Jaylon Smith has been described as the prize of the 2013 Notre Dame recruiting class by just about every recruiting expert there is. Saturday afternoon the Indiana native showed why in a big way during the annual US Army All American Bowl in San Antonio.
Smith, Notre Dame’s first 5-star linebacker commitment since Manti Te’o, started at linebacker for the West team Saturday afternoon and was all over the field in a performance showing his 5-star rating is well deserved. Smith generated good pressure all game long and came up with a big field goal block in the 4th quarter.
Smith played with his hand on the ground at some times and looked very comfortable rushing the quarterback. He has the skillset to play pretty much any linebacker position he wants but he looked like a natural as an outside linebacker on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see where the Irish coaches end up placing Smith in the defense next year. Wherever he ends up, one thing is certain. This is a kid who is going to see the field very, very early on in his career.
Other Notre Dame commitments in the game included Corey Robinson, Steve Elmer, John Montelus, Doug Randolph, and Greg Bryant. It always tough to judge the offensive linemen in these games because the teams were not allowed to blitz so the linemen didn’t face anything out of a normal pass rush. Elmer won the Lineman of the Year Award last night though and started for the West team.
Greg Bryant got quite a bit of work and showed a good all-around skillset. He had some nice runs where he displayed power and some moves and also caught the ball well out of the backfield. He is going to form a dynamic duo with Tarean Folston in the Notre Dame backfield for the next several years.
Corey Robinson was targeted several times but had some trouble connecting with his quarterbacks. He looked just as advertised – very athletic but also pretty raw. Robinson has a huge frame but will need to work with Mike Denbrock on using his body to shield defenders when he goes up for the ball – something that Michael Floyd excelled at during his time at Notre Dame. It is very clear though that Robinson is an athlete with a ton of upside who has the tools to be a great receiver on the college level.
The one Notre Dame recruit who is still on the board in the game, Eddie Vanderdoes, looked as good as advertised as well. He was a disruptive force along the defensive line for the West team and despite some internet reports, he did not recommit to USC and is still very much in play for Notre Dame. If Brian Kelly and the Irish coaches are able to add Vanderdoes to this class, this year’s defensive haul will be the best incoming defensive class in a long time – even surpassing the class from two years ago that has helped transform the Irish defense.
The only bit of bad news for Notre Dame was the commitment of Al-Quadin Muhammad to Miami. Muhammad, a one time Notre Dame lean, picked the Hurricanes although it was not entirely unexpected as there have been reports of some academics issues hurting Notre Dame’s chances. Should the Irish land Vanderdoes in a few weeks, however, Notre Dame will be in excellent shape with this year’s class.