Class: Junior (Eligibility: 2)
On The Depth Chart: Coney worked as the second-team Buck linebacker during spring practice and it’s hard to imagine him retaking a starting job in Mike Elko’s defense, at least this season.
Post-Spring Status: Descending
Te’von Coney arrived early at Notre Dame two years ago.
Expectations beat him to campus.
Depending on where you get your recruiting rankings, the product of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was cast in the same light as the kinds of linebackers that populate many SEC rosters. A four-star everywhere but Scout (which tagged the Under Armour All-American with a three-star label because of lateral quickness concerns), Coney was ranked as high as No. 118 overall in the nation on Rivals.
And despite two up-and-down seasons, it’s still too early to really know what the Irish have here. Coney might suffer scheme fit issues under Mike Elko. Or he could rebound a year from now to start at two positions. Coney’s career has also included a shoulder blowout in the Fiesta Bowl and an arrest on marijuana possession last August. There’s a lot in there and a lot of potential left to tap.
This is still a 6-foot-1, 235-pound specimen of an athlete based on his winter conditioning photos. If it all clicks, maybe Coney can be the big-name four-star that so many thought Notre Dame was getting when it beat Florida head-to-head for his commitment.
CONEY AT HIS BEST
Coney posted a career-high 10 tackles against Virginia Tech, finishing relatively strong within Notre Dame’s struggling defense. He also posted nine tackles in back-to-back weeks against Michigan State and Duke, both losses. Now Coney needs to do something more. Of his 62 tackles, just 1.5 were tackles for loss (Nevada – 1, Syracuse – 0.5). He didn’t make a sack, didn’t force a fumble and didn’t recover one either.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Considering Coney started most of last season, a best-case scenario of running with the second-team defense might not make much sense. But hear us out. The Irish have three inside linebackers that the coaching staff can trust entering fall camp: Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini and Coney. That’s it. So there’s real value in Coney being able to back up the Mike and Buck positions this season, then take over one of them next year. Yes, the real best-case scenario for Coney would be retaking the Buck linebacker position, but it’s hard to imagine him beating out a captain for it. Considering Notre Dame will push the tempo on offense this season, it’s not like backing up Morgan and Martini would stop Coney from getting 40 snaps per game. Remember that more plays on offense means more plays on defense too.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
There’s a decent floor with Coney and it won’t get lower than back-up linebacker. But the Irish could use some help on special teams too and it’s not clear the junior can provide enough straight-line speed there. That’s not a great sign considering coverage units should be the domain of backup linebackers and safeties. Considering the Irish will lose both starting linebackers after this season, Coney should be in position to start at the Mike or Buck as a senior. It’s too bad he doesn’t have a fifth-year option after barely seeing the field as a freshman. He’d be a classic fifth-year senior type, good enough that you’d want him back on the roster but not so good that he’d be likely to jump into the NFL after that fourth season.
The parallel isn’t perfect, but the career arc of Coney resembles Carlo Calabrese as they entered their junior years. Coney played as a freshman while Calabrese took a red-shirt, although Coney barely saw the field that first year, limited to special teams and finishing with just six tackles. Both players emerged as full-time starters as sophomores, Coney starting nine games while Calabrese started eight. Coney finished with 62 tackles as a sophomore. Calabrese posted 60. From there both linebackers faced job-share situations, Calabrese giving way to Dan Fox while Coney seems stuck behind Greer Martini in Mike Elko’s defense. So while the two might appear different in how they got to Notre Dame, their first two-and-a-half years have been remarkably similar.