When evaluating prospects we look at the measurables, the tape, the performance, etc. However sometimes you find out about things that don’t show up in these records.
On Saturday Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o showed a kind of mental fortitude and football toughness that we don’t get to see when watching film.
Te’o tragically lost his grandmother and girlfriend last Tuesday and Wednesday. After losing two important people in his life in such a short time, many had to wonder if Te’o would need a week off, or just time to mourn. Te’o has been a starter on the Irish’s defense since his freshman year, anyone would understand if he needed a break for something as tragic as this week.
Men like Manti Te’o don’t take time off.
Te’o played like a man possessed in Notre Dame’s dominating victory of Michigan State. He is the leader of a defense that shut down the potent Spartan running game.
Te’o finished the game with 12 tackles, a tackle-for-loss, and a couple of pass breakups. To even play after such a difficult week is impressive, but for him to dominate like he did is truly amazing.
As a prospect, Te’o is a big, physical, inside linebacker with impressive athleticism. He has the size to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 as a Mike linebacker. He has the size to play the Ted spot in a 3-4, but he is much better when utilized from sideline to sideline, not taking on blockers.
If Te’o keeps up this impressive season, he should surely hear his name called in the first round. Compared to Luke Kuechly from last year’s draft, Te’o is bigger and more physical, but is also not a sure-tackler like Kuechly. He plays very aggressively and often goes for the big hit instead of wrapping up. He also plays on a more talented defense than Kuechly, hence having less-inflated tackling numbers.
Te’o may not go as high in this draft (Kuechly was taken with the ninth pick) because of a lot more defensive talent, but he has the potential to be drafted in the top 15.
Te’o showed he has the where-with-all to be an emotional leader for a defense, and he has already shown he has the talent to be a physical leader as well.