(MCT) — Lose a Butkus Award winner who galvanized a program, gain an energized high school Butkus Award winner capable of doing the same.
Not a bad bit of need-filling by Notre Dame with five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith, who signed with the Irish on Wednesday and immediately was cast in a similar light to the departed Manti Te’o, all postseason controversies aside.
“He just has ‘it,’” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of Smith. “When he walks into a room, the room kind of lightens up. That’s the kind of personality that he is. And he is one tough football player as well. He’s got all the things that you’re looking for.”
Smith is the nation’s No. 2 player, according to the 247 composite rankings, which would be the first thing any program would look for. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound native of Fort Wayne, Ind., will get his chances to play early, but Kelly highlighted the long-term effect on Smith’s teammates.
“He’ll look you in the eye,” Kelly said. “Do I think he’s going to come in and be the vocal leader like Manti was on the field? No, I don’t think so. But his actions and the way that he prepares himself and the way he plays the game, I think a lot of people will want to model after him.”