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Dr. Saturday

Doc Five: Spring game revelations – No. 3, Irish filling the Manti Te’o void with Grace

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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.

(USA Today Sports Images)

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.

SPRING GAME REVELATIONS

NO. 3, IRISH FILLING THE MANTI TE'O VOID WITH GRACE

Notre Dame is replacing one of the most decorated defensive players in college football history, a fact that is getting lost a bit because "Manti Te'o" brings about a whole other conversation these days.

Still, replacing a middle linebacker who won seven national awards and almost won the Heisman Trophy is a major storyline for a team that went undefeated last regular season, and should be pretty good again.

So far, there doesn't seem to be a lot of angst about it in South Bend, because Jarrett Grace has made an early impression.

Grace was the early favorite to be Te'o's replacement. The coaching staff has been careful to not hand him the job or put too much pressure on him either. Coach Brian Kelly seems to point out all the linebackers he has when he has been asked about Grace. But reports from Notre Dame practice say Grace has done well, and he hasn't done anything to lose his grip on the middle linebacker job.

"We really like Jarrett Grace, there’s no question," Kelly said in an interview posted by IrishIllustrated.com.

Grace has put on 13 pounds in the offseason, according to CSNChicago.com. The Elhkart (Ind.) Truth newspaper said he is now 248 pounds, so he should be able to hold up in the middle. The Elkhart Truth also said he has improved from nine reps of 225 pounds on the bench press to 22. In addition to bulking up, he has also impressed teammates with how well he has mastered the defense, something that Te'o was pretty good at with all his experience.

"He’s loud, he has a motor that doesn’t stop, he’s very fundamentally (sound), he’s on his assignments all the time," safety Matthias Farley told CSNChicago.com. "When you have a middle linebacker who’s on his business at all times and you know he’s going to give you everything, it makes everybody a lot more comfortable."

"He's loud" doesn't sound like a great compliment, but that's important for Grace too. Te'o was the leader of an elite Notre Dame defense. Grace has been praised for stepping up as a leader.

Grace, in an interview posted on YouTube by Rachel Terlep of the Elkhart Truth, talked about taking the lessons he got from Te'o and applying them this season.

"You learn hard work and what it takes to be successful. He got all these accolades and he earned them for a reason," Grace said. "Because of the hard work he put in on the field and the film room."

Notre Dame has its spring game this Saturday, so Grace can take another step toward the starting job. But there's a reason Kelly keeps mentioning second-teamers Kendall Moore and Joe Schmidt, and proposing that seniors Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese can fit into a rotation with Grace at inside linebacker. They are all players the Irish like, and they'll continue to push to start on opening day.

But as of now, it seems Grace will have the first opportunity to replace a Notre Dame legend.

Previously on the "Doc Five"
No. 5, Oklahoma, USC, Florida State undecided at QB
No. 4, The injury bug hits a few teams

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