Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 24, 2014 Issue

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

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Page 27 of 114

BY ANDREW OWENS S ince arriving at Notre Dame in 2013, linebacker Jaylon Smith has typically been the most tal‑ ented player on the field at any given time. While learning two different posi‑ tions in two defensive schemes, Smith has been taken under the wing of an Irish veteran. In 2013, it was Danny Spond after migraines had cut his career short. This year, senior Joe Schmidt has helped the sophomore adjust to defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's scheme. With Schmidt out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle disloca‑ tion and fracture, November has rep‑ resented a coming of age for Smith. "From a leadership standpoint, you've got to really dial in and make sure that you're helping the young guys, making them understand that it's all about the next play, all about the next week, all about the next game," Smith said. It's easy to forget that Smith is still technically one of the young guys. But for a defense starting mostly under‑ classmen, Smith's 23 career starts — including the Nov. 15 contest versus Northwestern — are an invaluable re‑ source for the less experienced fresh‑ men and sophomores. Last year, Smith started as the out‑ side Dog linebacker in former defen‑ sive coordinator Bob Diaco's 3‑4 look, but VanGorder moved him inside to Will linebacker. Head coach Brian Kelly recently noted the challenges of demanding more from a natural leader in Smith because of the difficulties of changing positions. "Jaylon is still sorting out his own position," Kelly said. "He played his best game of the year [at Arizona State]. You saw the play he made on that trick play. That was unbelievable. He was outstanding. Yeah, we were going to continue to push to get him to be more vocal and to do more, but he's still trying to get comfortable at a new position, too." Smith paced the Irish defense with 67 tackles through the first nine games A BUDDING LEADER Sophomore Jaylon Smith is suddenly one of the more experienced members of the Irish defense

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