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Irish Insights

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Just win, Te'o

Notre Dame's Brian Kelly has fielded his share of questions about linebacker Manti Te'o possibly winning this year's Heisman Trophy.

The Irish coach has never wavered in saying that Te'o deserves the Heisman, and Kelly has also been quick to lay out the way the senior defensive player can bring home college football's top individual prize.

"My last pitch would be win all of your games," Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference. "You are a defensive player; dominate from a defensive standpoint, win all of your games, be the No. 1 team in the country.

"It has to be those kinds of circumstances to get the attention shifted from an offensive player to a defensive player."

The No. 1 Irish (11-0) are a win away from handling the team portion to help Te'o's Heisman push. Notre Dame plays at USC (7-4) Saturday, and a victory would put the Irish in the national title game and keep their record clean before the Heisman Trophy winner is announced Dec. 8.

Te'o has lived up to his end of the bargain of being a dominant defensive player.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder leads the team with 98 tackles, 5 1/2 for loss. He also has six interceptions, four pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and 1 1/2 sacks.

"Not very comforting," Kelly said of what it would be like to have to prepare to play against Te'o. "I know he is a pain in the butt when we go against him in the spring. You know you can't do certain things with him. He kind of eliminates certain plays because of his instincts.

"And you are going against a great competitor. That would be difficult to plan against."

Kelly has remained firm that if Te'o wins the Heisman Trophy, it will be purely as a defensive player. The coach has no plans to use the linebacker as a running back or in any other offensive situation.

"It never crossed my mind," Kelly said of using Te'o on offense. "We have a lot of people who have opinions on that. I will tell you that. And that won't happen.

"He's going to play linebacker, and that's it. If he can't win the Heisman at linebacker, then he can't win the Heisman."

Kelly said players did volunteer to give Te'o their spot in the offense to help the linebacker's Heisman hopes, but Kelly said he didn't give it serious consideration.

"If I put that guy at running back and he gets hurt, I will be coming back from that recruiting trip," Kelly said. "I won't get the chance to stay on the west coast" after Saturday's game against USC.

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