FORT WAYNE – Jaylon Smith will not have to wait long to make his Notre Dame debut.
The former Bishop Luers standout was listed on the depth chart released Tuesday as the starting outside linebacker for the No. 14 Irish, who play host to Temple at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
I think the one thing that Jaylon has done as well as a lot of freshmen that I’ve been around, he doesn’t make the same mistake twice, coach Brian Kelly said during his news conference. He’s a guy that comes back the next day, and he can eradicate the same mistake twice. That’s a hallmark of a guy that’s going to play a lot of football for us.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Smith had to earn his spot in the starting lineup, despite being the jewel in the Irish’s last recruiting class.
The five-star recruit and No. 3 player in the nation by Rivals.com and Scout.com was behind last year’s starter, Danny Spond, who had to stop playing because of recurring severe migraines, and 6-4, 254-pound junior Ben Councell when fall camp started.
It was Danny Spond, it was Councell and it was Jaylon Smith; it didn’t start the other way around, Kelly said. He went out and he did his job. He’s been great, and he’s put himself in a position now to do some great things.
Smith is the first freshman to start at outside linebacker for Notre Dame since Kory Minor in 1995.
Smith had 75 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks as he helped lead Luers to a fourth straight Class 2A state title last season.
He was named Indiana’s Mr. Football, the Euell Wilson Award winner, given to the SAC’s top football player; the High School Butkus Award winner, given to the nation’s top linebacker; a captain at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl; and to the Parade All-American team after his senior season.
With his demeanor and approach and his coachability and his love for the game and his love for his teammates, you have the recipe that’s going to equal a guy that is going to get better every day, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said of Smith at Thursday’s media day.
He’s not going to not get better.
Smith is not the only Irish player getting ready to make his first start.
Ronnie Stanley, a 6-5, 318-pound sophomore, will start at right tackle. Sheldon Day, a 6-2, 290-pound sophomore, will start at defensive end. Austin Collinsworth, a 6-foot, 205-pound senior, will start at safety.
Collinsworth, who missed last season because of injuries, will be sharing time with Elijah Shumate, a 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore.
And while Stanley’s insertion into the lineup moved last year’s starter, 6-5, 315-pound senior Christian Lombard, to right guard, Kelly said 6-5, 317-pound freshman Steve Elmer is still in the mix on the right side of the offensive line. Elmer is listed as Stanley’s backup.
Other freshmen in the mix to play against Temple are receivers Corey Robinson and James Onwualu, running back Greg Bryant, left tackle Hunter Bivin, defensive lineman Isaac Rochell and defensive backs Cole Luke and Max Redfield.
The Irish will not have former Bishop Dwenger standout Tony Springmann after the defensive lineman underwent successful knee surgery last Thursday, and running back Will Mahone, who will be held out with a high right ankle sprain.
Junior safety Chris Badger decided to transfer and enroll at BYU, according to a report from Irish Illustrated.