Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Steady Jede A Quiet Leader For Bruins

When you ask Jede Fue how his season has gone, the softspoken senior linebacker for Wilson smiles and says, “Pretty good. I’ve got to try harder.” He speaks so quietly you have to lean in to hear him, which is surprising—if any Long Beach linebacker is entitled to a chest-thump or two, it’s Fue.

At the end of the regular season, the captain had recorded 118 total tackles—only 33 more than the second-closest defender in the Moore League. He’s a tireless player who’s been praised by coaches across the city for his effort and activity on the field.

“He’s a joy,” says Wilson defensive coordinator Scott Meyer. “He’s a great kid and a hard worker…he’s our starting middle linebacker and he’s on the practice team getting every rep in against our first-team offense. You won’t see that very often.”

Nor will you see Fue raise his voice to the volume it reaches on the football field. He admits he tries to be a vocal leader, contrary to his nature away from the game. It’s an instinct that comes to him through his bloodline.

His father, Keli Pula, is an assistant coach for the Poly girls’ varsity volleyball team, and his mother and sister both played the sport (his older sister Deveney is currently playing for Cornell). Bruins coach Mario Morales says that growing up around coaches and athletes has been an asset. “Well it’s made him very coachable,” he says, “which obviously is great for us.”

Between the statistics and his football acumen (he calls the checks for Wilson’s defense), it would probably be a safe assumption that Fue will be spending the next few months wading through scholarship offers, trying to find the exact best situation for him. But shockingly, Morales says he has yet to receive a single offer.

“Well the way it is now, everyone recruits off of the junior season, and last year he was good, but not great. This year he’s been so steady for us.”

Fue’s father has credited his work ethic in the offseason with the improvement, as he worked fastidiously to put on the weight needed to bang inside against the Moore League’s bruising rushing attacks. That effort was most obvious in Wilson’s biggest losses of the season, to Poly and Lakewood. Despite being the focus of a lot of blocking schemes, Fue still led his team with 12 and 13 tackles in those games.

“He’s very active,” said Lakewood coach Thadd MacNeal before their game against Wilson, identifying Fue as his biggest concern on the defense.

Every year you find a player or two on each team that’s loved by his coaching staff, but overlooked by coaches at the higher level—and every now and then, a solid offer comes through and turns the situation around. It’s obvious talking to Morales and Meyer that they’re hoping something good comes for Fue.

“We’d like that to happen,” says Morales. “He just loves football, and he wants to continue playing—I don’t think it matters to him if it’s D1 or NAIA. Wherever he ends up, he’ll be an asset.”

Manti Te'o Is Becoming the Face of the Irish

Over the years, when someone mentioned the face of Notre Dame football, offensive players usually came to mind.

In the late 80's into the 90's, names like Tony Rice, Rocket Ismail and Ricky Watters, more recently Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.

As the 2010 season is winding down, the new face of the Irish appears to be sophomore inside linebacker Manti Te'o.

The 6'2, 245-pound former USA Today Prep Defensive Player of The Year has been the one constant over the past two seasons. Te'o is the first Defensive Player of The Year to sign with Notre Dame since Kory Minor in 1995, and has lived up to his top billing from Day 1.

Te'o started 10 games as a freshman and finished with 63 tackles, third most ever by a Notre Dame freshman, he was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News.

Although there were some concerns even during the recruiting process that Te'o would leave school after his freshman year to pursue a two-year Mormon mission, he announced that he would complete his education and deal with his religious obligations later in life.

Although Te'o was still learning a new defensive coming into the 2010 season, his natural ability carried him to the rapidly improved workhorse that we see today.

It had been duly noted that Te'o was basically playing on instinct as a freshman and with more knowledge of the defense, he could become the force that we see today.

Those predictions were correct. Te'o has 100 total tackles after 10 games this season, including a season-high 21 vs. Stanford.

With Te'o as the face of the organization, the shift to a defensive-minded team will help in the recruiting of better players on the defensive side of the ball.

Getting to line up with Te'o, Carlo Calabrese, and Prince Shembo has to sound extremely inviting to commitments such as Stephon Tuitt (6'5 260-pound defensive end), Tony Springmann (6'6, 257-pound defensive end) and four-star defensive back Eilar Hardy (6'1, 175 pounds).

Coaches Kelly and Molnar will see to it that the offense is that explosive point-scoring machine that we were looking forward to.

In a short time, the offense will take care of itself, but the long-lasting effects of Manti Te'o will live on long after he is playing on Sundays.

The scary thing is is Te'o is still a sophomore, and he is still learning. His second and third effort to finish a play is starting to become "buzz worthy." The sky is the limit for Te'o during the second half of his collegiate career.

Te'o, who hails from Laie, Hawaii, surprised many people when he chose Notre Dame over warm weather schools USC and UCLA, but his style of play has come as no surprise.

This highly decorated linebacker is exactly the type of player that the Irish need to base their future on. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stephen Paea Is Bednarik Semifinalist

Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea hasn't put up big numbers this year, but his unsung efforts against constant double-teams are still earning him recognition.

Paea has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the 16th annual Bednarik Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive player by the Maxwell Football Club. He is the only player from the Pac-10 on the list.

Paea was the 2009 co-recipient of the Pac-10 Conference’s Morris Trophy for the league’s top defensive lineman. The native of Tonga was a 2009 All-Pac-10 First Team selection and earned honorable mention in 2008. He currently has career totals of 105 total tackles, 25 tackles-for-loss and 12 quarterback sacks.

You can see the entire list of semifinalists here.

The winners of the 74th Maxwell Award and the 16th Chuck Bednarik Award will be announced as part of the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 9. Three finalists for each award will be announced on Nov. 22, and a second round of voting will take place at that time.