Regardless of how fans feel about Manti Te’o, he does leave a major void in the middle of Notre Dame’s Defense. Te’o collected 113 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 8 turnovers forced. Forget reputation and 40-times, that is production. Who can step up to fill that void?
Notre Dame returns Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox, who played Inside Linebacker last year. They were primarily rotating at the Will position. But, this year could see both players on the field at the same time.
If the Irish do not use the two 5th year players, Jarrett Grace and Kendall Moore could fill in for Manti Te’o. Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco has raved about Jarrett Grace, the Junior Linebacker from Cincinnati.
Grace is 6’3″ 240lbs. He possesses prototypical size to be a great Inside Linebacker at Notre Dame. Grace played a significant role against Navy when Calabrese was suspended for the opener. He collected 4 tackles in that contest. He also played a lot when the Irish substituted early against Wake Forest. He grabbed 3 tackles in that game. Grace has all of the tools needed to win the position out of the Spring.
Moore has been a standout on Special Teams for the Fighting Irish on both Punt and Kickoff teams. He is a tad smaller than Grace at 6’1″ 242lbs. But, he possesses great speed for his size. He is the type of player who could make a lot of negative plays. However, Moore has never gotten “it”. If he grasps the concept of playing Inside Linebacker in Diaco’s scheme, he could explode on to the seen.
Michael Deeb will enroll at Notre Dame this summer. He could be another option for the Fighting Irish if he is physically ready to play. He currently checks in at 6’2″ 237lbs. These numbers are typical inflated. He needs to add some good weight. However, he is not that far away. Additionally, if he picks up the scheme quickly he will be able to play very early.