Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 29. 2014 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE T he choice by the Notre Dame coaches seemed motivated more out of necessity than it did out of luxury — a position switch decision for Jaylon Smith made be- cause of a short- age of experi- enced linebackers, not necessarily to help their best de- fensive player be- come even better. Smith is an "all- in" kind of fig- ure, so when the Irish sophomore was told before spring ball about his move from the outside to the inside, the pre- season All-Amer- ican grabbed his playbook and got to work. "Anything to help the team," he said. And now three games into this 2 0 1 4 s e a s o n , Smith's position move looks like the personnel move at the root of something special on the Irish defense. Smith's out-to-in switch wasn't ex- actly seamless; try giving up 65 pounds and taking on interior blocks from 300-pound linemen instead of from 180-pound wide receivers out on the edge. But as the Notre Dame coaches an- ticipated, Smith adapted quickly to a position shift that now allows the 6-3, 235-pound p l a y m a k e r t o shine his stardom from sideline to sideline, rather than staying iso- lated on the flank. "Last year, all teams had to do was go the op- posite way, and I was taken out of the play," Smith explained. Not anymore. Bringing pres- sure on the quar- terback, tackles for loss and general disruption, Smith is seemingly part of every defensive play now and likely well on his way to 100 tackles this season. But any per- sonal stats are secondary to the impact Smith's inside presence is already hav- ing on opposing offenses. Jaylon Smith's Shift Is Rendering Real Results Smith finished with 10 tackles in the 31-0 win over Michigan Sept. 6 and earned national defensive hon- ors as the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Player of the Week. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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