Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith Earns Second Team All-American


Following a disappointing season on the defensive side of the ball, Notre Dame got some good news. Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith earned second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press.

Smith led an injury riddled defense with 103 tackles and three sacks, gaining notice from the voters. He was one of only two sophomores linebackers to be named to the first or second team. He is joined on the second-team by UCLA’s Eric Kendricks and Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, and follow first-team honorees Arizona’s Scooby Wright, Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha and TCU senior Paul Dawson.

After losing Joe Schmidt to an ankle injury, the Irish had to start digging down into the depth chart. Nyles Morgan, who was named to the Sporting News Freshman All-American Team, had to slide in, as well as freshman Greer Martini. With so many underclassmen seeing action -and a hopeful return for a fifth-year by Schmidt- the Irish would enter 2015 with a solid linebacking core.

Smith was highly touted coming out of high school, and has fully met those expectation in South Bend. His combination of strength and speed makes him valuable against the passing game, as well as having incredible pursuit ability. A winner of the 2012 Butkus Award, given to the top high school linebacker by Pro Football Weekly, Smith didn’t disappoint by garnering 63 tackles, third best all-time by a freshman at Notre Dame.

He entered the season on several watch lists, including the Bednarik, Nagurski, Butkus and Lombardi. The struggles of the defense as a team kept him from realistically winning any of the awards, but as only a sophomore the expectations for Smith continue to grow.

With a year of running Brian Van Gorder’s pro-style defense, Smith and the rest of the young linebacker core will have a better idea of the expectations of them within the system. Discounting Van Gorder’s attacking style can be discounted, as early in the season-without so many injuries- the Irish defense held strong. The combination of a thin depth chart, and Everett Golson’s increased turnovers put a struggling defense on the field too often.

I expect even more from Smith in his junior season, as the Irish will have a lot to prove in 2015.