The biggest reason the Notre Dame football team won four straight games to close out last season was the emergence of the Irish defense.
The man leading the way--linebacker Manti Te'o.
The native of Hawaii was the top defensive recruit in the country when he arrived in South Bend in 2009. He's lived up to the billing.
So much that many expect Te'o to raise his game to greater heights this season. And if he does so, he could have a major decision to make. Return for a senior season or leave for the NFL?
A big year from the Irish middle linebacker could make him a first round draft pick, but coach Brian Kelly says they aren't talking about those possibilities right now.
"I think if you look at inside linebackers and where they've been drafted in the last five years and they are not #1 draft picks normally," Kelly said Saturday.
"Manti didn't come here to go to the NFL," Kelly continued. "He could have went on a Mormon mission. But he came here to be at Notre Dame. We don't spend much time thinking about it."
Manti, meanwhile, says he's not in a position to think about it right now and that he would have to have a huge season to even have to worry about.
Many think Te'o will have that season. So then what?
Manti and the Irish open up the season September 3rd against South Florida.