“For me to learn from my teammates, from Eric (Weddle) from Donald (Butler), how better to play coverage has definitely helped me so much so far,” Te’o said. “I have a lot to work on but I’m happy about the progress I’ve made.”
Head Coach Mike McCoy believes the year they had to work together, as well as this offseason, will benefit not only the players themselves, but the whole team.
“They’ve played together a lot longer,” McCoy said. “After playing a season together it’s a lot easier for them to communicate. Whether it’s switching responsibility or a key word here or there to change things, they play a lot faster.”
Communicating is one of the biggest differences Te’o has seen in his role in his sophomore season. He’s more vocal, chiming in when he can and helping out his fellow interior linebacker.
“I know a little bit more than I did last year so I’m able to help a lot more,” Te’o said. “I’m able to communicate and take some things off of Donald’s plate when I need to help him because he has a lot of stuff on his plate. He has a lot of responsibilities on our defense so any way I can help him, I try to do that.”
It isn’t easy being a rookie in the NFL and learning the game, especially when nursing an injury as well. McCoy believes Butler’s influence and mentoring of Te’o helped the former Notre Dame linebacker assimilate quicker to life as a pro football player.
“Manti was learning on the run last year and Donald kind of had to…give him every little detail of games doing certain things so he couldn’t play as fast,” McCoy said. “And now that Manti’s been in the system for a year, he’s playing a lot faster so they’re both going to benefit from it.”
In particular, Butler believes staying healthy will be of the utmost importance. If they can avoid injury, he thinks they can do some serious damage to opposing offenses.
“Coach talked a bit about having me and Manti out there healthy and it feels great,” Butler said. “It feels good. We’re finally healthy together as a team on defense so if we can keep everybody healthy, we can do some good things.”