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Jaylon Smith’s star quickly on the rise

Dec 26, 2013, 2:56 PM EDT

Navy v Notre Dame Getty Images

There’s a very nice article on freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith running today as the lead story on Sports Illustrated’s college football page. Smith, who came into Notre Dame as the school’s highest rated recruit since Jimmy Clausen, did everything you’d want from a freshman, becoming one of the team’s best defenders as the season went on.

SI.com’s Chris Johnson caught up with Smith’s high school defensive coordinator Matt Millhouse at Bishop Luers, who talked about the elite athleticism that Smith had as a four-time state champion that starred on both sides of the football.

“He was the fastest, if not the second fastest kid on the field every Friday night,” Matt Millhouse, the defensive coordinator at Bishop Luers, said of Smith, who ran a hand-timed 4.4-second 40-yard dash at a recruiting camp in Indianapolis nearly two years ago. “He was a big kid, but he was just so athletic and fast.”

That rare mix helps explain the productivity Smith had this season, even as he learned things on the fly. Set to play behind senior Danny Spond, Smith jumped into the starting lineup and put together the most productive season a Dog/Drop linebacker has had during Brian Kelly’s four seasons.

Looking forward, Smith will be the team’s leading returning tackler next season, with his 61 stops behind only fifth year seniors Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. His 6.5 TFLs trail only Stephon Tuitt. He’s second (or tied for second) on the team in interceptions, passes defended, pass breakups, and tied for the team lead in fumbles forced and recovered. All that points to a guy that’s done a very good job at performing a very diverse job. Impressive considering that he wasn’t expected to see the field much this year.

Spond talked about the versatility needed to play the Dog linebacker spot and why it feels almost custom fit for Jaylon.

“The cool part about being the Dog linebacker is that you’re working directly with the defensive backs, but at the same time you’re also working with the D-line,” Spond told SI.com. “From my point of view and experience with the system, I think the position suits him perfectly.”

The future looks only up from here for Smith, who already showed an impressive mix of productivity and potential this season, with Athlon naming him the first-team linebacker on their All-Freshman squad. That should elevate expectations for next year, with Smith going from impressive freshman to All-American caliber player.

“I think it’s nice to be able to tell somebody, ‘You can be as good as you want to be’,” Spond said. “I really think that’s the case with Jaylon. If he wants to be the greatest linebacker in the country and go to the NFL as soon as he can–I really think he can.”

  1. dickasman - Dec 26, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Let’s protect this kid and buy him some E&O coverage. Invariably, he will say something stupid on twitter.

    • ndomer54 - Dec 27, 2013 at 4:46 PM

      WHY do you keep allowing this idiot to take up space ………… Speaks from experience re E&O coverage as whatever comes out of his foul mouth is stupid and I’m sure he used up all his coverage. Let him text to himself to keep him amused.

  2. onward2victory - Dec 26, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Jaylon seems as mature and classy as they come. I’m really looking forward to watching him the next 2-3 years.

    Let’s not forget about the fumble recovery that he should have had for a TD but it got called dead for some reason. Hope he has several more plays like that in the future!

  3. NotreDan - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    Man I loved watching this kid this year. You could tell he wasn’t always 100% sure on the D call early on, but he STILL always ended up around the ball.

    Can’t wait for the bowl game, and dreading the long off season.

  4. goirishgo - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    He’ll be the best player on the field against Rutgers. Assuming ND gets an early lead (and I believe they will) I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a pick six as RU takes to the air to come back.

  5. fnc111 - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    So I guess you’re considered a troll on here if you get annoyed with idiot Kelly losing to Meatchicken all the time. Sad how times have changed.

    Anyways, J. Smith is probably going to be a beast in the future. Problem is the factory schools like Bama and FSU have 20 guys like him on their rosters. NCAA football is becoming a joke. It’s not a level playing field.

    • bernhtp - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      While Alabama and FSU certainly have a lot of great athletes, they don’t have 20 Jaylon Smiths. Smith was highly coveted by all schools.

      The “idiot” Kelly didn’t get expelled for cheating, didn’t retire with hemorrhagic migraines, wasn’t recovering from hernia surgery, etc. Your blame is terribly misplaced. This year’s team fought through considerable adversity. They never quit and this is testimony to good character and coaching.

    • nudeman - Dec 26, 2013 at 11:59 PM

      No, fnc.
      You’re a troll here if you just post the same crap over and over again.
      Your obsession with Kelly defines you as a moron.

      Dislike him as a coach? Fine, you’re entitled to your opinion

      Post about Kelly and UM for the 500th time, in a thread about Jaylon Smith no less?
      You’re either autistic or just a moron.

      • joeblk10 - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        Though I agree with you and do think fnc is a troll most of the time I have to play devils advocate and say that your obsession with Tommy Rees nude is almost as bad. You’ve turned many an article with no relation into a Tommy Rees sucks thread, and/or Keith’s in love with Tommy thread, etc, etc. Just sayin…..

      • nudeman - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Fair enough.
        But when I post about Rees at least it’s in the context of a football discussion with facts to back it.up.
        Just sayin’ …

      • jrct2450yahoo - Dec 27, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        Gee, Nude, kind of reminds me of you and Tommy, doesn’t it???? (Calm down, I love the majority of your posts but sometimes…)

  6. bernhtp - Dec 26, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    Molnar: Hey Brian, how are things?
    Kelly: Uh, good Charlie, how about you?
    Molnar: Well, UMass juked me, and we are now going in different directions.
    Kelly: That’s too bad.
    Molnar: Do you still have that OC job open? I see that Martin left.
    Kelly: Uh no. It’s filled, but I may not announce it for quite some time. Have you called Martin or Diaco?

    • mtndguy - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM

      huh?

      • bernhtp - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM

        http://www.csnchicago.com/notre-dame/umass-fires-ex-irish-offensive-coordinator-charley-molnar

  7. paulhargis53 - Dec 26, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    Funny fnc, I pretty much said the samething about athleteson SEC rosters, but since I’m not an ND fan, I was roasted. One poster even said he hoped I’d get hit by a bus….

    Hypocritical much?

  8. viktory2013 - Dec 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    Smith will probably be the next Manti Teo, and if he keeps his head together, will be the leader of the defense next couple years. The kid just has the natural instincts and physical ability no amount of coaching can instill. Plus he has fire and that’s contagious; I think it was sorely lacking this season, but I believe will be back with he and Golson next year.

  9. mtflsmitty - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:07 AM

    So Nude, None of the regular posters here really know one another. But I think many of us have a sense for other regulars. Clearly, I don’t know you, but I think I have a sense of what you’re about (as did Keith’s dear mother). I also know you’re seeing the same things I am. So a query for you, sir…

    A few weeks ago your praise for Paul was pretty strong. I even think you may have described a post or two as “genious”. Not withstanding your generous offering of a new Keyboard for Paul, are you finding his wit as sharp as you did a week or two ago? Enjoying his range, and complexity of thought? Still finding Paul to be the irreverent, yet hilariously on target, critic of ND Nation? How ’bout his most recent effort to play the victim card? Maybe instead of buying him a new keyboard, you could have gifted a thesaurus. Imagine the childlike excitement should Paul realize there is a host other words and phrases he could mix in as alternatives to “inane”.

    • dickasman - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:23 AM

      You guys have like waaaaaay too good of memory. C’mon guys, can you guys go smoke some weed or something so we can forgive n forget some? I thought old people were suppose to be senile?

      Go out n getsome99!!!

    • bernhtp - Dec 27, 2013 at 7:59 AM

      Nude’s praise of Paul was in context of being the best of the trolls. Paul won the Gold Medal in the Special Olympics of trolldom. While noteworthy, it’s not quite the same as beating Usain Bolt in the 100m.

      Also, give Paul a break. He seems to be having an off day. Maybe a bit too much eggnog. Give him some holiday cheer and Christmas charity. Be thankful that Paul isn’t the boorish type that kills trees or dwells on rape cover-ups and videographer murders. We’ve had worse.

      • ndgoldandblue - Dec 27, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        Very true, bern. The guy has certainly done enough to earn the honor of troll MVP for the 2013 season. While other trolls have taken extensive hiatuses, Paul has remained persistent, and I know something about persistence. But that makes me wonder something. If the guy’s a self-admitted Irish hater, then why spend so much time on a Notre Dame blog? As a father of a two-year-old son, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, who has time for that?

        I have cousins down in Texas and every one of them went to UT, so I grew up hearing about the greatness of the Longhorns and the state of Texas in general. Because of that, I’ve always hated Texas (both the state and the University), but I’m not going to waste a single second of my day posting vitriolic, albeit witty, comments about the Longhorns on a UT blog. This is the only blog I frequent because, in sports, there is Notre Dame, and everything else is a distant second.

        I’m not saying I want the guy to leave. He’s referenced his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights, and I think that’s great. I’m a big fan of free speech. But I just don’t get it. I got too much going on in my day to visit any websites that are devoted to teams that I hate.

      • bernhtp - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        You ask the unanswerable: why does the troll come and continually post here? Like the mythical creature that shares the name, the blog troll has qualities normal people don’t understand. However, one of them is certainly taking pleasure from exposing sensitivities in others – offending cherished beliefs and loves – in an anonymous manner where they are impervious to the normal social reaction.

        Like the apparently normal neighbor next door that is later found to be a kiddie-porn viewer, the troll is likely an affable and social personality in real life, but with a secret anti-social compulsion to be secretly expressed online.

        Then again, the proclivity to be (easily) offended and goaded into inane banter is another type of problem.

        My problem is that I am a Notre Dame alum, love Irish football (and other things Notre Dame), and can’t help but analyze everything. We all have our issues.

      • nudeman - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:53 PM

        Paul has never admitted to being a hater and has in fact put.out the possibility of being an ND fan who’s just messing with us.

      • ndgoldandblue - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        If that’s the case, nude, the guy could work for the CIA as an operations officer because he’s got me fooled.

    • nudeman - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      smitty
      Keith’s mom was about 30-40% right, for the record. Still, it was possibly the post of the year.

      And I don’t think I ever referred to Paul as a “genius”. But some of his posts make me laugh because he’s just poking us all in the ribs and when some try to spar with him, they lose. His comment about Catholic boys in the shower was over the line though. That’s just too painful for a lot of practicing Catholics. Aside from that though he just makes us take a look at our own blather. No big deal to me.

      Aside from the fact I post a lot (just too much time on my hands) I don’t take this board too seriously. I get riled up about ND football stuff, Rees, play calling, etc. But Paul and HarveyUpdyke I’m fine with. fnc and goat are just idiots. Many think I am too. I’m cool with that. As the Bob Weir once said when asked “what do you say to those who say you’ve never started a song on the same beat, never sung on key and take too long tuning up between songs?”?, he said “you can’t please everyone”.

      Maybe that makes sense/maybe not. There are ND haters everywhere. Who cares?

  10. yaketyyacc - Dec 27, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    what’s not to like about Jaylon Smith. This young man does himself proud and Notre Dame as well, and will continue to improve.
    Good article on a great player

  11. ndfanatic31 - Dec 27, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    One of this years best developments was BK giving solid pt to freshmen . Clearly, you can’t keep jaylon and folston off the field, but some of the others were in the 2 deep as well. I think this bodes well for recruiting, and one of the biggest positives to take from this season

  12. paulhargis53 - Dec 27, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    smitty- not playing the victim, pointing out a hypocrisy of your fanbase- sorry you can’t tell the difference.

    Bern – Calling a special Olympics winner is the same as calling me mentally deficient(evidently can’t type the “R” word on here). That’s not very Christian, sir.

    For me to be a good antagonist, I need an average protagonist. I counted on the mediocre one for that, much to my dismay, he’s disappointed me.

    I should have picked a more worthy advesary when I first started posting, that a situation that I will rectify shortly.

    I also had high hopes for getsome, but he explode like a shooting star, very quickly, much like his sex life I’m sure, to the chagrin of his life partner.

    Oh well, my fault. I’m usually a better judge than that.

    • c4evr - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:08 AM

      Happy Holidays mr. Paulhargis53, and may I be of some assistance in finding your next adversary. As you’ve seen, first off, you have your Leprechauns and unicorns guys like NDfaithful and mayo1010. If you engage them, be forewarned, you’ll be so confused after their responses that you’ll forget what the point is and regret ever getting on their radar. There are a lot of kook-aid drinkers here that are clearly in their 20′s and can’t remember the days of ND dominance on the field. Best to ignore them. A sure tell is when they mention things like the TV contract as their only argument for relevance. And, of course, you have your mediocrebob’s who post little about actual football and gets his jollies by hurling third grade insults. But, to be fair, he’s not the only one. Surprising, you might say, with all the talk of ND nation being a cut above the rest in class. Now, out of the loge section and on to the lower seats – there are a few posters here who share intelligent, cogent arguments -that aren’t co-opted from others’ ideas – that you could entertain as worthy foes, but none with the stamina and resolve as the fierce ‘Nudeman’. The name alone conjures up Mythic imagery of thunder booms and lightning bolts. But alas, I fear even he is too wise to engage you and your challenge to be the Alpha Male. He is like the professor here among his many loyal students and, most certainly, sees no gain in a fight from the fringe. And, aside from the autistic remark above, usually rises above the fray. Besides, he’s seen too many Tulsa and Navy games to know better than to tangle with giant slayers. So, you’re left with the dearth o NDnation to answer your call. Or you can pay me no nevermind, I’m just one of those trolls that keeps banging the ‘Brian Kelly’s in over his head’ drum and not be taken seriously.

      • nudeman - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        Now THAT was good. Very good. “Mythic imagery”?
        Outstanding
        I rate that post a 9.4 with Keith’s mom still having the year’s only perfect 10.

        Getsome still has the year’s only perfect zero.
        About 100 of them in fact

    • dillonbigred - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM

      Wow, aren’t you full of yourself.

    • goirish0112 - Dec 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      In terms of playing the victim smitty could be referring to the little hissy fit you threw overreacting to deaconjack and claiming he was attempting to take away your first amendment rights and dictating to you how you should conduct yourself.

  13. dsharp86 - Dec 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    I enjoyed the article on Jaylon. My 11 year old daughter and her friend met him at our hotel the morning of the USC game and he could not have been a nicer young man, taking the time to talk to them and pose for pictures. All he said about football was that he was just a freshman and wore number 9. That night in the stadium when they saw him run out with the starting defense they went wild. It was a nice moment.

    24 hours to go. Enjoy the game everyone.

  14. 1historian - Dec 27, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Besides his nom de plume I know not who this PaulHargis53 might be.

    I know not where he lives, how he makes his living, how he arrived among us, why he has decided to grace us with his witty prose and off-handed wit, nor do I know the team he roots for in his heart of hearts.

    I know one thing:

    He’s laughing at all of you.

    Back to your Thesauri (plural of Thesaurus) men of Notre Dame!

    And work on acquiring a sense of humor – you are sorely deficient in this area. The most erudite among you are somewhere around the 9th or 10th grade level.

  15. mediocrebob - Dec 27, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    Jaylon is a beast. There isn’t any team in the country that has 20 of Jaylon Smith. Not bama, not LSU, not fsu. They may have a few like him.

    And anyone who accuses an entire fanbase of being a certain way is ignorant. Every fanbase has idiots.

  16. italianirish - Dec 27, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    Deadspin posted an update on the Te’o story from last year. (Not much is really updated, just the behind the scenes emails from the deadspin guys before the story came out as they uncovered stuff.)

    The Story Behind The Story: The Manti Te’o Hoax
    http://deadspin.com/manti-teos-dead-girlfriend-the-most-heartbreaking-an-5976517/1490519550/@Tom_Ley

    Nothing great, but it’s a little interesting.

  17. oldschoollyons - Dec 28, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Smith had a terrific year for a freshman and obviously shows great potential. But “all-American caliber” next year? Smith has to set the edge more consistently and, in his eagerness to get to a ballcarrier, has to learn to look sometimes before he reacts. Sometimes this season he moved too quickly and left his area undefended against the run.

    That, said, although he has quite a bit of room for improvement, he gives every indication of being able to improve, and sooner rather than later. However, Danny Spond’s comment that Smith has the potential to “go to the NFL as soon as he can” begs the question.

    Is going to the NFL as soon as one can a valid objective for a good college player? No doubt it is at many SEC schools or at Bozo U. But a player’s objective always should be to learn as much as possible while at ND and graduate before leaving. That usually means staying for one’s senior year — or at least the first semester of it.

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