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Irish Insights


Smith named Notre Dame's top defensive newcomer

Former Bishop Luers star Jaylon Smith did something at Notre Dame that hadn't been done since 1995.

Smith became the first freshman outside linebacker to start the season opener since Kory Minor. And he didn't disappoint, recording a tackle on the first defensive play of the game in a 28-6 victory over Temple on Aug. 31.

Smith also caught the eye of Temple coach Matt Rhule, who said, "Jaylon (Smith) for them was the real deal now. Some of the things we wanted to do, he took out of the game right away. So he's the real deal."

The Irish recognized Smith for his contributions in his first season with the program at their award show Friday night, naming him the defensive newcomer of the year.

Smith started every game this season and finished third on the team in tackles with 61, the fifth most ever by an Irish freshman. He also had 6 ½ tackles for loss, broke up three passes, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had an interception.

"This guy has an awesome future at Notre Dame and beyond," safeties coach Bob Elliott said when he presented the award to Smith.

Receiver TJ Jones was named the Notre Dame Monogram Club most valuable player. The senior had a team-high 65 receptions for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns.

Quarterback Tommy Rees was named the offensive player of the year. He threw for 2,938 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Linebacker Prince Shembo was named the defensive player of the year. He had 46 tackles and five sacks.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt repeated as the lineman of the year after leading Notre Dame in sacks with six and tackles for loss with 7 1/2. Tuitt, who shared the award with Louis Nix III last year, finished with 45 tackles.

Left tackle Zack Martin, who has started a school record 51 straight games, won the Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year as the team's top offensive lineman for a fourth straight year.

Kicker Kyle Brindza, who handled place kicking, kickoff and punting duties this season, was named the special teams player of the year for the second straight year. He connected on 15 of 20 field goals, averaged 41.3 yards on punts and 63.6 yards on kickoffs.

See below for the rest of the awards handed out Friday night:

Notre Dame football team awards

Monogram Club Most Valuable Player: Receiver TJ Jones

Offensive player of the year: Quarterback Tommy Rees

Defensive player of the year: Linebacker Prince Shembo

Nick Pietrosante Award (courage, loyalty, team work, dedication & pride): Left guard Chris Watt and linebacker Dan Fox

Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year (offensive lineman): Left tackle Zack Martin

Moose Krause Lineman of the Year (defensive line): Defensive end Stephon Tuitt

Next Man in Award: Defensive lineman Kona Schwenke

Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Running back Tarean Folston

Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Linebacker Jaylon Smith

Special Teams Player of the Year: Kicker Kyle Brindza

Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Receiver Torii Hunter, Jr.

Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year: Cornerback Joe Romano

Irish Around the Bend Award (community service): Defensive lineman Tyler Stockton

Father Lange Iron Cross Award (strength/conditioning): Linebacker Carlo Calabrese

Rockne Student-Athlete Award: Linebacker Jarrett Grace