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September 25, 2012
Irish LBs lead national Positions of Strength
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
The uber-athletic Smith is the highest rated player in the state as well as the best player at his position -- a position of need for the Irish. So when the No. 3 player in the Rivals100 committed in June, it was a checked box.
Then when Notre Dame flipped Wyomissing (Pa.) High four-star linebacker Alex Anzalone from Ohio State at The Opening a month later, it was a boon for the class.
And when the Irish raidied the Stanford commitment list for Richmond (Va.) Woodberry Forrest four-star linebacker Doug Randolph in early September, it became clear that the national power was making a major statement.
Smith, Anzalone, and Randolph lead an impressive corps of linebackers that also includes three-star Michael Deeb of Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage and two-way talent Danny Mattingly from Spokane (Wash.) Mead. That kind of talent gives Notre Dame the nation's best group of prospects at any one position.
"It is a home run, an absolute home run," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "The linebacker group this season isn't all that strong nationally, and for one team to land three of the best players in that group is huge.
"It is not only an impressive list of players, but it is at a position of tremendous need for Notre Dame. The team has lacked playmakers, with the exception of Manti Te'o, and has struggled some with the new defense; and this is a group that can come in immediately and make an impact."
Smith is a player that Farrell figures will step in and pay immediate dividends.
"He is incredible," Farrell said. "There are not enough positive things to say about what Jaylon can do on the field. He is fast, physical, smart, everything. He is a total package."
At 6-feet-3 and 212 pounds, Smith has been clocked at a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash and has a 33 inch vertical.
He has expectations to match his measurables.
"Most people that don't know Notre Dame, they refer to the glory days," Smith told IrishIllustrated.com. "They think all the Notre Dame people are always trying to refer to the glory days. It's really our challenge to get back there. I'm looking forward to it."
The anointing of this group as the best in the country is a reflection of tremendous work by the coaching staff which had five different coaches recruiting the players: Harry Hiestand was able to land Anzalone; Scott Booker was responsible for Randolph; Mike Elston concentrated on Smith; Tony Alford brought in Deeb; and Mike Denbrock had the ear of Mattingly.
[ IrishIllustrated.com: Kelly sticks with Golson, not interested in rotating QBs ]
Farrell said that efforts of the staff helped create one of the biggest victories of the season.
"There isn't much luck involved here," he said. "Hard work paid off and knowing the players and having built strong relationships is always a major factor.
"The results on the field have certainly helped as well. Winning keeps kids interested."
The Irish have started the season with four straight wins and are currently ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25. The defense ranks fourth in the nation in points allowed per game, 17th in yards allowed per game and second in interceptions. The steady improvement will only make for further selling points to the incoming class, which is currently ranked No. 4 nationally behind USC, Michigan, and LSU.
More Positions of Strength
Running back: USC
Wide receiver: Florida
Tight end: Alabama
Offensive line: Michigan
Defensive line: USC
Cornerbacks: Ohio State