The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been the most surprising team in all of NCAA football. Their season has been nothing short of dominant. Some players—even superstars like Manti Te’o—don’t quite receive the credit they deserve.
Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is one of those guys. Notre Dame’s bread and butter on offense has been its running game. Because of that, a lot of their receivers don’t quite get the credit they deserve.
Daniels has played in eight games this season and has been a pretty underrated receiver in most of those. In that time, he’s made 25 receptions and averaged an important 15 yards per reception.
TJ Jones is the leading wide receiver for the Irish. Even though he has four touchdowns this season to Daniels’ zero, he’s averaging two fewer yards per carry.
While Daniels isn’t a big scoring player, he’s been pretty reliable in moving the ball down the field. Some overlook that fact because of his lack of touchdowns this season.
Tommy Rees is another player that doesn’t get enough credit. The junior quarterback conceded his starting position to sophomore Everett Golson.
Rees doesn’t quite fit into the Irish’s system like he did last season. As rushing-heavy as their style has been this season, they were right in picking Golson over Rees.
And, while Golson is evolving into a better passer than him, Rees has two excellent seasons with the Irish under him and has been a quality backup quarterback.
No matter how highly regarded he is, Manti Te’o doesn’t get enough credit for the success of the Fighting Irish.
Te’o is a big part of Notre Dame’s impenetrable. He’s totaled 103 tackles—52 of which were solo. He’s also been excellent at pressuring the opponent’s quarterback into making mistakes, which has helped him get his seven interceptions this season.
It’s easy to look at Te’o’s contributions to the defensive side of the game and praise him as one of college football’s top players.
What really sets him apart—what he doesn’t get enough credit for—is how he carries himself as a team leader.
USC coach Lane Kiffin spoke with Bob Wieneke of the South Bend Tribune after last week’s game.
Kiffin said the one thing that stood out to him was "Senior leadership. That was evident tonight. They don't make mistakes. They're like a veteran NFL team."
He’s more than just the guy that wears the “C” on his jersey. He leads his teammates by example—his heart and soul permeating the atmosphere every time he takes the field.
Te’o gets plenty of credit for his defensive accomplishments over the past four years. However, history will remember him as the fearless leader that took his team all the way.