Perhaps the most illustrious defensive player in the storied history of Notre Dame football, linebacker Manti Te'o, will not be a part of the Fighting Irish football team this fall. His departure leaves a sizable hole in the center of Notre Dame's defense.
If the Irish hope to again sport one of the best defenses in college football, they'll need to replace both Te'o's production at middle linebacker and leadership in the locker room. That likely won't come from one single player.
The veteran Notre Dame defense is loaded with both talent and experience, so there are plenty of viable candidates. We will look at five of them here who must absorb either Te'o's on-field production, leadership, or both, for the Fighting Irish to again contend for a national championship.