Don’t know Jalen Elliott yet? You will soon enough.
While the 3-star prospect didn’t land on any national lists of recruiting victories, Notre Dame’s coaching staff believes that they might have their next great strong safety on campus in the Virginia native.
While there are other prospects who are bigger, stronger and faster—and had better recruiting rankings and scholarship offers—Elliott stood out to the Irish staff when they got him on campus, turning Brian Kelly and company into major believers. Now it’s up to the young player to make his way up a depth chart that’s been restocked, finding a way into the mix with assumed starters Drue Tranquill and Max Redfield.
6′, 190 lbs.
A consensus 3-star prospect with offers from Auburn, Georgia, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Two-time captain and state champion. Two-way starter as quarterback, cornerback and safety.
A 2015 first-team All-State 5A player. On the 2015 Richmond Times-Dispatch All-Region first team, MVP of 2015 Virginia High School All-Star game.
Kelly may have tipped his hand when he glowed about Elliott in his Signing Day comments.
“Jalen Elliott competed like no player that I have seen since I’ve been coaching in a camp setting, and that’s over 25 years. His competitive spirit was unmatched,” Kelly said. “It was unparalleled in terms of I can’t remember a guy — maybe there was one guy that competed on the offensive line for me at Cincinnati in a camp that was similar, but this kid competed at every position at such a level that he was a can’t-miss guy for us in the recruiting process.”
There could be concerns about Elliott’s size—he doesn’t have prototype strong safety size or heft. But great safeties come in all shapes and sizes (Eric Weddle certainly doesn’t look like an All-Pro). That’s not to say that Elliott will have an All-American college career like Weddle did at Utah, but if he’s able to match his intellect with his competitive spirit, he’s playing the right position for a guy to make an immediate impact in South Bend.
I’m buying the hype on Elliott. I think he’s my leading snap-earner on the defensive side of the ball for the freshman class, out-pacing position-mate Devin Studstill, who had spring practice to work his way into first-team reps with Max Redfield.
Versatility is a big reason I’m so high on Elliott. He’s a guy who can stay at safety if the Irish need to move Tranquill around—a preference of Brian VanGorder’s. He’s a potential nickel or dime entry if the Irish want to put more defensive backs on the field. He’s also good enough to get a look as a cornerback. And he’ll certainly be someone who can be counted on as a special teamer.
Opportunity is the other obvious reason to target Elliott as true freshman contributor. Notre Dame’s safety play needs improvement, and new blood might be the best option.
I’m hesitant to match stats with snaps, especially knowing that sometimes productive safety play means you failed in the front seven. But I’ve got no hesitation grabbing the reins and kick-starting the Elliott bandwagon.
2016’s Irish A-to-Z