Notre Dame midterm grades: Linebackers

Notre Dame midterm grades: Linebackers
October 13, 2013, 7:30 pm
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The curve at linebacker is steeper than for any other unit, seeing as this one was tasked with replacing the best defensive player to come through Notre Dame in a long time. But through six games, the absence of Manti Te'o in the middle has been readily apparent.

Where Te'o made the greatest impact was getting himself and his fellow linebackers into the right spots to defend offenses. His ability to recognize offensive sets was elite, and he helped make the guys around him -- namely, the inside linebacker next to him in Notre Dame's 3-4 defense -- a whole lot better.

Losing Danny Spond, who ended his playing career in August due to hemiplagic migraines, also dinged this unit -- although Jaylon Smith's athleticism has often made up for his lack of experience. 

It's the three inside guys, though, that struggled the most through three games. Carlo Calabrese looked the best of the bunch, but Dan Fox got off to a slow start and Jarrett Grace had only begun to round into form before a season-ending injury against Arizona State. 

That trio of inside linebackers seemed to be gelling a bit, but losing Grace will test a thin depth chart behind Calabrese and Fox. Kendall Moore is a senior but has played sparingly in his time at Notre Dame. Former walk-on Joe Schmidt is in the mix, too, as well as freshman Michael Deeb. 

Calabrese and Fox began the season as Notre Dame's starters and struggled; without Grace to spell them there's little margin for error. This is a unit that's been burned far too many times this season, and didn't necessarily have a good game until the 37-34 win over Arizona State. 

Midterm position grade: C

More rankings: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive line, defensive line