Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o has been in the spotlight ever since high school. He was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of Hawai’i and picked South Bend over USC. As a freshman, he started nine games and finished with 63 total tackles and 5.5 for a loss.
As a sophomore in 2010, Te’o led the Irish with 133 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss while starting all 13 games. Last season, Te’o once again was the team’s leading tackler and earned All-America 2nd team honors by SI.COM,AP, and Rivals.com. He was named as a finalist for the Lott and Butkus award as well.
After flirting with the notion of entering the 2012 draft, Te’o will return for his senior season, is a consensus preseason first team All-America and is on the watch list for pretty much every defensive award.
Grade: 1st Round
- Ideal size and strength combination
- Every down Linebacker
- Elite against the rush
- Closes in a hurry and has natural downhill attacking style
- Very reliable tackler; Displays great technique and doesn’t look for the arm tackle
- Does a great job shedding blocks. Knows how to disengage
- Great range from sideline-to-sideline despite his lack of top end speed
- Quicker than he is fast
- Looks comfortable in zone coverage
- Versatile, Experienced in a 3-4, and will fit into a 4-3 as a MLB
- Experienced leader with good character
- High football IQ
- Lacks elite speed
- Will have problems in coverage with quicker TEs
- Can be too aggressive; Play-actions and misdirections give him trouble
- Doesn’t have the instincts of other LBs. Will rely too much on physical ability at times
- Needs to prove he can be an effective blitzer
Te’o would have most likely been selected in the 20-32 range if he decided to enter the draft. Instead, he comes into this season as easily the number one rated senior ILB and looks to be a mid-1st round pick in 2013. He’s extremely reliable and has the size and strength to be a true ILB at the next level. He excels in run defense and is extremely aggressive when attacking the line. He doesn’t have the instincts of a Luke Kuechly, but he has a high football IQ, and pair that with his strength and play making ability, and Te’o will be coveted by most teams regardless of what defense they run.
One of his more underrated characteristic is his ability to tackle. He has perfect form and rarely misses in the open field, nor does he have trouble bringing down ball carries. Once he’s locked on, the play is over. Te’o is quicker than he is fast. He shows great range, and gets to the ball quick, but really lacks true top end speed when he has to turn and run.
There is not much to Te’o that prevents him from going on day 1. He doesn’t have elite speed so his pass coverage, especially against elite TE’s, probably won’t be on the level of other LBs, but everything is else is correctable, especially by a NFL team with solid coaching. He can get sloppy at times and his aggressiveness will become a weakness. At times he will run himself out of plays and will bite on play-actions.
Solid coaching at the next level will help him in understanding the he should play quick but not fast and see the play develop. I would like to see him blitz more in his senior season. He’s never been asked to do it much at Notre Dame, and it really doesn’t fit his style, but NFL teams will want to see that aspect added to his game.
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports