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Notre Dame's Te'o to carry the load, but not the ball

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For more on college football, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.

Irish linebacker will remain on defense

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 8:35 pm

SOUTH BEND – The sports information offices of colleges across the country have no shortage of ideas when it comes to promoting their football players for national recognition.

In the case of the Heisman Trophy, there is no bigger honor that can be awarded to a football player – that is, an offensive football player. So you would think Notre Dame All-Everything linebacker Manti Te'o would not receive serious consideration for the award, despite being the most critical player on the nation's top-ranked team.

“I think he should win the Heisman Trophy, provided we continue to win, and as it relates to Manti, he doesn't talk much about it,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “He's not focused on those things, he's focused on the things that we all know that are important to him, and that is his team and how we play on Saturday. I'll push for him. I think he should win the Heisman. But he's not really focused on that.”

In the past – and by some in the present – all sorts of marketing campaigns have been undertaken in order to help the chances of particular players win the coveted bronze trophy.

Before he became the ol' ball coach, then-Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier was a young gunslinger in 1966 who kicked a field goal to boost his Gators past Auburn in a critical SEC matchup.

Notre Dame hasn't been above generating publicity for its players. Former Fighting Irish quarterback Joe Theisman altered the pronunciation of his last name in order to try and win the award. However, no such gimmickry will be put in place at 8 p.m. Saturday, as the Irish travel to USC (ABC) with the whole nation watching.

“It never crossed my mind, but we have a lot people that have opinions on that,” Kelly said.

There are those who believe Te'o's chances of winning the Heisman would grow if perhaps Kelly would have him play a couple of downs on the offensive side of the ball and maybe, let's say, score a touchdown or two.

“I will tell that you that won't happen,” Kelly said. “He is going to play linebacker and that's it. If he can't win the Heisman at linebacker, then he can't win the Heisman.”

And that's the problem – very few are questioning the impact that Te'o has had on the college football this year. However, only once has a defensive-oriented player (Michigan's Charles Woodson) won the award, and he also contributed offensively and on special teams. But still, Kelly will have none of it.

“No, I would say that that was out there, and certainly it was played up a little bit with some players in our program that wanted to volunteer that position for Manti after hearing the rumors of it,” Kelly said. “But at no time did I even give it (a thought). I put that guy at running back and he gets hurt? I'll be coming back from that recruiting trip (to be fired). I won't get a chance to stay on the West Coast.”

Eifert considered elite

Tyler Eifert is regarded by many NFL scouts as the best tight end prospect in the country. The Notre Dame senior is also drawing the attention of college football experts as well.

For the second straight season, the former Bishop Dwenger High School standout has been named as a finalist for the John Mackey Award, which is awarded to the nation's top tight end.

The 2012 John Mackey Award winner will be presented live on ESPNU at The Home Depot College Football Awards Red Carpet Show at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

Eifert leads Notre Dame with 555 receiving yards and ranks second on the team with 40 catches. Twenty-nine of his 40 receptions have resulted in a touchdown or first down. Eifert also leads the Irish receiving corps with 11 grabs of at least 20 yards.

Eifert ranks No. 1 in school history for career receptions (130) by a tight end and is only 50 yards away from eclipsing the tight end school record for career receiving yards (1,759). He is the second Notre Dame tight end ever to collect 10 or more career touchdown receptions.

Eifert, who ranks eighth overall in career receptions regardless of position, became the third Irish tight end to ever collect at least 100 career catches.