Those who are interested in personal narratives may find the story of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o more compelling than do the scouts, coaches, and personnel executives who are now responsible for deciding where Te'o will go in the 2013 NFL Draft. Though he was thought by many to be a sure-fire top-5 pick -- there were even some who believed Te'o to be worthy of the first overall selection -- Te'o's flaws were exposed against Alabama's big-boy offense in the Crimson Tide's 42-14 beat down of the Fighting Irish in Monday's BCS Championship game.
Facing an offensive line that had poleaxed opponents all season, and a multi-headed run game that proved impossible to stop, Te'o looked very much like an NFL prospect with impressive range in space and coverage, but a real need for improved core and functional strength before he can truly take on what the NFL has to offer.
“This definitely sucks,” Te’o said after the game. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade this team for anything. I wouldn’t do anything differently. Obviously, we wish that the night could have ended in a different way, but the season, the year, my career here, I’ve been really blessed to be at Notre Dame and I’ll forever be proud to say that I’m a Notre Dame Fighting Irish.”
At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, Te'o isn't set up to be one of the new wave of lighter, faster linebackers in the vein of Luke Kuechly, Lavonte David, or Bobby Wagner. That bigger kind of linebacker needs to hit run fits hard, and stop big plays from happening at or near the line of scrimmage. That did not happen in this game. Te'o was pushed back and out of gaps, he didn't close when he needed to with consistency, and his ability to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time was rendered relatively useless as Alabama simply punched Notre Dame in the mouth with alarming regularity.