FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Barrett Jones got to know Manti Te'o last month on the awards circuit, exchanging pleasantries with the Irish linebacker while the pair were in Houston for the Lombardi Award ceremony. Even with a brief meeting, the venerable Alabama center came away with a healthy respect for Te'o, calling him a "super guy" Thursday morning.
That respect carried over to Jones' teammates regarding the entire Irish defense.
"They do a good job of just reading the offense," offensive lineman Chance Warmack said. "It doesn't take them long to process the information in terms of who has the ball or what formation we're in. It takes a really special defense to do that, and that's what they are."
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Plenty of Alabama players fielded questions Thursday asking if Notre Dame's defense was, in essence, an SEC-like unit. Notre Dame's defensive linemen and linebackers, as has been the case all year, garnered the most praise from its opponent.
"This is as good a front seven as we've seen," Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. "They do a great job jumping in and out of their odd (3-4) defense and going from an odd to a four-down front, and they've got big, physical, fast players. They run well on the back end, very well coached. They're just a really, really good defense."
Specifically, Alabama seems keen on muting Te'o's impact -- which, by extension, means limiting Louis Nix. Running back Eddie Lacy explained: "If you can somehow get him out of his game or something like that, I think we have a pretty good chance of being successful."
That's not a slight at the rest of Notre Dame's defense -- remember, Te'o was a Heisman finalist, so naturally he's the guy opponents want to shut down. Really, at this point, trash talk and bulletin board material looks like endangered species.
For the last two BCS teams to come through South Florida, plenty of the chatter surrounded brash comments made by Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch. Florida State picked up on that, and took great pleasure in pounding Lynch into the ground during the Orange Bowl Jan. 1.
That same trend doesn't appear to be materializing with Alabama and Notre Dame now occupying the area.
"They're very fundamentally sound," Jones summed up. "They rarely ever make mistakes, they know their scheme really well, you can tell they're extremely well-coached, they use their hands well, they're strong at the point of attack. They just do all the little things right."