Jaylon Smith

Jaylon Smith commits to the Irish

49 Comments

It won’t go into the media guide or count in Brian Kelly’s official W-L record, but Notre Dame won a huge battle on Saturday when Indiana linebacker Jaylon Smith gave his commitment to the Fighting Irish. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound outside linebacker, who has been dazzling recruitniks all offseason with his effortless work rushing the passer, locking down wide receivers, and doing just about anything else asked of him, becomes the signature recruit of the 2013 class.

Smith’s listed as the No. 4 player in the country by Rivals, and will likely be a consensus five-star player heading into the fall. If the rating holds, he’ll be the Irish’s most high-profile recruit since Jimmy Clausen, ranking above Manti Te’o, Aaron Lynch, Michael Floyd, or any of the other big-name recruits that have chosen to sign with Notre Dame.

Long leaning the Irish’s way, Smith had coast-to-coast options, including USC, Michigan, and Ohio State, where his brother plays for Urban Meyer. But the Fort Wayne Bishop Luers product said the decision came down to one school after visiting Notre Dame’s campus multiple times this spring.

“It all boils down to finding the place you feel comfortable at,” Smith told IrishSportsDaily.com. “The thing that’s always stood out about Notre Dame is the people and the standard of excellence. I think it’s a school that is hard to match with everything it offers.”

Smith’s versatility gives defensive coordinator Bob Diaco a sports car that he hasn’t had in his garage the first two seasons in South Bend. With the ability to drop and cover, get after the passer, and size that’ll likely allow him to compete on the inside if needed, Smith should walk into South Bend will an open look at any of the linebacking jobs that’ll be up for grabs with Manti Te’o long gone, and Prince Shembo, Danny Spond, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese in their final year of eligibility.

Smith has long been a relative lynchpin in recruiting, and he’ll join a 13-man recruiting class that’s actively courting some of the nation’s top uncommitted prospects. According to 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong, that effort has already started.

“I’m talking to Vernon Hargreaves right now and Michael Hutchings,” Smith told Wiltfong, with Hargreaves and Hutchings among the top 50 players in the country. “I’m talking to Alex Anzalone. We have some guys coming in in June to visit and I’m looking forward to that.”

Smith is the Irish’s first 2013 linebacker recruit, a position of emphasis. He stated that he’s officially closing his recruitment. The future Army All-American will be back on campus June 15, a weekend that’s turning into a major recruiting roundup.

 

 

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
Leave a comment

Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
1 Comment

Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
Getty
4 Comments

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
5 Comments

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.