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USC FOOTBALL FYI

USC's Robert Woods can be tough to defend

The star receiver, who caught a season-low five passes against California, hopes to have a big game against Notre Dame on Saturday. The Fighting Irish hope to make plays against Woods.

October 20, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • USC receiver Robert Woods tries to elude Minnesota defenders Brock Vereen (21) and Spencer Reeves after a catch in the season opener.
USC receiver Robert Woods tries to elude Minnesota defenders Brock Vereen… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

How would Robert Woods defend Robert Woods?

"I don't think I want to say," USC's star receiver said Thursday, laughing.

By his standards, Woods had an off game last week against California, catching a season-low five passes, so he's hoping to break out for a big game Saturday against Notre Dame.

And there's not a whole lot the Fighting Irish defense might be able to do to stop him, said Kerry Cooks, Notre Dame's cornerbacks coach.

"They move him around, so you can't really get a bead on him where you'd like to run some combination coverages and potentially bracket the guy," he said. "You can't do that.

"There's not a magical coverage we can put on this guy. He's going to make plays. We just have to make sure we're in position to make our share of them."

Woods said he wasn't double-covered last season, but he's adjusting to that and other focused defensive schemes this season.

He said often his goal is simple: Just beat the cornerback in front of him.

"Once you beat that guy, it's one on one with that safety who usually has stiff hips or who isn't usually used to covering one on one or man to man," Woods said.

Bob Diaco, Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, said Woods' speed, pass-catching and tackle-breaking abilities set him apart. He also has what Diaco described as "contact balance."

"Normally, when you think of contact balance, that give and take where you get hit and kind of shuffle and keep gassing it, normally you think of a tailback," Diaco said. "But he runs like that. He's got that unique trait also."

Give and take

Notre Dame had 15 turnovers in its first four games and none in its last two.

USC forced five turnovers in its first five games and doubled the total in its last game, against Cal.

Trojans linebacker Dion Bailey said USC hopes to extend its ball-hawking habits while ending Notre Dame's streak of ball security.

"We pretty much have to get them out of the comfort zone they're in right now," said Bailey, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble against Cal. "We've got to try to expose the youth of their quarterback and try to get our hands on the ball."

Tommy Rees, Notre Dame's sophomore quarterback, has had six passes intercepted.

Watch list

USC Coach Lane Kiffin said the annual Notre Dame showdown doesn't have a huge impact on recruiting because it occurs in the middle of the season with much recruiting still to be done.

But it can help.

He recalled the 2002 USC-Notre Dame game when Carson Palmer passed for 425 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-13 win while a key running back recruit watched from the sideline: Reggie Bush.

"He was a Notre Dame lean at that time," Kiffin said.

Tyler optimistic

Running back Marc Tyler, who suffered a dislocated shoulder against Cal, plans to play against Notre Dame.

"I know I can go," he said. "I'm ready."

Kiffin has said Tyler will be a game-time decision. Tyler and Curtis McNeal shared first-team reps during practice.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

Times staff writer Gary Klein and Chicago Tribune staff writer Brian Hamilton contributed to this report.

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