Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Coney: “We always knew we had the talent"

December 18, 2018

Notre Dame was 4-8 two years ago, but linebacker Te’von Coney knew the Irish could be great. 

The Irish followed a plan put in place by Brian Kelly and Matt Balis in the offseason and took baby steps last season. 

It was a process, but it paid off as the Irish are 12-0 and set to take on Clemson on December 29th in the Cotton Bowl in the first playoff appearance for the program.

“We always knew we had the talent,” stated Coney. “We knew we had the guys in the locker room. There was a certain adjustment we had to make and stick to our process. We had to figure out what that process was. 

“The coaches gave us the layout and the recipe on how to be successful. All the guys bought in and we decided to trust the coaches to do everything we can to be in this position.” 

Coney arrived in South Bend a semester early with defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Both players came back for a final season in South Bend when the NFL was calling and have been a crucial part of the Irish defense in 2018. 

Tillery might have flashy stats for a defensive tackle, but he also does the dirty work so Coney could make 107 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss. 

Notre Dame will need Tilley to have the best game of his career to slow down the explosive Clemson offense. 

“It would be huge,” Coney said of Tillery having a big game. “He can occupy blocks and get vertical to be disruptive. It will be crucial, especially playing against a running back who is waiting for a small crease. We have to make sure we get him in the backfield and stall his feet. 

“Jerry Tillery will be a huge part of our success. I’m fully confident he’s going to go out and do what he needs to do. We’re preparing to do what we need to do individually.” 

Coney and Tillery have not only grown on the field but off the field. Both players had to mature off the field to have success on the field and it has led to their teammates looking up to them. 

“We came in together,” explained Coney. “I’ve seen a ton of growth from him on and off the field. On the field, he’s grown into the person he needs to be. A lot of guys look to him because of the success he’s had. He understands he needs to be there for his teammates and be the same guy every day. 

“He’s done a great job. He takes over the defense and the defensive line. He’s pushed those guys every day to reach the success he’s reached.” 

The South Florida native has seen it all in his time at Notre Dame and that includes negative vibes from the national media. While Coney says it doesn’t bother him, it was evident he was aware people are waiting for Notre Dame to win the big game. 

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Coney. ‘We know what we have as a defense. We know how hard we worked and what we’re capable of doing. We’re focused on what we can control and that’s coming in and working on things to put us in the right position and listening to our coaches. We’ll have an opportunity to showcase to the world who is the best.” 

The whole nation will be watching the Irish on December 29th and if the Irish can stop the Tigers offense, they will gain respect. 

“They are a really good group together,” Coney said of the Clemson offense. “They have a good receiver corps, a great quarterback, a great running back and an offensive line that works together. This is one of the more complete teams we’ve played this year and everyone recognizes it. 

“We have to go out and do what we do. We’re going to go out and follow our game plan. If we do so, we won’t have any problems.” 

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