Coming into this 2012 season was a year I thought to be one where Notre Dame gets over the 8 win hump and could maybe break into a BCS game at 9-3. I was wrong, as the defense has carried the Irish through 12 games this season with one more left. The Irish have the best scoring defense in the nation holding teams to only 10.3 points per game, and the 4th best rushing defense only giving up 92.42 yards per game. Some may call it the best defense in the country, others one of the best, but without Manti Te’o this wouldn’t have been possible.
Many people say that one player on defense contributes very little. Manti is leading the team with 103 tackles, 7 interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Not to mention he is the leader of the entire football team and will go down as one of the best human beings that happens to play football to ever step foot on the Notre Dame campus. Out of the 23 turnovers the Irish caused this year, Manti had 9 of those, which is good for 39% of the turnovers for the entire season and of all things he is an inside linebacker! The statistics don’t do Te’o justice in my opinion, but his leadership and pure emotion for every football game he has every played in at Notre Dame makes him the best. He has all of the intangibles and understands the game very well. The intangibles are his biggest asset, because there are many very talented linebackers.
In the off-season Manti wanted to improve his already very good game, which he did by dropping weight to become a more agile linebacker. This improved his coverage skills and it showed with 7 interceptions after he had 0 his first 3 years on the football team. His closing speed to the ball carrier outside of the tackle box has been great and much better than the last three years. Te’o has the combination of speed, agility, strength, toughness (never missed a game), and can tackle anyone. Talking about a linebacker and how much the position is involved in tackling people would assume linebackers miss their fair share of tackles, but Manti only missed 2 all season. He completed 98% of the tackles he attempted to put that into perspective.
There is one more game left for Manti and it will be bitter sweet for all Irish fans. Bitter because this will be the last time he will wear that blue and gold uniform, but sweet since he will be wearing it in the BCS National Championship game. You rarely hear of a first round draft pick coming back for his senior year and improving his stock tremendously. Te’o did it and this year will greatly help him at the next level. On January 7th 2013 I will be watching Notre Dame play for a National Championship and not only that, but watching one of the greatest Domers of all time.