SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Manti Teo said he hasnt put much thought into his future in the NFL, but Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco certainly has.
After perhaps his quietest week in months, one void of cameras, reporters with questions and awards speeches, Teo said Monday he has been focused on the moment at hand instead of the road ahead.
But Diaco has no problem forecasting the senior linebackers future -- he believes Teo, who won seven awards this season and was also a Heisman Trophy finalist, has an even brighter future.
He has no limitations, Diaco said. Hed be, and is going to be, a productive player in any defensive system that he gets added to at the next level.
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You can attribute Diacos faith in Teo to the gains the player made in his pass defense this season. Te'o's strides have helped elevate the Irish to be the No. 1 scoring defense among FBS schools heading into the BCS Championship Jan. 7 against Alabama.
Whereas Teo has always been a force in defense of the run and pass rushing -- he had 261 tackles the previous two seasons, including 23 for a loss -- this season he added a new wrinkle.
Prior to 2012, Teo had six passes defensed and no interceptions in his first three seasons at Notre Dame. But this season, through his study of opponents and improved technique, Teo has seven interceptions and 11 passes defended going into the teams bowl game.
Hes a student of the game, Diaco said. First of all, hes a got a great understanding of the pass situation. So hes already anticipating pass and run. He can fit himself into the pattern of his responsibility. After that, where he has really made a lot of gains is, he kind of is dictating, a little bit, the terms as where it relates to where he fits and invites the quarterback to do something he is asking the quarterback to do through his body language.
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Speaking to the reporters for the first time in a week Monday, Teo said he hasnt thought about anything beyond Alabama. His parents have urged him to start thinking about the NFL and reporters have asked too. But after an offseason full of award shows -- he won the Walter Camp player of the year, Lott and Lombardi Trophies, and the Maxwell, Bednarik, Butkus and Nagurski awards -- Teo described a week away from the spotlight as joyful.
Instead of making speeches, Teo had the chance to be a student again, finishing up final exams and hang out with his teammates.
It was amazing, Teo said.