Sheldon Day, Jaylon Smith, Will Fuller Named USA Today All Americans

Notre Dame All-Americans
Photos: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame landed a trio of players on the 2015 USA Today All-American team with defensive stalwarts Sheldon Day and Jaylon being named 1st Team All-Americans and speedster wide receiver Will Fuller being tabbed a 2nd team All-American.  With three players on the two squads, Notre Dame only had fewer All-Americans than the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Landing two 1st Team Defensive All-Americans is not the norm for Notre Dame.  In fact, it is quite the exception for a defense that has only really seen one dominant defensive player in the last decade or so in Manti Te’o.  It’s also quite surprising given the inconsistency and frequent defensive lapses that plagued Notre Dame in 2015.  Those lapses though were rarely, if ever, the fault of Day and Smith.

Smith, a former 5-star recruit, continued to live up to his hype in 2015 with a dominant season that was also capped off by being named the 2015 Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker on Tuesday as well.  Smith racked up another 100+ tackle season while looking like a heat syncing missile most of the season.  Smith’s play, while earning him well-deserved accolades, has the attention of the NFL as well as a widely considered top 10 NFL Draft pick despite having another year of eligibility remaining.

Sheldon Day had a stellar season as well in 2015 to earn his 1st team honors.  Day led Notre Dame with 14.5 tackles for loss and 13 QB hurries.  Day was also second on the team in sacks with a career high 4.  Day entered the 2015 season with 3.5 sacks for his entire career.  Day doesn’t have a NFL decision to make like Smith since he is out of eligibility but he most certainly will hear his name called in May as well.  Day is currently projected as a 2nd-3rd round pick.

On the offensive side of the ball, Will Fuller is the lone member of the Notre Dame offense to be included on the USA Today All-American team as a 2nd teamer.  Fuller’s senior season was highlighted by big plays and clutch catches in big spots.  Fuller actually had 20 fewer receptions in 2015 than 2014, but still set a career high in yards with 1,145.  His touchdown total dipped slightly in 2015 as well to 13 from the 15 he had a year ago.  Despite the fewer receptions, Fuller’s game was bigger than ever with game winning catches in the final minute against both Virginia and Temple in road victories for the Irish.

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Like Smith, Fuller has a NFL decision to make.  Last month Fuller said multiple times that he fully intends on returning for his senior season, but he wouldn’t be the first college junior to state he was returning for a senior year only to later decide on leaving earlier.  Fuller was one of five players to submit their names for a NFL evaluation earlier this week although that certainly does not indicate Fuller’s mind has been made up.  Many times a player will submit their names for a NFL evaluation to see what they need to work on in their final season to improve their stock.

While none of these selections were surprising in the least, the omission of Ronnie Stanley is very surprising.  Stanley is considered one of the top 10 prospects for next May’s draft and graded out as one of the best offensive linemen in the country this season.  It would be shocking if Stanley didn’t find his name on other All-American lists as they are published over the coming days and weeks.

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4 comments

  1. Michael the Archangel 4 years ago

    Van Gorder is going nowhere soon.
    This frustration sounds a lot like the calls for BKs exit BEFORE he defeated LSU in last year’s bowl.
    Then- all was well- until Clemson. Each loss brings renewed calls for someone’s head to roll.
    If BVG and the D’ hold their own vs. tOSU, he’ll get more love from the ND fans come Valentine’s Day.

    I’m going to wait and see what BVG can come up with to limit the not-too-complex offense scheme OSU runs (hand the ball off to Eliot, or the QB keeper). In 2012, Saban’s receivers claimed they exploited a perceived weakness by using multiple flag instead of post pass patterns, using their extra prep time to execute that strategy.
    Vs. Alabama, it was decided by NDs staff that ND had neither the personnel or maybe they felt no need to adjust their scheme by using the extra post-season prep time to implement a different look to defend against what turned into that ugly outcome three years ago.
    Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Doesn’t matter now. It’s over.
    It’ll be interesting to see if Meyer’s staff adjusts to confuse Kizer and the ND O’.
    It’s unlikely Meyer will change what he does offensively. OSUs low % of TDs in the red zone is further proof that running it in is what he persists in doing despite other teams knowing what’s coming. I doubt he has the respect for NDs D’ to see the need to change what his offense routinely does, run the ball. It’s up to BVG to scheme to take that away, and force them into doing what they are less comfortable with.
    As for NDs O’:
    Score 30 and more
    With still piling on more scores
    Will thrill to the core.

    Stay tuned.

    l

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  2. Jerry Seppanen 4 years ago

    There is no secret! New Defensive guru needed!

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  3. George 4 years ago

    Not to mention a 5 star safety and a 2nd round draft pick at CB! But I guess containing Kevin Hogan for 30 seconds is just too much to ask.

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  4. FXM 4 years ago

    You know you have a dubious scheme when you have two 1st team All Americans on a mediocre defense.

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