Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hawaiian Punch: Manti Te'o to Get First Start for Notre Dame

Toryan Smith is hobbled but will play linebacker for Notre Dame on Saturday.

But he won't start. And that opens the door for freshman linebacker Manti Te'o to make his much-anticipated first start for the Irish against Michigan.

Notre Dame spokesman Brian Hardin confirmed that Te'o, the jewel of the Irish's 2009 recruiting class, will be in the starting lineup against the Wolverines. What Hardin didn't know is the extent of Smith's injury or when it occured this week, but the senior is on the field for warmups at Michigan Stadium.

Te'o made his defensive debut in the second quarter of the Irish's season opener against Nevada and wound up recording two tackles on the day.

"He's one week closer to being on the field on a more regular basis, but I think he will play more this week than he played last week," Weis told the media on Tuesday.

Te'o made two tackles against Nevada, and broke up a pass with a devastating hit, offering just a glimpse of what the former top defensive recruit in the nation might be capable of achieving.

"I think that he will be much more ready to play this week, and I think just like everyone else, playing your first freshman game, getting some of the butterflies out is a good thing," said Weis.

"Manti is a guy the sky is the limit on."

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