Manti Te'o still first-round pick despite rough BCS title game


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Manti Te'o had a rough outing in the BCS Championship Game on Monday night. There is no way to sugarcoat it. After 12 solid performances, Te'o and the Notre Dame defense were annihilated by a bigger, stronger and faster Alabama offense, as the Crimson Tide sprinted to a 42-14 win. On the game's opening possession, Alabama's offensive line took control of the game, pushing Te'o and his defensive mates right down the field.

Te'o wasn't the only Irish defender to be manhandled, but his reputation coming into the game made his poor play the focus of everyone's attention. He was routinely late to fill gaps. When he was able to engage a 'Bama lineman, he couldn't free himself to make a play. When he was unblocked, he missed several tackles, either by bouncing off or whiffing on the talented Crimson Tide running backs.

The world of Twitter exploded with negative comments about Te'o. Shoot, I personally contributed a handful myself. However, let's not get too carried away with one bad -- OK, horrible -- performance.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Te'o's pro potential, comparing him to former Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans. I never put Te'o in the same class as players like Patrick Willis, Jerod Mayo and Jon Beason when they entered the draft.

I don't envision Te'o's stock tumbling quite as dramatically as one might expect after Monday night's poor play. Teams that run a 3-4 defense might be a little concerned about Te'o's inability to use his hands to get off blocks, but that's something that can be taught and improved upon. What this game might prove is that he is best suited to play in a 4-3 scheme, in which opposing offensive guards would be covered up and unable to get a clean run at him.

I'm still certain Te'o will be a first-round draft pick. He will excel during his interviews with individual teams, and his leadership abilities and intelligence will elevate his stock. Everyone has a bad game or two during their career; NFL teams won't overreact to the Monday night massacre.

Here are a few observations on some other players from the BCS Championship Game:

Alabama RB Eddie Lacy: The powerful junior was the star of the game, putting together one highlight-reel run after another. Lacy showed off his foot quickness with a few nifty jump cuts to avoid tacklers at the line of scrimmage, then he sought out contact, running over other Irish defenders. He also caught the ball well and eluded opposing tacklers with a couple of nasty spin moves. His play reminded me of former Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis. Like Lewis, Lacy has quick feet and runs angry.

Alabama QB AJ McCarron: McCarron had a phenomenal game, showing tremendous poise in the pocket and making excellent decisions throughout. He displayed the arm strength to drive the ball on dig routes over the middle and a soft touch on deep crossing routes. I stood next to him on the field during warmups, and I can tell you he has a big, sturdy frame. There wasn't much to dislike about this young quarterback.

Alabama LG Chance Warmack: Alabama's Warmack-led offensive line was dominant, with the Tide's mauling guard creating huge holes all game long. I'd been impressed with his power when watching him on tape, but I hadn't been enamored with his ability to adjust at the second level. On Monday, he was much better in that department. He took the correct angles when working up to linebackers and showed the ability to lock on and finish in space. He's a difference-maker in the run game.

Notre Dame NT Louis Nix: The hulking lineman was the lone bright spot on the Irish defense. Nix was able to hold the point of attack against the talented 'Bama linemen and also displayed the lateral quickness to make plays outside of the tackle box. He finished the game with five stops and two tackles for loss.

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert: Eifert didn't have a big game, but he is very talented -- a smooth athlete who runs clean routes and has a huge catching radius. I couldn't understand why the Irish kept sending him to the short side of the field to line up against 'Bama's top cover man, Dee Milliner, given the huge talent gap between Milliner and the other starting cornerback, Deion Belue. That was a mistake in the Notre Dame game plan.

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Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon, WR Amari Cooper: Alabama's freshman duo is the best in the nation. Yeldon and Cooper had both jumped off the tape when I studied the 'Bama offense, and on Monday, they both produced numerous explosive plays. Yeldon's running style is equal parts smooth and dynamic. Cooper will draw comparisons to former Alabama star Julio Jones, though his gliding style actually reminds me more of A.J. Green. These two studs should have this program right back in the mix for another title next season.

Alabama LB C.J. Mosley: The junior inside linebacker was the most talented defender in the game. Mosley has good size and explosive, sideline-to-sideline range. He is very quick to read and react and is a physical tackler in the hole. Mosley has the athleticism to run and cover backs and tight ends, and he also has excellent awareness when he drops into zone coverage. To sum it up, he can do it all.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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