"With Manti in the middle, he was kind of the guy on defense, the vocal leader, the emotional leader," offensive lineman Zack Martin said on Sunday. "I think it's definitely more of a collective thing going on this year."
Going into this season, there doesn't seem to be one guy to replace Te'o, but according to some of the defensive veterans, that's no problem.
"There's really a bunch of leaders on the defense," linebacker Carlo Calabrese said. "A lot of people have experience playing, and we can just fall back on anyone for any questions and to get answers from them. It's pretty spread out, so it's pretty good."
The defense will by led by committee in 2013. Each player knows he has a role in helping the group build off of last year's strong performance.
There's different forms of leadership," cornerback Bennett Jackson said. "There's the vocal guy, there's the guy that leads by example, and there's the enforcer."
The Irish have should have plenty of all three going into the season. Linebacker Prince Shembo was mentioned by multiple players as a guy that leads by example.
"He proves everything on the field," Louis Nix said. "He goes out and he shows you that he plays for you, his brother. That's the type of leadership we need."
For vocal leadership, the group can look to Jackson.
"He's one of the more vocal guys that will talk, get us rowdy before games," Nix said about the cornerback.
"I'm just an energy guy," Jackson said. "I'm just a vocal guy. I try to rally guys and get them going. Certain guys respond to certain critiquing, and I just feel like I know my teammates really well. I do a good job of trying to get to know each individual, and I do that so that I can talk to them and help them out on the field."
Looking for leadership, it doesn't hurt to have experience and depth, and the defense has a lot of that.
"There's a lot of guys that know everything," safety Matthias Farley said.
Yet even with a lot of guys stepping up this season, the group has just one goal in mind.
"You've got everybody across the board working to get this team better, have a great season, and hopefully get back to the national championship," Louis Nix said.