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Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame linebacker and former Bishop Luers star Jaylon Smith talks about needing to set the edge to defend the run and what he learned from facing Air Forceā??s option offense that will help him Saturday when Navy comes to Notre Dame. By Tony Krausz, The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith continues to surprise

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith was willing to wait.

The former Bishop Luers star scooped up a fumble at the Irish 38 and ran 62 yards for what he thought would be a touchdown against Air Force in last Saturday's 45-10 victory.

Smith waited in the end zone with his arms over his head for a while and stayed there as the officials reviewed the play, which was originally ruled an incomplete pass.

"I wasn't really going to leave until they signaled touchdown," Smith said.

The first call was overturned and Smith was credited with a fumble recovery, but he didn't get the touchdown.

On the behest of defensive line coach Mike Elston, Smith said, he made his way back to the where he picked up his first career fumble recovery.

"I was pretty tired," Smith said. "I think they called a timeout or something. I don't know what it was, but I was able to get in the next play."

Smith has been in on plenty of plays for Notre Dame this season as he has been in the starting lineup since the season opener against Temple.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder has 39 tackles with 4 ½ for loss, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and an interception to go along with his fumble recovery.

"It hasn't stopped surprising me because of the different things that have tested him," coach Brian Kelly said of how well Smith has performed this season. "Let's go to this weekend, having to defend options. And if you watched him, which I know you did, when you're a 3‑4 linebacker playing drop, you force the football. That's what you do.

You immediately attack and force. He was not in that role. He was slow playing the quarterback, the pitch. And the patience that he showed to buy time for the Mike (linebacker) to get over a block or the safety to come from the backside hash, you just don't teach that. It's just instincts that he had that he could slow play the options. So, again, another weekend where you go the kid just has those things that are hard to teach."

Smith said he hasn't been surprised that he has been able to contribute as much as he has in his first season, but he is happy to have the chance to help the Irish.

"I'm a team player," Smith said. "I'm just looking forward to the rest of my years here. I'm looking forward to it."

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