Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o: College football's best defensive player
By Bucky Brooks
Analyst, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: Oct. 15, 2012 at 03:52 p.m.
Linebacker Manti Te'o played an integral role in Notre Dame's thrilling overtime defeat of Stanford on Saturday.
Manti Te'o is the best defensive player in college football, and it's not even close.
While fans of Georgia's Jarvis Jones, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and several others might take umbrage with that statement, I will not back down from my assessment after watching the Notre Dame star dominate another game from his linebacker position.
Every Monday, NFL.com college football expert Bucky Brooks looks back on the weekend action and evaluates which prospects are rising and which are sliding.
Te'o finished with 11 tackles and a ton of teeth-rattling hits, helping Notre Dame notch a 20-13 overtime win against Stanford on Saturday. While he didn't come up with a game-changing turnover or force Stanford to lose any yards, Te'o was an integral part of a defense that controlled the line of scrimmage against a Cardinal squad that routinely overwhelms opponents with its physical running game.
Closely watching Te'o throughout the game, I came away impressed with his athleticism, aggressiveness and instincts. He flowed quickly to the ball and delivered punishing shots on runners in the hole. Most importantly, Te'o was the pivotal player on the game-clinching goal-line stand that kept Stanford's Stepfan Taylor from reaching the end zone on four consecutive plays inside the Irish 5-yard line. I broke down that four-play sequence; Te'o was in the middle of the action throughout. He repeatedly finished off Taylor before he could get the ball across the plane. Te'o's willingness to lay big hits on the runner kept the Cardinal star from reaching paydirt with the game on the line.
Te'o's standout production against Stanford can be added to an impressive senior résumé that includes superb performances against Navy (eight tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception), Michigan (eight tackles and two interceptions) and Michigan State (12 tackles). It's hard to find many issues or concerns about Te'o's ability to develop into a difference maker at the next level.