SOUTH BEND – Jaylon Smith has been on the move and asked to see the field differently during Notre Dame's spring practice, which ends Saturday with the Blue-Gold Game.
The former Bishop Luers star opened practice at the Sam linebacker position, but outside linebacker coach Bob Elliott said about midway through the offseason workouts, Smith was moved over to Will linebacker, which is still an outside spot but has more responsibilities inside than the Sam.
"It was a natural move for him," Elliott said Friday. "In our scheme, the outside linebackers are in the box and out of the box. Jaylon, even as a Sam, was working some in the box and some out of the box, so moving him to Will, it's really not that much different. He's in the box more but out of the box some as well. Those two positions are almost interchangeable."
Elliott said Smith is settling into his new positions, which also includes shifting to inside linebacker when the Irish move to their sub-package defense.
The biggest change Smith will be dealing with is being inside the box more and having to take on offensive linemen more than he did as a freshman, when he started all 13 games for Notre Dame exclusively at an outside linebacker spot.
"Last year, he was always out in space and never was in the box, just by nature of the scheme," Elliott said. "Now he has to find a comfort level in there. He's got some work to do, but he's shown signs of being an outstanding player there.
"The big issue is how is he going to standup to offensive linemen up in his face and run fits. Jaylon's world was pretty basic last year. His vision was maybe one or two guys on every play. Now his vision has to expand to see all kinds of things, linemen, tight ends. He's seeing it with wide vision now as an insider linebacker has to do."
Elliot said he knows Smith will be able to meet the challenges of his new role.
"Jaylon Smith has great instincts, and he's got a super attitude," Elliott said. "He came here as a five-star recruit, the best in the country, and you never would have known it. On Day 1, he was like a sponge. He would learn. I'm talking last year as a freshman. He was eager to learn. He spent extra time. He was a quick study. Now, he is doing the same thing. He was a freshman All-American, or whatever he was. He's not any different than he was before he had that year. He is still humble and works and doesn't have all of the answers and is smart and is a quick study and still has those wonderful instincts."