SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Carlo Calabrese came to Notre Dame in 2009, and has played in 46 games during his career with the Irish. Until game No. 46, he had only played linebacker.
But thanks to a rash of injuries to defensive linemen, Calabrese was thrown into the mix at nose guard during Notre Dame's Nov. 9 loss at Pitt.
Notre Dame lost swingman Tony Springmann before the season started, and was without Kona Schwenke for the Pitt game. Louis Nix played more than he expected at Heinz Field, but reserve Jarron Jones rolled his ankle that night.
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That thrust Calabrese into a new role — he never played any defensive tackle growing up, though he saw some practice reps there during practice leading up to the game. In nickel situations, he lined up with his hand in the ground over the interior of Pitt's offensive line.
"We were pulling the rip cord on that one," coach Brian Kelly said last week. "That was emergency of emergencies. We didn't envision that, but it was really our next-best option of getting somebody who knew the stunts that we wanted to run in that nickel package. As a senior, he knew the fronts and the calls so we could execute what we wanted to execute."
What would've been a nice postscript to Calabrese's career became relevant again with Nix undergoing season-ending knee surgery on Thursday. Notre Dame expects to get Schwenke and Jones back for BYU, though once again depth will be an issue at nose guard.
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At 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, Calabrese — obviously — has the size of a linebacker, not a defensive lineman. But with any sort of ding to a precariously-thin nose guard depth chart, Calabrese's senior day could see him take some snaps on the defensive line again.
"I was pretty excited (against Pitt)," Calabrese said. "I was hoping I'd get a couple sacks."