Notre Dame’s leader on Defense is without a doubt Manti Te’o. He leads this year’s Linebacking corps. His performance has been Heisman worthy so far. But, he has been supported by solid players like Ishaq Williams, Prince Shembo and Dan Fox. Behind the Defensive Line, they are the unit that is performing at the highest level this season.
Mant Te’o's level of play this season cannot be understated. The biggest improvement in his game is clearly his pass coverage skills. This improvement has made Te’o a complete player. Te’o has intercepted 3 passes this season. The impact on the team that that has had on the team cannot be understated. The odds that Manti Te’o wins the Heisman Trophy are astronomical. The last Heisman Trophy winner on Defense was Charles Woodson in 1997. However, Woodson impacted the game on Offense and on Special Teams as well.
Fans had heard about Shembo’s potential and talent constantly from coaches on the Defensive side of the ball. This year, that talent is definitely showing up. He has been a menace to opposing Quarterback’s in 2012. Shembo has recorded 2 sacks and 4 Quarterback Hurries. His performance is exactly what is needed from a player who plays the Cat Linebacker position. Shembo has made up for the loss of Aaron Lynch immediately.
Williams may be the most physically imposing player that Notre Dame has in the Linebacking corps. When he started at Notre Dame, Diaco questioned his work ethic and intensity on every play. So far in 2012, he has changed all of that. Although Williams has yet to crack the stat sheet with sacks and Quarterback Hurries, he has been consistent with 9 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
Manti Te’o's running mate on Defense, Dan Fox, has played very well in the first four games of 2012. Last year, Fox showed flashes of being a quick and athletic player but lacked the instinct needed to be a great player. However, he is developing into his role this fall. Fox has recorded 20 tackles, 1 break up, 1 pass deflection and 1 Quarterback hurry. These statistics are very solid and should continue into the next eight games.
Manti Te’o is currently carrying Notre Dame on the Defensive side of the ball. Prince Shembo is having an outstanding beginning to the season. Dan Fox’s performance has been “Robin” to Te’o's “Batman”. Notre Dame’s linebackers are playing very well. This is due in part to how well the Defensive Line is playing. When the Defensive Line plays very well, it allows the Linebackers to run free and tackle the ball carrier. But, one of the most impressive things that has occurred is how well Notre Dame’s linebackers are covering the pass. This specifically has been achieved by Manti Te’o. However, Notre Dame’s linebackers have been in position and ready to make plays on the ball.
Slap the Sign Grade: A-