New Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly didn't mince words today when he spoke about linebacker Manti Te'o: He expects Te'o to be a leader on defense who has to "get much better as a football player."
"(Te'o's) got to get much better as a football player," Kelly said after the team's first spring practice in South Bend, Ind. "He wasn't very good (last year) and he understands that. He's been committed to learning. Remember, he hasn't been here a year. He's a freshman."
Kelly, who replaced Charlie Weis who was fired after last season, said Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore have emerged as leaders for the Irish.
"There's probably been four or five guys defensively that have said immediately, 'Coach, whatever it is, let's go get it done,' " Kelly said. "I think the rest of that leadership takes time to develop. But those guys (Lewis-Moore and Te'o) in particular were right there at the very first day."
Kelly said he likes the energy Te'o brings "on a day-to-day basis.
"He's got that excitement, that passion," Kelly said. "Those are the guys I want to be around.
"So I just love the energy that he brings and the passion that he wants to be a great player. If you write the prescription for a coach … Who do you want to coach? Get a guy like that. That's fun."
Kelly led Cincinnati to a 12-0 regular-season finish before taking the job at Notre Dame, which fired Weis after the Irish went 6-6 in the regular season for a second straight year. Notre Dame last won a national title in 1988.
If coach Kelly is expecting more than what was illustrated in these few highlights of Manti's freshman year, we are in for something truly special. The "Freight Train" from the 808 will be one to jump on, if your not already on the Te'o Bandwagon. "All aboard!"