Five-star LB opts for Irish over Buckeyes, Trojans

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In February of 2009, one of the nation’s top linebackers in that recruiting class surprised many by opting for Notre Dame over, among others, USC on National Signing Day.

Eight months ahead of the start of the next signing period, and as All-American Manti Te'o heads into his senior season, the Irish have landed a big-time commitment at the same position to potentially fill the void when Te’o departs.

Labeling him “as arguably the most important recruit of the Brian Kelly era,” IrishIllustrated.com, along with the South Bend Tribune, is reporting that Fort Wayne, Ind., prospect Jaylon Smith announced this weekend that he is giving a verbal commitment to the Irish.  While Smith had myriad offers, both media entities report that he chose in-state Notre Dame over Ohio State and, yes again, USC.

(Writer’s note: this is the point in the program where we remind you that verbal commitments are non-binding.)

Smith had visit the Notre Dame campus many times over the past year or so– including, ironically enough, last fall for the Irish’s game with the Trojans — and has been to the school at least once each of the past three months.

Rivals.com has the 6-3, 218-pounder rated as the No. 4 recruit at any position in the Class of 2013 and the No. 1 linebacker in the country.  IrishIllustrated wrote that “Smith ranks as the second-highest rated prospect to commit to Notre Dame during the Rivals.com era, dating back to the 2002 recruiting class. Only No. 1 overall prospect Jimmy Clausen rated above Smith.”

Te’o, incidentally, was the No. 12 player in the Class of 2009 and the No. 3 linebacker behind Vontaze Burfict (Arizona State) and Jelani Jenkins (Florida).