Notre Dame Football: Comparing Carlo Calabrese's Skill Set to Manti Te'o's
While Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's "next man in" mantra is a team-wide philosophy, it has been manifesting itself at one particular position throughout the Irish's fall camp.
Replacing departed linebacker Manti Te'o is the task at hand for Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, though the two coaches may have found their solution in the form of fifth-year senior inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese.
The Verona, N.J., native has spent the first three seasons of his playing career—Calabrese redshirted the 2009 season—alongside fellow fifth-year senior Dan Fox and Te'o.
With Te'o having been selected 38th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2013 NFL draft, Calabrese has shifted to Te'o's vacant position, running exclusively with the first unit for the first time in his collegiate career.
As is natural, comparisons will be made between the two players in an effort to better understand exactly what to expect from the 6'1", 250-pound linebacker.
Perhaps the most striking similarity between Calabrese and Te'o is their respective abilities as run-stoppers, particularly in short-yardage situations.
This tape from Notre Dame's 37-14 loss to Stanford during the 2010 season is a prime example of the value Calabrese adds to the defense in those moments.
On a 3rd-and-1 play from its own 31-yard line, Stanford is lined up in the Power-I formation with tight ends stacked right.
Former head coach Jim Harbaugh was a proponent of handing off to fullback Owen Marecic to grind out tough yards and move the chains, making it no secret where the ball was going.
Here, Calabrese recognizes that pre-snap, shoots straight into the running lane following the snap and stuffs Marecic at the line of scrimmage.
As you can see, Calabrese's value as the Irish's Mike linebacker will come in the form of his penchant for being a run-stopper at the point of attack.
However, Calabrese is lacking in an area that Te'o excelled in.
Not only was Te'o an excellent defender against the run, but he was also a versatile playmaker because of his lateral quickness.
He was a true sideline-to-sideline player and, to be concise, Calabrese isn't.
Te'o's display of speed and power was most noticeable during Notre Dame's matchups against Michigan, during which the Hawaiian often chased down former speedy Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson.
Because Calabrese lacks the speed that made Te'o such an effective linebacker, he struggles against offenses that spread the field.
But Calabrese can counteract that weakness by refining his skills as a pass defender.
Last season, Te'o recorded seven interceptions—the most by any linebacker in the country.
Despite the fact that the Mike linebacker position doesn't have as many responsibilities on passing downs as the Irish's drop linebacker—Jaylon Smith and Ben Councell—Calabrese can study the film enough to be able to diagnose and react effectively on passing downs.
In all, Calabrese must be a student of the game this season to fully fill Te'o's shoes.
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