Jun 2, 2012, 6:46 PM EDT
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.