- Billy Tucker, Scouts, Football Recruiting
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Manti Te'o, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List linebacker
Punahou School (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Manti Te'o is not just the top football player on the beautiful island of Hawaii, the 230-pound linebacker is arguably one of the top defensive players in the country.
While some mainland folk may perceive his level of competition as inferior, it only takes a few film clips to see his striking abilities would be just as prevalent against opponents from powerhouse states like Texas, California or Florida. The Hawaii Gatorade Player of Year is grounded when speaking on his accomplishments, quick to point out he was not an overnight sensation and owes much of his blue-chip status to his teammates, family and two very influential coaches.
The ESPN 150 Watch List outside linebacker does not have to look far for his No. 1 supporter and most influential coach since he strapped on the pads as an 8-year-old. It is his father, Brian Te'o, an assistant on the Punahou football staff.
"My dad has been like my personal trainer and coach since I started playing full contact football at the youth level," Te'o said. "He made me who I am today."
The younger Te'o was not always as coordinated, fundamentally sound and aggressive as he is today. His father molded him into a great football player with time, effort and often unorthodox techniques. Those methods were instilled in Brian Te'o from his playing days at Kahuku High School, a program rich in tradition and blue-collar toughness.
His relentless, aggressive, smash-mouth style was inspired by his father at an early age. Whether playing in Honolulu or Miami, some kids just have it and some kids don't. Te'o has it -- just ask opposing quarterbacks.
It didn't take long to build a reputation on the island as a top-notch football player. In fact, he was recruited as early as middle school to the prestigious Punahou School by a coach with a fine pedigree and complementary coaching style to his father. Coach Kale Ane likely saw a reflection of himself when he first evaluated the adolescent gridiron star.
The Punahou head coach was also a standout prospect on the island playing at Punahou, followed by a career at Michigan State and then professionally for the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers from 1975-81. From talking with Te'o, it appears Ane's impact on developing the highly-coveted linebacker has been immeasurable. He was quick to point out Ane also shares similar enthusiasm for the game as his dad.
"Coach Ane has pushed me to become the player I am today and taught me to be a leader early in my career," Te'o said. "He recruited me so we are close, and he is a great influence."
Te'o, who is holding more than 20 scholarship offers, acknowledged the important role Ane has played for him off the field as well.
"Coach has gone through this [recruiting] and has helped guide me through the process. I have a good support system," said Te'o.
At Punahou, Ane was coached and greatly influenced by his late father Charlie Ane, a former NFL All-Pro center with the championship-winning Detroit Lions. It was only fitting he would invite the elder Te'o to coach on the Punahou staff when his son made the jump to varsity.
The two coaches appear to have done a commendable job collectively molding, motivating and supporting one of nation's finest defensive prospects while also instilling a pleasant demeanor -- at least until the helmet comes on.
Te'o's Scouts Inc. Evaluation
Te'o is a man amongst boys on film; it's very difficult to find any physical weaknesses in this kid's game at outside linebacker. He is tall, well-proportioned and thickly-built. Plays the game fast and with great intensity. Fills inside with a good base and shows great power and strength taking on pulling linemen and fullbacks at the point of attack; consistently forces blockers upright and the run inside. Rare athlete who can slip blockers with good lateral quickness or shed with his strong hand technique.
Explosive tackler who runs through ball carriers and limits second efforts. Excels attacking off the perimeter with his great burst and closing quickness; a nightmare for smaller backs and tight ends who stay home to block him on a blitz. Takes proper pursuit angles and plays faster than his listed 40 time on the football field. Displays great range chasing sideline-to-sideline and does not give up on the play, a relentless pursuer.
Excellent pass rusher. Quick first step to get the edge but it's his ability to turn the shoulder, get under the blocker's pads and bend down the line of scrimmage that's most impressive. Does not stop moving his hands or feet while rushing the quarterback. Shows good bend and sink in his hips in coverage and should match up well on tight ends in man-to-man.
However, he needs to work on his reads and diagnosing skills; frequently given the green light to attack freely off the edge. Sifting through the lateral traffic between the tackles is an area in need of improvement as well. Te'o's level of competition is a question mark, but he completely dominates on both sides of the ball (productive tailback). All the measurables to develop into an outstanding strong side or inside linebacker at the next level.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.