For Kelly, Jaylon Smith has 'exceeded all our expectations'

For Kelly, Jaylon Smith has 'exceeded all our expectations'
November 25, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Brigham Young quarterback Taysom Hill saw receiver Cody Hoffman flash open in the end zone on a slant route, reacting with a throw that coach Bronco Mendenhall thought surely would go for a touchdown. 

But Jaylon Smith read the play perfectly, jumping into the passing lane and batting the ball down. Jarron Jones blocked a field goal a few plays later, and Notre Dame locked up a 23-13 win.

That was just one play of many Smith has made this season. He's second on Notre Dame with 6 1/2 tackles for a loss and is third with 56 total tackles. He's broken up three passes and has one interception to go along with a forced fumble.

Those are good numbers for anyone, but for a true freshman who entered preseason camp No. 3 on Notre Dame's 'dog' outside linebacker depth chart, they're made more impressive. 

"We weren't certain that he was going to start," coach Brian Kelly said. "Danny Spond was a returning starter for us and Ben Councell, both of them were guys that quite frankly we didn't think that Jaylon was going to be able to beat out, even though we knew he had exceptional athletic ability. He was playing a position that had a lot of moving parts to it. 

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"So he's exceeded all of our expectations."

It's hard to imagine Smith's freshman season going any better than it has. He's been caught out of position on occasion, the product of still being a greenhorn at a demanding spot. Those mistakes were expected when Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco moved forward with starting Smith from the first game of the season. 

But Kelly said the key for Smith has been his ability to be coached, be it by himself, Diaco or Spond. Without that attitude, Kelly said Smith wouldn't have had the success he's had this year.

"I think quite frankly he's a young man that has not let any of this affect him too greatly," Kelly said. "He knows that there's going to be some learning curve to it and hasn't really gotten frustrated -- he knows that (if) I need a blow I'm coming out, or if I make a mistake I'm going to learn from it."