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Irish A-to-Z: Jaylon Smith

Aug 24, 2014, 9:34 AM EDT

We are about to get an idea of how good sophomore Jaylon Smith can truly be. That’s because after a season playing a position that does most of its damage off the stat sheet, Smith’s moving inside to the Will linebacker position. After looking at the game from the edge of the defense, Smith will now be staring right down the barrel, a unique athlete that Notre Dame hasn’t seen in quite some time.

Even as a sophomore, Smith is ready to lead. The only underclassmen selected to speak at Media Day last week, Smith’s comfort level off the field reflects the same confidence he shows on the field. Paired with elite physical skills that may be some of the most impressive in the country, and Smith’s an All-American candidate primed to explode in 2014.

Let’s take a closer look at the Fort Wayne native.


6’2.5″ 235 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 9



No defensive player in the Rivals recruiting era has been more heralded than Smith. The No. 3 overall player in his class, Smith was the number one linebacker in the country and the top recruit Notre Dame signed since Jimmy Clausen topped the list.

As a high schooler, Smith won the Butkus Award given to the top prep linebacker, and was a first-team All-American by just about every measure. He was Indiana’s Mr. Football and the top player in the Midwest.

Brian Kelly beat out Ohio State, where Smith’s brother plays running back for Urban Meyer, for Jaylon’s pledge, a commitment made in June that lasted until Signing Day. That might have impressed Kelly just as much as the talent he showed on the field.

“We could list all of these things, but the thing that’s most impressive is the character of this young man and his energy,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “He just has it.  When he walks into a room, the room kind of lightens up, and that’s the kind of personality that he is, and he is one tough football player, as well.  He’s got all the things that you’re looking for, that quickness, that ability to strike.  He can play any position really…  He’s also going to be a great leader here, and I see great things for Jaylon Smith.”



Freshman Season (2013): Played and started all 13 games, the first freshman linebacker since Kory Minor to start the opener (1995). Smith finished third on the team in tackles with 67. He finished second on the team with 6.5 TFLs. Also added a fumble recovery, forced fumble, interception, QB hurry and three pass breakups.

Smith won the team’s defensive newcomer of the year award.




Smith can do just about whatever he wants athletically. Chiseled from granite and weighing 235 pounds with around three percent body fat, Smith is the closest thing to Clark Kent that the Irish have on the roster. While he spent the spring learning the Will linebacker position, and talked on Media Day about dealing with “blurring his vision,” Smith says he’s mastered his new job, a matter of fact declaration.

That’s a scary proposition, and one of the big reasons why Smith can be as good of a player as Notre Dame’s had in a very long time, even acknowledging Manti Te’o’s historic 2012 season.



With no ceiling on Smith’s talents, a stat-line like former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly’s could be in order. The former Eagles tackling machine has continued that type of insane production at the next level, and might be the standard for what Smith’s capable of doing as well.

When I asked Smith about his personal goals for the season, I specifically wanted to know if he planned on making 100 tackles this season. He smiled, unwilling to take the bait. But as we saw during flashes of fall camp, Smith is no longer playing outside on the far side of the field, and it’ll be difficult for him to not make big plays.

Count on seeing him as a blitzer. Ask Tarean Folston how blocking him went. He’ll meet running backs in the hole, just like he did at practice last week when he almost sent Cam McDaniel into orbit. He’ll also occasionally be asked to drop into coverage, and even with KeiVarae Russell on the team, I still think Smith is Notre Dame’s best cover corner.

Staying healthy is all that stands in the way of a monster season. With the Irish young and inexperienced along the front seven, Smith’s going to have as much on his shoulders as he can handle.

That’s a very good thing for Notre Dame.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Will Fuller
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Nick Martin
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Cam McDaniel
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
Kendall Moore
Nyles Morgan
Sam Mustipher
Quenton Nelson
Tyler Newsome
Romeo Okwara
James Onwualu
C.J. Prosise
Anthony Rabasa
Doug Randolph
Max Redfield
Cody Riggs
Corey Robinson
Isaac Rochell
KeiVarae Russell
Joe Schmidt
Elijah Shumate

  1. jerseyshorendfan1 - Aug 24, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Let’s play ball already. I can’t wait to see #9 live up to his full potential. There is no reason why he should not be one of the greats that we, twenty years from now, look back on and say yeah I remember watching him play, he was awesome. I hope he has that kind of career here and at the next level.

    • papadec - Aug 24, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Baseball just isn’t filling the void, anymore. I was able to get through yesterday with some HS football games, Sam Houston @ Eastern Wash & some NFL pre-season warm ups. More NFL warm ups today & tomorrow. Cold sweats & withdrawal Tuesday & Wednesday until Thursday and the real start of the college football season – which should carry me to the Rice game on Saturday.

  2. frostedluckycharms - Aug 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    I watched and celebrated the T’eo era and now am very excited to watch Smith, potentially, exceed T’eo’s accomplishments! Can you imagine both of them on the field together?!

    • standingdomer - Aug 24, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      I am reminded of something I read back in the day, before Manti’s junior or senior season, of how the players on the team were looking for Manti to lead during his sophomore season, but it took a little while for Manti to claim the mantle – perhaps out of deference to the juniors/seniors.
      I suspect Manti advised Jaylon not to wait, grab the bull by the horns and put the team on his back. Super excited to see Jaylon kick ass this year, hopefully/likely wearing a ‘C’ on his chest, and helping bring along our next great linebacker – Nyles Morgan!!!
      Nothing like leading by example… GO IRISH

  3. getsome99 - Aug 24, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    120 tackles
    11 sacks
    3 FF
    2 INT
    2 TD’s

  4. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 24, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    Rice 27 ND 32

  5. johngaltisspeaking - Aug 24, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    Michigan 42 notre Dame 27

    • jvsirish - Aug 24, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      You’re a funny little dwarf!! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!

  6. northtexasirish - Aug 24, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    Wednesday night is another warmup game with Abilene Christian and Georgia State…so only day without football is Tuesday

  7. irishdog80 - Aug 24, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Al Lesar of the South Bend Tribune predicts an 8-4 season for the Irish in 2014. Facing a brutal schedule in 2012, he predicted a 7-5 record for ND with a blowout loss to USC at the end of the season. If I am doing my math correctly, that means we are headed for a 13-0 season in 2014. Thanks, Al.

    My prediction is that we will have more blowout wins this year and be in every game. If we remain healthy, and the D is fast and nasty, we could be in for a very interesting season.

    Go Irish! Beat Rice!

    • gtizzo - Aug 25, 2014 at 6:50 AM

      Why does USC get so much love? Correct me if I’m wrong but Kelly has only lost to USC once. What is it about that team that ND should be worried about?

      • irishdog80 - Aug 26, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        USC does have a lot of legitimate talent on their roster, but they are still working through depth issues. Kelly also seems to have their number. At worst, ND is a push with USC, at best, we win handily for Kelly’s 4th win out of 5.

        Go Irish! Beat Rice!

  8. liv4nd - Aug 24, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    JS is a freak athlete. Is it just me or am I the only Irish fan that thinks we should have two of these type of guys on both sides of the ball to consistently win 10+ games a year?

  9. gtizzo - Aug 25, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    A nice profile of a future first round draft pick.

  10. tlndma - Aug 25, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    Lots of Smith’s productivity will depend on Joe Schmidt doing a decent job. Neither is very big physically, especially Schmidt, so teams might run right at them, negating Smith’s speed. That said, Jaylon will be an AA before he’s done.

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