Manti Te’o has been in the Heisman conversation the last few weeks and as long as Notre Dame is winning, the senior linebacker will likely continue to catch the eye of many across the college football world.
Te'o has been a big part of this Irish defense, and the overall unit is the reason Notre Dame is undefeated and currently ranked fifth in the BCS rankings. But as we enter the second half of the season, the offensive weapons that this defense will have to face will continue to improve and become a lot more difficult for this squad to figure out.
After shutting down players such as Denard Robinson, Le'Veon Bell and Duke Johnson, here are the top remaining offensive players that Te'o will be responsible for in 2012.
Josh Harris missed nearly half of last season with an injury, but he appears to have picked up where he left off in 2011. He leads this Wake Forest offense with 377 rushing yards and is averaging a little over four yards a carry.
Despite the Demon Deacons being one of the worst offensive teams in the country (93rd in scoring offense), Harris is somebody who is capable of breaking off a big game. He is a running back who runs with a lot of patience and waits for the hole to open up. Once he gets going, the junior runs with a lot of power, but he also has enough speed to go the distance.
In his three-year career, Harris has 11 runs for over 20 yards.
Boston College started the season with arguably the deepest backfield in the ACC. Due to injuries and players not performing well, the running back situation has come down to junior Andre Williams, who is currently fifth in the ACC with 473 yards on the ground.
In the last two games, he has put together a combined 295 rushing yards and seems to be getting better as his workload increases. He has a lot of speed to his game and has 13 runs of over 10 yards out of just 99 carries on the year.
It is clear that Williams has become the lead back in this offense and will likely be used quite a bit in the game against Notre Dame this season.
Before he tore his ACL last season, Ray Graham looked to be one of the better backs in the country and one of those explosive players that could help an NFL team on third down. He has yet to fully recover from his injury, as he hasn't quite looked the same, but that certainly doesn't mean this defense can sleep on the senior running back.
Finishing two of the first six games with single-digit carries, Graham is still averaging nearly five yards a carry and has picked up 14 first downs on his 95 touches.
His burst and vision of the football field is remarkable, and although he may not be as explosive as he was a season ago, he is still a shifty running back that can break off a few big runs if the defense isn't careful.
Is Blake Bell a quarterback or running back?
Well, it is really up to Manti Te'o as the middle linebacker to figure that out.
Although Bell isn't a starter, he does see the field often in the red zone and is about as automatic as they come. Looking like a poor man’s Tim Tebow, the sophomore has rushed the ball 14 times in the red zone and has scored seven touchdowns on those plays.
At 6'6", 254 pounds, Bell came to Oklahoma to be a quarterback, but won't get that chance until Landry Jones graduates after the 2012 season. Until then, he will continue to take snaps in the shotgun, fake reverses and run up the middle.
But with his threat to throw the ball, Te'o must figure out what is going on and try his best to stop the red zone threat that nobody else has been able to slow down.
The USC Trojans obviously have more weapons to worry about than any other team Notre Dame will play this season. But Manti Te'o will have the task of slowing down running back Silas Redd, who has picked up where he left off before transferring from Penn State.
The junior is averaging well over five yards a carry, has 570 rushing yards and five runs that have gone over 20 yards. What you see is what you get with Redd, as he is a punishing running back who isn't going to try and make many defenders miss. He uses all of his 5'10", 200-pound frame to simply abuse and wear down the opposing defense.
If Notre Dame can't figure out how to slow this guy down, it will be a long day trying to stop the remaining offensive players on this USC team.