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Te'o's next step

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o leads the nation in tackles with 13.5 per game.

But it isn't just Te'o's statistics that coach Brian Kelly is looking at in regard to the sophomore.

"I thought he played with a lot more grit," Kelly said of Te'o's performance in a 37-14 loss to No. 9 Stanford on Saturday. "He was tough and physical, and a great leader on the football field. So, obviously, an emerging top-flight player for us on defense."

Te'o appears to have the consistency element needed to go from good to great.

After opening with a nine-tackle performance against Purdue, Te'o had 13 tackles against Michigan, 10 against Michigan State and a career-best 21 against Stanford.

The next step for the 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore will be raise the level of play of the other 10 guys on defense, Kelly said.

"We always look at the grading of them relative to can they influence others around them?" Kelly said "I think he's starting to get to that point where if his play is as consistent as it is, he then starts to influence others. That's a dynamic place to be."

One place Te'o can influence others is by continuing to deliver big hits.

"There is no question that that kind of player can influence and generate an enthusiasm if you stay with the principles of run, hit, and get excited on defense," Kelly said. "He can run, he can hit, and he gets people excited."

Te'o is also an example of how Kelly wants the Irish to play.

Kelly praised the linebacker's tenacity and said Te'o is an example the difference between playing hard and playing with a will and attitude to lay it all on the line.

"I think that's what we're looking for from Manti," Kelly said. "That's what he delivered. If that gets modeled by other players, we're just better because of it."