As one of four early-entry freshmen at Notre Dame this spring – and now one of 35 since the school began accepting early-enrollees in 2006 – Te’von Coney is the first inside linebacker to begin his collegiate career at Notre Dame a semester ahead of schedule.
Originally committed to Florida, Coney ultimately chose the Irish over the Gators with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, Miami, Ohio State and Tennessee, among many others.
The Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High School standout had 172 tackles, six fumbles forced and two interceptions as a junior, and 136 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two fumbles recovered and two interceptions as a senior, earning Coney a spot at the Under Armour All-American Bowl.
Coney spent the spring working with the No. 2 unit at Will linebacker behind Jaylon Smith, who will get all the meaningful reps as long as the veteran Irish linebacker is healthy. If Smith takes reps at Sam linebacker, that could allow the true freshman to get some work at the Will. At the very least, Coney has a chance to be a regular member of the Irish special teams unit, particularly coverage teams where his open-field tackling can be utilized.
Coney likely will lose his No. 2 spot on the depth chart at Will linebacker this fall with the healthy return of Joe Schmidt from a November ankle injury. Schmidt – who played Mike linebacker last fall while earning team defensive MVP honors – is expected to cross-train between the Will and the Mike. At one of the deepest areas on either side of the football for the Irish, inside linebacker action for Coney may be difficult to come by until the competition clears a bit.
Since Coney is the first early-entry inside linebacker at Notre Dame in the 10 years the University has allowed early-enrollment for football, there is no direct comparison among the 35 who have started college a semester early.
In terms of reps among early-entry freshmen, Coney received second-team reps in the spring, as did one of last year’s two early-enrollees – Andrew Trumbetti. Coney’s first year is more likely to go along the lines of former cornerback Lo Wood, who made 155 special teams appearances as a true freshman, put himself in a No. 2 spot on the depth chart as a sophomore, and was slated for a starting role as a junior. With Schmidt and Jarrett Grace both walking out the door after ’15, Coney’s timetable could be on a faster track.
Of the 24 players signed by Notre Dame in February, two-thirds (16) were rated as four-star prospects with the other eight designated as three-star prospects. Coney – perhaps due to his 6-foot-1 height as much as anything – was one of those three-star prospects. He certainly appeared to be ahead of schedule for most three-star prospects arriving as an early-entry.
To be determined
“Physically, he looks like a guy that’s been in our program for a couple years. He has the physical traits necessary to compete early on…Te’von is doing extremely well. (He’s) athletic and somebody that has a chance to compete right away.”
-- Brian Kelly