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Friday, August 31, 2012
Top 25 player countdown: No. 1

By Matt Fortuna

Our countdown concludes today, less than 24 hours before the opener. The top Notre Dame player should come as no surprise to regular fans and readers of this space.

No. 1. Manti Te'o, ILB

2011 numbers: Te'o started all 13 games last season, recording 128 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and two forced fumbles. He made a number of All-American teams.

Making the case for Te'o: Little can be said about Te'o that hasn't already been said. He is arguably the nation's best inside linebacker, a player who would have likely been drafted in the first round this past April but surprised some by electing to return for his senior year. Spurning USC and becoming one of the biggest defensive recruits in Notre Dame history, the Laie, Hawaii, native has made big impacts both on and off the field and is an unquestioned leader of a young defense. He enters 2012 No. 8 on the school's all-time tackles list, with 324.