Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Clash of elite linebackers Saturday

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Two of college football's best linebackers will be on the same field when Boston College visits Notre Dame on Saturday.

Manti Te'o and Luke Kuechly are both semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation's best linebacker. 

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has a history with both players. When he was coaching at Cincinnati, he tired to recruit Kuechly, who was a high school star at Saint Xavier.

"We loved him," Kelly said. "We felt like he was the kind of linebacker that has shown he can be. Great instincts, loves the game, great character kid. His interest, from the very beginning, was towards Boston College. We knew it was going to be an uphill climb. But certainly St. X is a school that at Cincinnati we had somebody in there as much as we could."

Kuechly had 18 tackles in Boston College's 14-10 win over North Carolina State on Saturday, including nine in one 13-minute stretch of the fourth quarter when the Eagles were trying to preserve their lead. The junior has had double-digit tackles in 32 consecutive games.

 "We have to know where he is," Kelly said when asked if he would have to game plan for Kuechly. "We have to identify him because he's a savvy player. It's like when you have that great defensive lineman, you try to put him -- sometimes you don't block him and you option him. 

"Well, in some instances with a great player like that you try to put him in as many conflicts as possible out there. But there's no denying his ability to play the game and get to the football. We'll have to be prepared."

Notre Dame credits Te'o with 91 tackles this season. Kuechly has 89 solo stops and 168 overall, according to Boston College's statistics.

"They're similar," Kelly said. "When you talk about the really good inside linebackers, it's interesting. It's great tackling. The leader on their defense. Manti and Luke carry a lot of those. Physically, Manti is a little bit bigger, but maybe Luke you could say is maybe a bit more agile. I don't know. I would think maybe Manti would question that. But clearly they're very similar in terms of the intangibles that they bring and both are very, very productive."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on November 15, 2011 1:24 PM.

Kelly talks about Te'o, Toma was the previous entry in this blog.

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