator to become the Oakland Raiders' coach in January 2007.

Notre Dame stars Michael Floyd and Manti Te'o both had interest in USC before signing with the Fighting Irish in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Floyd, is one of top receivers in college football. While attending high school in Minnesota, he wrote a letter to USC coaches expressing interest in joining the Trojans.

But Brice Butler and D.J. Shoemate were the only receivers in USC's 2008 recruiting class.

Floyd, who has eclipsed 100 yards receiving 16 times, caught 11 passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame's 20-16 victory over USC last season at the Coliseum.

The senior has 53 catches this season — four for touchdowns — and is averaging 106.5 yards receiving a game.

"He's kind of set his own standard," USC cornerback Nickell Robey said Wednesday. "He likes to get up on defenders, he likes to manhandle them."

The 6-2, 255-pound Te'o signed with Notre Dame — despite speaking with former USC coach Pete Carroll for more than 90 minutes on his way to, and just before, announcing his college choice.

Te'o had eight tackles against USC in 2010. He has a team-best 59 tackles and four sacks this season.

"He's a great player," Kiffin said this week. "I wish he was here."

On Wednesday, Te'o said his feelings going into this year's game against the Trojans are different than the previous two.

"My first two years I would say, 'OK, this is USC, I almost went there. I grew up a USC fan,' and I used to have those kinds of emotions mixing in with all the anxiety and excitement," he said. "But going into this year I don't have that feeling anymore.

"I'm happy to get out there. I'm happy to play another game. I'm happy to play with the guys I'm with. So it's just another game for me."

Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood, a 2009 signee from Oxnard Santa Clara High, is averaging 108.3 rushing yards a game.

Tyler cleared

USC tailback Marc Tyler, who suffered a dislocated left shoulder against California on Oct. 13, said doctors have cleared him to play against Notre Dame.

"I don't know how it healed so fast," he said after a non-contact practice. "It feels good but I haven't been hit yet."

Tyler's status will be a game-time decision, Kiffin said. If the senior cannot play, junior Curtis McNeal would probably start.

Freshman receiver Marqise Lee, who also suffered a shoulder injury against Cal, said he would play against the Fighting Irish.

"By the time Saturday comes I won't be 100% but at least 80%," he said. "That's all I need."

Uniform statement

There's been no official word about what jersey the Fighting Irish will wear on Saturday, but the school announced Wednesday that it will debut a new helmet that will more accurately reflect the campus' most recognizable landmark.

"We wanted it to be the Golden Dome," Coach Brian Kelly said.

Quick hits

Trojans cornerback Torin Harris (shoulder) did not practice. … The Trojans will practice Thursday afternoon and then depart for South Bend, Ind.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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