Heisman candidate Te'o impresses Trojans

LOS ANGELES -- T.J. McDonald understands how hard it is for a defensive player to still be in the Heisman race at this time of year.

So he appreciates what Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te'o is doing this season, with 96 tackles and six interceptions for the undefeated Fighting Irish, who the Trojans host Saturday at the Coliseum (5 p.m. PT, ABC).

"You gotta be making a lot of plays," McDonald said. "You gotta be doing a lot of good things. He's carrying his defense, and that's definitely something that you can respect."

USC linebacker Hayes Pullard lives with Trojans receiver Marqise Lee and supports his Heisman campaign. But he admits he'd cast any postseason ballots he received for Te'o because of the defensive connection.

"I'm still a Marqise fan because he's my friend and roommate," Pullard said this week. "But being a linebacker, I'd give (Te'o) every vote, just being a linebacker and knowing how hard it is to get in there."

Pullard said Te'o "does everything 100 percent."

"I've watched his film -- every play he goes all out," Pullard said. "He plays every single play hard and aggressively."

Te'o goes in the same club with former USC star Brian Cushing as linebackers that Pullard looks up to, the redshirt sophomore said.

"I love his character," Pullard said. "I still look up to him as a linebacker."

Of course, Te'o nearly went to USC, committing to Notre Dame only on the morning of national signing day and spending the last minutes before he actually signed on the phone with former Trojans coach Pete Carroll.

Reminded of that this week and asked if he remembered how close Te'o was to coming to USC, current Trojans coach Lane Kiffin smiled.

"I do," he said.