I'm under no illusions, I don't expect Manti Te'o to win the Heisman. No true defensive player has ever won the award, many will point to Charles Woodson and while his defensive play certainly played a part, his candidacy was boosted by his play at wide receiver and as a return man. However does he deserve the Heisman award? well I all I can say is he is the leader on an undefeated team, he has made several notable plays throughout the season and has three straight 100 tackle years. It may take another big effort in the National Championship game but even then I expect the likes of Colin Klein, AJ McCarron, Braxton Miller and Geno Smith to all finish ahead of him, it is after all an offensive award, even if nobody likes to admit as much.
Anyway lets move onto Manti Te'o the player, a sure fire top 10 pick in my opinion and a player that many teams will be fighting over come April. So what makes this player so special? his performance on the field would certainly warrant top 15 consideration, but it's his leadership that seperates him from the pack. He is a better prospect than Luke Kuechly last year, and Luke was selected 9th overall by the Carolina Panthers, so that should give you an idea of his value and draft stock.
Usually before starting one of these articles I like to list the awards obtained before college. Unfortunately the award list for Manti is just too long, so we'll focus in on the important ones. He won the 2008 Butkus award, given to the best prep linebacker in the country. He was name Hawaii State defensive player of the year two years running in 2007 and 2008 and the USA Today National Defensive player of the year in 2008. I think it's also important to note that Manti maintained a 3.5 grade average and has a history of volunteer work. This is all about character, something I believe to be almost as important as a players ability on the field.
Coming into college he was one of the mostly highly recruited athletes in history and maintained 5 stars from both Scout and Rivals and an impressive 93/100 with ESPN. On national signing day he chose the Irish hat over the USC and BYU one and that is where the story really starts.
Manti is a senior which means he has had a lot of experience already, he saw action in all 12 games his Freshman year. He started all three years after this and ends his college career having played and started in 47 straight games. This is exceptional durability considering the punishment that he hands out and the position that he plays.
He is a vocal leader on the field, acting as the captain of the defence and the defensive quarterback. He is liked by his coaches and team-mates due to his constant work ethic and dedication to the team. Earlier in the season, he tragically lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend in the space of 48 hours, he decided to play on the Saturday and put in one of his best performances of the year.
Instincts are exceptional, when you watch Manti play the game, he seems to know exactly where the ball is going. His read and react style has led to 34 tackles for loss in his college career and he has intimidated receivers and running backs for the best part of 4 years. He has a very solid tackling style, he has 427 tackles over the past four years and once he gets his hands on you, extra yardage is extremely difficult to come by.
Although Manti has never been poor in coverage he has improved that area of his game in 2012 and has recorded 7 interceptions this year after not picking off a single pass in the previous three years. Is that were not impressive enough he has also been credited with 11 pass defences this year. For a player with his bulk, his ability to run with receivers, tight ends and backs is something of real note.
Overall Manti Te'o has put together a very impressive college career and has shown constant improvements from year to year. He can play the run or the pass, he can blitz when asked and has recorded 8.5 sacks in his college career, his ability to get into the backfield and deliver punishment make him one of the most pro-ready prospects in college. Has good underneath zone coverage and uses his hands well to shed blocks and get to the tackle, sideline-to-sideline speed with exceptional closing speed.
Versatility, he can be projected to play in either the 3-4 or the 4-3 at the next level.
There really isn't a great deal to put here. Prior to 2012 I thought Manti could be a little flat footed when playing the pass, one year later he seems to have improved on that, however I would like to see him consistently perform against the pass before being 100% convinced. I'm grasping at straws here with the nagatives as when I watch Manti, I don't see a lot wrong with his game.
|2009||63 Tackles||5.5 Tackles for A Loss||1.0 Sack||0 interceptions||0 FF|
|2010||133 Tackles||9.5 Tackles for A Loss||1.0 Sack||0 interceptions||1 FF|
|2011||128 Tackles||13.5 Tackles for A Loss||5.5 Sacks||0 Interceptions||1 FF|
|2012||103 Tackles||5.5 Tackles for A Loss||1.5 Sacks||7 Interceptions||0 FF|