On Jan. 7, 2013, an end of an era happened at the University of Notre Dame. Star linebacker Manti Te’o took off the golden helmet for the final time at the conclusion of the national championship game, and his collegiate career came to a close.
What Te’o has done on the field has been nothing short of spectacular. Coming in as a highly rated recruit, Te’o has done what everyone had expected and more. Te’o was even called to New York for the chance to receive the highest award in college football, the Heisman Trophy. This is something that is unheard of for a true defensive player.
The legacy of Te’o will live on forever. At the end of the national championship game, one of the best, if not the best, defensive players in Notre Dame history ended his career.
When the greats come and leave, the burden of their legacy gets passed down to their future replacements. Te’o will be old news come the start of next year and a freshman out of Fort Wayne, Indiana will become the future for the defense.
On June 2, 2012, Jaylon Smith, a 6’3 senior linebacker committed to the Irish. Smith is the second ranked defensive player in the entire 2013 draft class and the No. 1 ranked linebacker by almost every recruiting website. Smith will get the comparisons to Te’o and will expect to fill the shoes of a legend which seems impossible….or is it?
|Height/Weight of Senior year||6’2/ 225 lb||6’3/ 225 lb|
|Hometown||Honolulu, Hawaii||Fort Wayne, Indiana|
|ESPN Ranking||Grade:93, #2 overall player||Grade: 90, #9 overall player|
|SCOUT Ranking||#6 overall player||#6 overall player|
|Strengths||Athleticism, Hitting Ability||Agility, Speed, Pass Coverage|
When compared side by side coming into Notre Dame, Smith and Te’o obviously have a lot of similarities. While Te’o made national headlines with his commitment on signing day back in 2009, Smith has been one of the best recruiters for the Irish since the day he signed.
What impact Smith had in the minds of Max Redfield or Eddie Vanderdoes switching from rival University of Southern California to Notre Dame will be unknown, but it definitely should have had some.
Te’o is gone and the defensive will need to look to a new leader in 2013. Look for Smith to make the game changing plays Te’o once did in the same spot in the middle of the field.