There are times in life when a single second makes all the difference. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o encountered such a moment during his school's pro day on Tuesday. After running a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in late February -- a disappointment for any player who needs to rely on speed -- Te'o rebounded well by running a 40 at Notre Dame's indoor facility that was timed unofficially between 4.71 and 4.75 by several sources on the scene.
It's not the end-all and be-all for a player who still has some weak spots on tape, but the fact that Te'o overcame all the distractions he's encountered in the last few months is a sign of encouragement.
"I think I did pretty good," he told ESPN's Josina Anderson and Todd McShay after his workout. "I felt good out there, and it's good to be back home with guys I spent the last four years with. Definitely a great comfort level there, and whenever you're comfortable and relaxed, good things are going to happen."
Te'o's continued pre-draft workouts in Florida put him in good stead as he looked far more fluid when running this time around, which could be a result of a better sleep cycle.
"I just focused on things that needed to be corrected," he said. "I obviously wanted to improve my 40 time, and spent a lot of time on that. I was pleased with the way I did my [agility drills] at the combine, so I didn't have to focus on that as much. All the attention was on my 40, and I'm very pleased with what I did today."
The next question, of course, is how he does at the NFL level. Te'o's primary problem might be the fact that his on-field liabilities show up as one watches more tape. Not only has he struggled to shed blocks from more powerful offenses -- an issue that showed up long before his disastrous performance against Alabama in the BCS Championship game -- but there's also the issue of on-field speed. Better 40 time or not, Te'o tends to struggle in certain pass coverage transitions, and he's not always as quick to the sideline as you'd like to see from a first-round linebacker.
"I'm getting there," he said. "Obviously, I have a lot of work to do, but I think I'm in a great spot right now. A lot of the speed at the next level comes from ... not really your physical speed, but your mental preparation going into a game. Studying film, knowing how to anticipate, and using your instincts. That adds to your speed, so it should be good."
The 40 time at home was one step in the right direction. In a month, give or take a day, Many believe that Te'o is a first-round talent, but if he's to live up to that, he'll have to get stronger in the box. Putting up just 21 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds -- well, that's a decent number, but when it comes to the ability to create force with his upper body, Te'o doesn't always show that on tape. The good news? He's aware of the problem.
"You work on it -- same thing with anything you want to get better at. You can't sit in your living room and say, 'Oh -- I want to get better at my block shedding.' Every coach I've met with, I asked them to teach me techniques, and how to better shed blocks. That's something I'm going to work on with whatever team I go to. Watching the veterans, and though repetitions, you generally improve."
Manti Te'o will know where his next home is. Hopefully, he'll be comfortable there sooner than later.
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