The final obstacle in Notre Dame’s way as they pursue a shot at the BCS National Championship game is a road trip to USC to take on the Trojans, who will be without star quarterback Matt Barkley.
Notre Dame’s defense has been stellar all season long, and now they have the tough task of facing wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, two of the best in the country. Lee has been incredible this year, catching 107 passes for 1,605 yards and 14 touchdown grabs. He also is a key contributor on special teams and can run the ball out of the backfield if asked. He is a very good prospect, but unfortunately, he can’t go to the NFL until 2014 at the earliest.
As for this year’s prospects, look no further than Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o, the best defensive player arguably in the draft (though Jarvis Jones may have some words about that). Te’o is the heart and soul of the Notre Dame defense, and man can he fly around the field. He is a Heisman candidate this year with 98 tackles, six interceptions, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
Here are our top prospects for this year for both USC and Notre Dame:
Here is a preview from our Notre Dame prospect page:
5 Manti Te’o, Linebacker, Senior 6’2″ 255 pounds
Te’o is becoming one of the most complete and dominant linebackers in the entire country. He is the ideal size and athletic ability for his position, and by coming back for his senior season, he has cemented his status as the top linebacker in the draft, possibly an even more appealing prospect than Luke Kuechly was in 2012. Te’o has all the tools to be a great leader at the next level, and potentially one of the top linebackers in the NFL before too long. He has the look of an instant impact player who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage as well as dropping back in coverage. In his last two seasons (2010, 2011) he has had 129 and 128 total tackles, leading the Irish. He’s got great range and can play sideline to sideline as well as stuff the middle. Pure MLB prospect who will start immediately upon being drafted, could be a top 10 pick.
Te’o is built like a freight train, and he hits like one. Not only is he one of the top linebackers eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft, he could be one of the best linebackers to come along in quite some time. Strong, tough, athletic linebacker prospect who had 63 tackles, 5.5 for loss, a sack, and a broken up pass as a starting true freshman. Followed up a stellar freshman campaign with 133 tackles as the clear starting inside linebacker in 2010, and added 9.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and three passes broken up. He will have at least three years starting in a 3-4 defensive alignment, making him all the more attractive to those teams. Will be a force against the run in the NFL, and is athletic enough to make plays sideline to sideline. Bottom line is, this guy is a high effort player who vacuums up ball carriers like they are going out of style. He will be a tackling machine in the NFL, and should be a high draft choice should he choose to leave after his junior season.