For Notre Dame, Smith's positives outweigh the negatives

For Notre Dame, Smith's positives outweigh the negatives
September 11, 2013, 2:15 pm
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JJ Stankevitz

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Through two games, Notre Dame has already seen the payoffs and drawbacks of starting true freshman outside linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Against Temple, he didn't fill up the stat sheet but Owls coach Matt Rhule said his presence took away some of the things he wanted to do offensively. Against Michigan, Smith recorded five tackles and flashed his athletic ability on the outside a few times.

It's not all positive, though -- for example, Smith bit on a fake that allowed Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner to break off a big gain. But for coach Brian Kelly, the good has outweighed the bad so far.

"You're going to have to live with some mistakes that are made, but I tell you what, he made some really good plays for us as well," Kelly said. "He's an athletic kid that loves to play, plays hard. Occasionally you're going to be put in some compromising positions. He's a young man that makes up for some of those mistakes with the way he plays, too."

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Smith, rated by Rivals as the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2013, is still green at the 'dog' outside linebacker position, on which carries heavy responsibilities in both run and pass defense. Eventually, Notre Dame expects him to marry his athletic ability with knowledge of the position, a process that may be sped up by deploying Smith as a starter right off the bat.

"The benefits of playing him are that you get a lot of experience early on, and especially with our schedule," Kelly said. "We are not playing easy squads. We are playing good football teams early on and he's getting an opportunity to learn a lot."