Irish freshman LB Jaylon Smith pulls off outside job
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media August 27, 2013 9:40PM
Linebacker Jaylon Smith wears a Notre Dame hat and sweatshirt after signing a letter of intent with Notre Dame, at Bishop Luers High School on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, in Fort Wayne, Ind. (AP Photo/The Journal-Gazette, Swikar Patel) NEWS-SENTINEL OUT MAGS OUT NO SALES
Updated: August 28, 2013 11:02PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jaylon Smith’s high school résumé is impressive.
He won the 2012 Butkus Award, given to the top high school linebacker in the country. He was a Parade first-team prep All-American and a five-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
But Smith just didn’t step onto Notre Dame’s campus and get anointed a starter before camp began. He had to earn it.
On Tuesday, the Irish released their depth chart for the season opener against Temple. And Smith was listed as a starter at outside linebacker.
Running back George Atkinson III, right tackle Ronnie Stanley and safety Austin Collinsworth also came out on top in their position battles.
Smith edged out Ben Councell. Danny Spond, last year’s starter, announced a couple of weeks ago that he was no longer playing football. He later disclosed that he has suffered hemiplegic migraines during the past year.
“I don’t know that there were many times where we had to remind [Smith] that, ‘Hey, you have to work for it,’ but he had to work for it,” coach Brian Kelly said during his weekly news conference. “It was Danny Spond, it was Councell and it was Jaylon Smith; it didn’t start the other way around. He was No. 3 on the depth chart when they ran out there, even though there wasn’t a depth chart posted. He didn’t go with the first group. Spond was with the first, Councell was second and Jaylon was third, and he went out and did his job.”
The move doesn’t come as a shock. Smith worked with the first unit during the most recent time reporters viewed practice on Thursday.
“The one thing that Jaylon has done as well as a lot of freshmen that I’ve been around, he doesn’t make the same mistake twice,” Kelly said. “He’s a guy that comes back the next day, and he can eradicate the same mistake twice, and that’s a hallmark of a guy that’s going to play a lot of football for us.”
There weren’t many surprises on the first depth chart of the season.
Atkinson’s experience gave him the advantage at running back.
“He’s continued to get better,” Kelly said. “He’s stronger, had a great offseason. He’s been a great teammate. So he hasn’t done anything to take that away from him. But he’s going to have to perform. If George fumbles the football, if George misses assignments, if George doesn’t run to the right hole, George will be standing next to me on the sideline.
“So it’s a competitive situation, but George has done everything we’ve asked him to do in the offseason and had a good camp. We expect him to play well on Saturday.”
The Irish will be without one running back, Will Mahone (high ankle sprain), for the opener.
Up front, Stanley is listed as the starter. But Steve Elmer is right there with him.
“If you would ask us today, Ronnie would start there, but that’s a very fluid situation,” Kelly said. “We have great confidence that Steve Elmer could start for us.”
Collinsworth is listed ahead of Elijah Shumate at safety.
“Both will play,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘It’s a 1A/1B situation. Depending on where we are in the game, down-and-distance, a lot of those factors will be involved. Both [will be] playing an equal amount of football.”