If you’re looking for the gem of Notre Dame‘s recruiting class, look no further than Jaylon Smith.
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound outside linebacker is the Fighting Irish’s first five-star linebacker commitment since Manti Te’o. Notre Dame didn’t have to go far to recruit Smith, either. He starred at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., about 120 miles from campus.
The state of Indiana is well-known for producing an abundance of basketball talent. However, the Hoosier State isn’t exactly a frequent stop for top college coaches when it comes to football recruiting. But it was this year because Smith is one of the most coveted high school football prospects to ever call Indiana home.
Rivals ranks Smith, who was named Indiana Mr. Football, the nation’s best at his position and the third-best prospect overall.
He led his high school to its fourth state championship in his fourth season as a starter. Smith, also a running back for Bishop Luers–a school that also produced Dallas Cowboys starting linebacker Anthony Spencer–had 72 tackles and rushed for 1,265 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior en route to being named the Dick Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker.
Smith, who ran for 150 yards and three scores in the state championship game, has been compared to San Francisco 49ers sackmaster Aldon Smith, a Pro Bowl pick in December.
It goes without saying when Smith’s national letter of intent is received tomorrow, Notre Dame’s coaches will breathe a sigh of relief as schools like Michigan have continued recruiting him even though he verbally committed to the Irish in June of 2012.
No doubt Smith should be a dominant college player. As he showed in the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl last month in San Antonio, when he was the best defensive player on either team, Smith can play with a hand on the ground coming off the edge and he could be a terror rushing quarterbacks as a hybrid NFL type linebacker.
If Brian Kelly and Co. elect to play him at backer, Smith has the skill set to play any of the three linebacker positions.
Smith has been told he will play the “Cat” position, an outside backer spot where he’ll have plenty of pass rushing opportunities. If that’s where he settles in, he’ll get tutored by returning starter Prince Shembo.
Regardless, one thing is certain: Smith is a good one, a very good one. Expect him to see the field early in his Irish career. He will not only play as a true freshman, he’ll play a lot and should have quite an impact.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.