- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Max Redfield will look across the field next weekend and see up to three different former high school teammates when Notre Dame renews its rivalry with USC.
Yes, the Fighting Irish's matchup with the Trojans will be a big contest, for reasons both both pragmatic and, in Redfield's case, kind of personal.
"I want to say it's not, but obviously I have previous connections to USC, a lot of people I know on that team," Redfield said Tuesday. "But once it comes down to it, it's just another opponent. You prepare for every team the same way and it's just another game."
The Irish's bye week gave way to six true freshmen making their media debuts this week, with Redfield highlighting the group given all of his promise and, frankly, lack of production.
It is not that the four-star athlete from powerhouse Mission Viejo (Calif.) High has underperformed through six college games; it is that he has rarely gotten the chance to.
Redfield is as upset as all of the outsiders, but he knows that ultimately falls on him and him alone.
"Yeah, I mean, I feel frustrated still," Redfield said. "I still don't have everything down like I obviously want to. Still making the little mistakes that you obviously need to get down to be a big contributor in the game, and that's why obviously I'm not there. And yeah, it's a process, like the coaches keep telling me, and I've tried to accept it. It's still frustrating, obviously."
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Redfield arrived on campus this summer as ESPN's No. 2 overall athlete from the Class of 2013. He has appeared in five of six games, making just two tackles and spending most of his time on the kickoff, kick return and punt return units.
Redfield said his first week on campus served as a wake-up call, with the newcomer soon figuring out how much learning he had in front of him despite starring at a prep machine that has sent 18 players to FBS schools in the last five years.
The talent is there. The confidence that comes with mastering a position that essentially demands a type-A personality is slowly coming along.
"Probably just being demonstrative with the calls," Redfield said of his biggest struggle. "You need to know -- obviously depending on what formations, all that kind of stuff -- what defenses to make the specific call, and if you don't know a certain formation and how that defense goes with that formation, then you can't make the call.
"I felt like I was a pretty demonstrative person in high school, and obviously it's harder to be that in college if you don't know what's going on fully."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said earlier this week that Redfield was closer to moving into a bigger role, reiterating the weight of what the rookie is tasked with doing.
"There's so many calls, so many things going on out there," Kelly said. "It's a quarterback position when you're out there at that safety position. It's not just dropping into Cover 2."
The next opportunity for Redfield to demonstrate that growth comes Oct. 19 in a night contest against USC, which will be playing its second game under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Redfield decommitted from the Trojans last November, but he is not patting himself on the back for avoiding a program just months before it let go of its head coach, Lane Kiffin, who lasted all of five games this season.
"I try to just focus on the now," Redfield said. "I'm at Notre Dame now. I don't really think about USC as much. Notre Dame's a great school. [USC's] having their troubles. I'm sure they'll pick it back up. It's a great university and a great team."