SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -About the only things that stood out about freshman linebacker Manti Te'o as practice for the season got under way were the No. 5 jersey and visor he had on.
The visors worn by some of the Fighting Irish were a first for the team and all the other linebackers on the two-deep chart wore numbers in the 40s. Te'o was the only one in single digits, sharing the same number as tailback Armando Allen. With Te'o starting camp at 6-foot-2 and 244 pounds, there was no trouble distinguishing between the two.
``He's a big guy,'' quarterback Jimmy Clausen said.
cker since Bob Crable in 1978.
Te'o started his first day in the back of the line as the warmed up, appearing as if he was just trying to fit in. From what coaches are saying, it won't take him long to move to the front. He starts practice listed as the backup to weakside linebacker Brian Smith.
``He's a football player first and foremost, and he's a lot more mature than a lot of guys that come out at 17, 18 years old,'' defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta said. ``He is very confident, yet he understands the game from both sides and knows a lot of how to fit, whether it's the run game or the pass game or whatever. He's a special type guy.''
Coach Charlie Weis was asked to compare how ready Te'o is to play with how prepared Clausen, the most anticipated recruit to arrive on the Notre Dame campus in more than a decade, was when he arrived in South Bend two years ago. Clausen started his second game despite still recovering from an elbow injury.
``Jimmy physically was probably less ready to play than Manti is physically. Manti is 245 pounds,'' Weis said. ``If you put him and Brian Smith next to each other, you don't really see much of a physical difference.''
Te'o was not available for comment Saturday because Weis allows minimal access to freshmen. His teammates, though, said they were eager to see what Te'o can do.
``Everybody's looking forward to seeing him on the football field, us and fans included,'' fellow linebacker Scott Smith said. ``He's certainly shown a willingness to learn this summer, a willingness to ask questions.''
Brian Smith said Te'o has looked as if he's ready to jump in the mix.
``We're going to see what he can bring to the table, see if he can help us win some games,'' Smith said.
There doesn't appear to be any doubt Te'o will play this season, moreso a matter of when. Kerry Neal started five games as a freshman two years ago and Brian Smith started three that season. The last Irish linebacker to start the first game as a freshman was Kory Minor in 1995.
Aside from his youth, about the only thing that appears to be going against Te'o is that his last name isn't Smith. The three players listed as starting linebackers for the Irish as practices begin are Scott Smith, Toryan Smith and Brian Smith. And that doesn't include Harrison Smith, who started at linebacker last season and has moved to free safety.
Tenuta, who also coaches the linebackers, said he's still not sure which linebacker spot Te'o is best suited for.
to learn the system first. Wherever he does best is where he's going to play.''
Clausen said he gave Te'o some advice about being under scrutiny.
``I just told him go out there and be yourself. You're a great player and you know it. Just go out there each and every day and work hard and you'll be fine,'' he said. ``I just told him to have a lot of fun with it. It's a great time in your life and just go out there and perform.''
Advertisement

NCAAF Headlines

More inNCAAF News  
Advertisement

NCAAF Top Stories

Thumbnail UNC vs. Florida State Pick Will No. 12 Florida State have any issues holding off North Carolina when the two meet up on Saturday at 3:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Miami vs. Georgia Tech Pick Can Georgia Tech find a way to slow down No. 14 Miami when these two meet up on Saturday at Noon ET?
Thumbnail Minnesota vs. Penn State Pick Can Minnesota go on the road and stay unbeaten when it takes on Penn State this Saturday at 3:30PM ET?
Thumbnail Baylor vs. Iowa State Pick Will Saturday's Big 12 matchup between Baylor and Iowa State at 12:00PM ET turn into a shootout?
Thumbnail Northwestern vs. Iowa Pick When Big Ten foes Iowa and Northwestern meet up on Saturday at Noon ET, will it be a defensive battle?
More inNCAAF Articles  

NCAAF Team Pages

Advertisement