Manti Te’o or Ryan Shazier?

Approximately 2.5 years ago, an undersized linebacker from Plantation, Florida decided to make a commitment to stay in his hometown to play football for the University of Florida. In spite of being somewhat undersized at 205-pounds, he was still a 4-star recruit with an enormous upside because of the intangibles he possessed.

Unquestionably, Ohio State was on the short list of possible schools and was a highly sought after candidate, but home cooking generally wins out. At the time, the coach that he made that commitment to was Urban Meyer. Months later in December of 2010, Urban infamously retired (act 2 of 2) putting a large question mark around the incoming recruit. Only nine days after Urban’s retirement announcement, Ryan Shazier decommitted from the University of Florida notifying The Ohio State University of his verbal acceptance, marking yet another reason for the Urban Meyer love affair.

I haven’t felt so great about being a backup plan since junior prom.

Alright, while that last part may not be entirely true, we can all agree that we are very thankful of how the situation unraveled as Ohio State fans. Regardless of how intently you watch the Buckeyes, there is no doubt in my mind that you have surely heard the praises of Ryan Shazier sung on a consistent basis. The intensity and athleticism that is presented each week can only be matched by the senior, John Simon who we profiled a couple months ago. Outside of that, we truly may not see an athlete with his combination of talent, commitment and passion for several years to come. It is early, I get it. And I am definitely not a scout or qualified to be singing such high praises for a player with just 23 games under his belt, but I believe that even as far as Shazier has come, he still has an incredible ceiling.

Like most college players, Ryan Shazier did not start for the Buckeyes as a true freshman in 2011, but saw significant playing time during the season. He recorded 57 tackles which was good for the most by a true freshman in the past 15 years, when Andy Katzenmoyer racked up 86 tackles in 1996. Shazier made a significant impact throughout the season in which he earned the right to start in the final 3 games of the 2011 season where he totaled 30 of those 56 tackles. Numbers such as those are pretty solid considering the fact that Shazier spent most of his time on special teams and filling in at linebacker. Couple that with him being a true freshman and even the casual fan can quickly realize the improvement and upside to an athlete like this.

Let’s get down to it though; What really sparked this entire thing was quick post that I came across on Twitter comparing Ryan Shazier, to Manti Te’o of Notre Dame. Of course there was some buzz from Buckeye fans around these exact stats, which are courtesy of Elevenwarriors.com, and deservedly so:

Then I came across this comment on Twitter by a sports writer and Miami Hurricanes grad (which will remain nameless) trying to crush any possibility of a comparison: “OSU fans comparing Shazier to Manti Te’o: just stop it. You’re being foolish.”

Naturally, I questioned his position prompting the following responses:

“They both could play LB for me if I was starting a team, no doubt. But Te’o is better right now. No question. Shazier is getting more chances to make plays than Te’o. OSU started a FB at LB, Manti is playing with 4 1st rounders.”

Let me preface with this: I do not know of many more things that annoy the crap out of me more than people making condescending declarations about a topic they feel strongly about without much substance. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is entitled to exactly that, but as we all know, social media has given a platform to people that can make outlandish comments with zero repercussions. Sometimes I feel that it is my job to call those people out one by one.

Now that I exorcised some demons, it should be pretty clear that we are looking at production for Ryan and Manti’s production for this season so far. Obviously, both have had spectacular seasons to date and with Ohio State idle this week, the numbers will again be an interesting comparison point when both have played 10 total games.

We cannot tell the future of what Te’o will do against Boston College this week and to be honest, it is not even worth speculating. There is not much of a point in breaking down the numbers into individual categories and talking points because there really is a good story there as it stands. Both players are incredible athletes and are clearly an extraordinarily large part of each team’s respective defenses.

Yet Manti Te’o should be a Heisman favorite and in most circles, already has an invite to New York while Ryan Shazier has comparable, if not better numbers and rarely gets national attention.

“But Te’o is better right now. No question.”

Actually, there is a question and that line might as well just read “because I said so” because in comparing the numbers (which, you know, Heisman numbers are based upon) we can clearly see that Shazier is just as valuable to his team, if not more-so than Manti Te’o.

Listen, I am not trying to state a case for anything or anyone at this point. Both comments created quite a a stir on several different social media platforms and more than anything I would be interested in hearing/reading differing viewpoints.

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*image courtesy of lmk.com

  • Garry_Owen

    I hate the Heisman and its reliance on statistics.
    Statistics are not reliable at all, particularly in a comparision such as this. These statistics state very clearly what these players have done in specific tangible areas, but they don’t tell us anything at all about what plays these guys have missed (Shazier has missed more than his share) or how their presence and actions on the field might have influenced a given play apart from the tangible, measurable metrics.
    The Heisman process errs massively in elevating the guy with the gaudiest statistics. In my opinion, it would be even worse if Shazier was in the conversation (which I understand you’re not saying he should be, but . . .). I love how the kid plays, but he is not in the same league as Te’o. Te’o is, in my mind, the only clear Heisman frontrunner. I would love to see him win, but it’s never going to happen. All because of “statistics.”

  • Steve

    You can’t just simply compare individual defensive numbers and say one guy is as valuable to his team as another. In the most obvious and extreme example – Darrelle Revis has a low tackle total and few interceptions, but is widely considered one of the best defenders in the NFL.

    Meanwhile Ohio St is 39th in total defense, and 46th in scoring defense. Notre Dame is 10th and second respectively. The idea that Shazier is getting more chances because of less talent around him is actually quite accurate. Shazier is a solid player on a defense that has been pretty mediocre. Te’o has been the, unquestioned, leader of one of the best defenses in the nation. No knock on Shazier, who I think is going to end up on an all-Big-Ten first team before his career at Ohio St is done, but he’s no Te’o.

  • Natedawg86

    Who are the other first rounders on ND defense? Te’o is a senior, Shazier a sophomore. Ohio state has first rounder Hankins and probably second rounder Simon, but ND doesn’t really have anyone (unless they come out early Nix and Tuitt) that is close to the first round.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Personally don’t care for these kind of comparisons these are the “fantasy” type things which are nothing more then entertainment. Truth is I would take either player especially if I’m the Cleveland Browns.

  • Steve

    Looking at statistics is easy, that’s why it’s used. That’s also why “QB on national champion favorite” is also a Heisman favorite (though, not really this year, which is odd as McCarron, with his 66.7 completion rate and 19/0 TD/INT ratio has some really good numbers).

    The problem isn’t that the voters use numbers, is that they use the wrong ones way too often. Total Schedule a couple pasties early on and run nearly 100 plays a game, and you’ll rack up plenty of yards offensively. The presence of numbers like the ones presented at football outsiders needs to upped substantially.

  • Garry_Owen

    Agree. The reality is that Heisman voters are lazy. Granted, I only think Te’o is the frontrunner because I’m also lazy. I don’t watch every college football team to know who might actually be the best player out there. But from what I’ve seen of the games I’ve seen, Te’o is the best college football player this year. It has little to do with statistics.

  • JHop

    I might be too optimistic here, but I feel like Manti Te’o could turn into the next Brian Urlacher. Solid overall with a long career. Exactly something the Browns need.

  • maxfnmloans

    building on your Revis analogy- if you look at Deion Sanders’ stats and never watched him play the game, you might think he was a good, but not great CB.

    Obviously, stats can and do lie.

    Good idea by the author though. There’s lots of clicks to be generated by ND nation

  • maxfnmloans

    to this day, I am still amazed Woodson beat Manning in ’97. I was very happy that he did, but I still cannot believe that it actually happened.

  • Jim

    Rini, how many ND games have you actually watched? I have watched all of ND’s games and about 5 or 6 of OSU’s games thus far, and there is absolutely no question that Teo is the better player right now. As has been pointed out in the comments, the numbers are not comparable due to the surrounding talent and schematic differences between the two defenses. Teo is the unquestioned leader of the defense, its heart and soul, and is almost never asked to Blitz. He drops into coverage far more often than Shazier. Additionally, while the TFL numbers may not be the same, if you have watched ND’s defense play you would see a.) the talent on that D-Line and b.) how many plays Teo stops for no gain or a 1-2 yard gain. There is no doubt that Shazier is also a fantastic player, but you have to look far deeper than just the numbers here.

  • Vagabond

    Zeke Motta has been getting a lot of praise for his play, especially as the secondary is young, thin, and is better than Harrison Smith (drafted #29 overall). Tuitt and Nix COULD be 1st round picks if they enter the draft and likely will be when they do. Tuitt is not eligible this year. I think 4 1st rounders is a stretch, certainly, but there are some 2nd and 3rd round guys on that defense as well.

  • mgbode

    Easiest way to say this as both are very good players that I like.

    Shazier affects plays and sometimes drives.
    Te`o affects games.

  • BenRM

    I’m an ND grad who thought Te’o was a bit overrated coming into this season. He reminded me of a slightly better version of what D’Qwell Jackson is in the pros; solid, good leader, makes a lot of plays, but not a lot of big plays.

    This year, Te’o has changed that perception. He is making huge plays in huge moments. He is involved (with the exception of the Pitt game…weird weird Pitt game) in nearly every play on the field. And his leadership has somehow become even more leader-y.

    No knock to Shazier, he’s probably going to be a super bad mo fo, but he doesn’t have the same presence that Te’o does this year.

  • Steve

    The defensive line makes things so much easier for a good LB. Te’o can stay home and read every play. He doesn’t have to worry about interior o-lineman getting to the second level, letting him read and hit the hole (something he does extraordinarily well) immediately. And on passing downs, his team can get pressure with just four guys, letting him read and make plays in the passing game (something I think he has gotten much better at this year). A great front makes things so much easier for smart LBs.

  • Mitch

    Another Obama loving Notre Dame fan…..

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know if Te’o has that size but he most certainly has everything else he’s a beast he’d be the kind of impact player the defense has needed for years.

  • thepaledragon

    As a fan of both times I was really surprised to see these stats. From just watching games, though, there’s no question that Te’o is the better player. Te’o has used his four years at ND to develop into a great all-around linebacker.

    It’s hard to say they play the same position, though. ND runs more of a 3-4, while OSU runs a 4-3. Shazier is used a lot more on blitzes, while Te’o spent the offseason developing his coverage skills and therefore hangs back on passing plays (ND gets enough pressure with their beast of a line).

    Finally, the best argument to make is that Te’o’s defense has done a far superior job of keeping teams out of the end zone. Is it all Te’o’s credit or Shazier’s fault? No, but it provides context to the stats. I’d also be curious to see those numbers broken done per possession. I’m sure Shazier has been on the field for far more plays to rack up those tackles.

  • Jim

    So what is a more valuable trait for a linebacker, being able to get to the quarterback or defend the pass? Based on the numbers, one can make the argument that Teo is better defending the pass whereas Shazier is better at getting pressure on the quarterback.

  • mgbode

    5INTs > 4sacks

  • Dave

    If you’ve watched 5 or 6 of Ohio State’s games, you could be missing exactly half of the games that Shazier plays in…which coincidentally is the same number of Notre Dame games I’ve watched. So why do you get to question my viewpoint with yours being “there is absolutely no question that Teo is better” out of the same sample set? Seems like a double-standard, no?

    Regardless, the point of this was to generate different viewpoints. There are so many subjective pieces that go into this: situational, SOS, how long the defense is on the field…etc. I literally could argue either side until I pass out.

  • Dave

    Or, what is more valuable to the team? Certain guys are asked to do certain things no matter their position. I don’t know the answer though.

  • dedd

    Late to the party but has Shazier ended 3 games with interceptions, made a solo tackle to stop Stanford from a 1st and goal and carried a terrible offense + a pair of true freshmen safeties to 12-0? This guy is a playmaker and a leader. Te’o anchored the best *by the numbers* red zone defense of the past EIGHT YEARS. What he’s doing is so far outside the mainstream that most people can’t even wrap their heads around how valuable he is, and therefore can’t even contextualize the frame in which they would vote for him as the leading Heisman candidateTe’o was good for about 5 wins for his team. There’s no player in the country this year or in recent years as valuable to his team. I’m no a ND nuthugger but Te’o has carried not only a mediocre team to the national championship game but put an entire dying program on his back.

    As you two say, the idea of comparing individual stats for defensive players (inside LB no less) gives you an idea of the value of that player is, frankly, noob.

    But for those who still can’t get off a myopic misusage and misunderstanding of stats chew on this:

    Charles Woodson 1997: 44 tackles, 8 int
    Manti Te’o 2012: 103 tackles, 7 int

    Ray Lewis career stats: 6.9 tackles per game, .18 sacks per game, .136 int per game

    STAGGERING
    stats for one of the best LBs of the decade aren’t they? you sure this guy is all pro?? .18 sacks per game? less than 7 tackles per game?

    meanwhile Te’o career stats:8.5 tackles per game, .17 sacks per game, .14 int per game

    OMG HIS STATS SUCK.

    again the stupidity of thinking individual stats determine his worth to his team but consider:

    – 2nd ND player in 125 years to record three 100+ tackle seasons
    – 7 INT in 2012 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 133 tackes in 2010 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 128 tackes in 2011 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 62 solo tackles in 2011 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 209 career solo tackles FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 67 assisted tackles in 2010 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players
    – 66 assisted tackles in 2011 FIRST among all indpendent FBS players

    plus about 20 other INDIVIDUAL STATISTICAL AWARDS in his career.

    …when Shazier or anyone else puts up those kinds of stats in his conference, let’s revisit this flawed article.