SOUTH BEND – Making the adjustment from high school to college on the football field is a challenging task even for the most heralded of high school recruits. So it would not be a surprise that former Bishop Luers High School standout Jaylon Smith needed some time on the field in his first game for Notre Dame to get comfortable.
Yeah, it took all of one snap.
Smith became the first true freshman to start for the Fighting Irish at outside linebacker in 18 seasons, and on the first play of his career in South Bend, he and All-American defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt paired up to haul down Temple running back Connor Reilly.
“Jaylon did some pretty good things,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “He played like a freshman. He was a little out of place at times, but in some instance, he obviously has great athletic ability and closes very well.”
Temple coach Matt Rhule certainly noticed Smith.
In the post-game press conference, Rhule only spoke of Notre Dame players when the subject was brought up by the media. However, he went out of his way to explain Smith's influence on the Owl offensive attack.
Rhule had wanted to get Temple sophomore tight end Romond Deloatch active early. However, Smith had other plans.
“We'll try to get Romond the ball,” Rhule explained, “(and) I thought we went to Deloatch to get the ball more than he ended up getting the ball. Jaylon Smith is strong for them. He was the real deal now.
“Some of the things that we wanted to do, he took out of the game right away. So he's the real deal.”
As freshmen can be – and Kelly spoke of this – Smith's performance wasn't exactly perfect. Though he started, Smith split reps with sophomore Ben Councell and after making that initial tackle, Smith didn't register another one all day. However, Kelly wasn't disappointed at all in the youngster's performance.
“It's probably what we expected from him,” Kelly said. “I thought he played like a freshman today. He played with some great energy.
“He's got great speed and athleticism, but he's got a lot of work to do as well, in terms of being in the right place, forcing the football, being in the curl.
“He missed a curl (route) a couple of times, but I'm sure glad he's on our football team.”