SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -San Diego State's defensive line is so beat up even Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is concerned.
No, it's not that Weis is feeling a twinge of compassion for Aztecs coach Chuck Long, who already has lost three defensive linemen for the season and has at least four others nursing injuries. After enduring a 3-9 season that led to eight months of introspection, Weis isn't in the mood to feel sorry for anyone.
It's just that Weis isn't sure what to expect from the Aztecs (0-1) defensively in Notre Dame's season opener on Saturday.
The Aztecs' defensive line, which had an end playing tackle last week, is in such shambles that they have their best linebacker, Russell Allen, listed at defensive end against the Irish.
``With a situation like this, it sometimes causes defensive coordinators to try to be creative,'' Weis said.
The Irish won't know until game time whether Allen will be a lineman in San Diego State's 4-3 scheme or just playing outside linebacker in a modified 3-4 scheme, Weis said.
``The players are going to have to just carry over what they learned in training camp and be able to recognize what they see when they go out there,'' Weis said.
That wasn't a strength last year for a Notre Dame offensive line that couldn't deal with the expected, never mind the unexpected.
The line gave up a school-record 58 sacks - 20 more than the previous record - and the Irish averaged just 75 yards a game rushing, 51 yards worse than the previous worst season in school history. And that was just the year before.
The offensive line was so lost last season that line coach John Latina sometimes wasn't sure his players understood what he was saying.
``I felt there were times where I was talking Italian to them,'' Latina said.
The Irish scaled back their playbook to try to make it easier. In practices they went first-team offense against the first-team defense more often to try to become more physical and to try to make sure the linemen are better prepared.
The Irish line is more experienced, with four of the linemen having started at least five games, and is bigger, averaging 315 pounds, 13 pounds heavier than last year. So Weis has made no secret about what he plans to do this season.
``We're going to pound it,'' he said.
The Irish probably couldn't have a better opponent to try to pound it against. The Aztecs had the second-worst rush defense last season, giving up 242 yards a game, and were in the bottom 10 in sacks with just 15. They didn't look any better in a season-opening loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a Football Championship Subdivision team, giving up 263 yards rushing.
On Saturday, the Aztecs will be running what Long refers to as a ``contingency defense.''
``I can't let the cat out of the bag too much, but it's an interesting, uh, more along the lines of a 3-4, because that's what we're down to,'' Long said on his radio show Thursday night.
Long said he won't know until game time which players he will have available to play. Considering his team's health, Long knows what to expect from the Irish.
``Notre Dame is big and we anticipate them trying to jam it down our throat with the run game,'' Long said. ``We're going to have to be creative, move that line, shift it around and do some different things and bring safeties down. It will be interesting.''
The Irish won't need much production to improve on last year, when they had -14 yards rushing through three games, and 198 yards through midseason. The Irish linemen know they must do better.
``We're looking to prove something,'' tackle Sam Young said.

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