Several marquee recruits remain up in the air for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as National Signing Day approaches. But 5-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith of Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne (Ind.) is already in the fold—and that alone is enough for the Irish faithful to be ecstatic about.
It is for good reason that Smith is the top prospect at his position in the nation, according to 247Sports.com's composite rankings. He is simply a playmaking machine with sideline-to-sideline range and a physical skill set that many coaches would love to have at their disposal.
Smith weighs 218 pounds and stands at 6'3", giving him plenty of room to add weight. What makes him special is his ability to diagnose plays and attack the football, which makes him particularly effective against the run.
With a blazing 40-yard dash speed of 4.4, there won't be many backs or skills players who will be able to get to the edge against Smith, even at the collegiate level.
Indiana may be a state known more for its high school hoops than gridiron gaudiness, but the tale of the tape on Smith shows that he simply manhandles his competition.
As can be seen in the video above, Smith is already being compared to Luke Kuechly, a top-10 pick in last year's NFL draft and reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year (h/t FOX Sports Ohio).
Such praise doesn't come undeservedly, as Smith is simply one of the more special linebacker prospects to come along in a long time.
Will Jaylon Smith start as a true freshman at Notre Dame?
Not only will he translate well to Notre Dame's 3-4 scheme as a tackling machine, but he will also utilize his explosive first step and uncanny quickness to become a pass-rushing nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
To cap off his unique package of traits, it is clear that Smith is outstanding in coverage. That will be especially important in 2013 for Notre Dame, as the departure of Manti Te'o creates a massive void.
What made Te'o so special was his penchant for snagging interceptions, as he ranked second nationally with eight last season. The exciting thing about Smith is that he's the superior athlete and has the similar inherent football instincts that made Te'o such a great player.
Something that also makes Smith stand out is his work ethic. He works 15 hours per week at Burger King in addition to balancing the pressure of being a top football recruit and completing his schoolwork. Smith's coach, Steve Keefer, did nothing to slow the hype down about his star player (h/t Detroit Free Press):
As an athlete, he's right at the top of the list of the best we've ever had, and we've had guys like (Dallas Cowboys linebacker) Anthony Spencer. But the heart and intelligence and all those things really set Jaylon apart.
It's intriguing to think about how the Irish defense will look, even without considering Eddie Vanderdoes and Kylie Fitts joining the defensive line on Feb. 6, as well as standout LB Deon Hollins.
But even if the Irish don't get any of those players, they have their next star linebacker locked and loaded. Smith will be ready to take the field very soon as a starter and be the new focal point of another outstanding Notre Dame defensive unit.