Notre Dame safety commit Jalen Elliott doubles as playmaker, recruiter

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Different.

That’s how Jalen Elliott — a 6-foot-1, 177-pound defensive back from Chesterfield, Va. — described Notre Dame when the three-star prospect visited for Irish Invasion this weekend.

And after touring the campus, talking with coaches and taking in a presentation from some of the program’s current players, he found a different word, too.

Home.

“It was during the player panel when they (Notre Dame players) were talking and doing their presentations, after the tour,” Elliott said. “I just looked at my parents and said, ‘This is where I want to go.’

“It was just different from all the other schools I’ve been to. It wasn’t a school that had a lot of the glamour, but you could tell that it was a great school and there was great people around it. That’s what I wanted to be a part of.”

When Elliott says great people, that certainly includes the coaching staff — specifically defensive backs coach Todd Lyght (who he will play for in South Bend), tight ends coach Scott Booker (who was his primary recruiter) and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder (who made it unmistakably clear how important Elliott was to Notre Dame).

Together, they presented an offer that Elliott couldn’t refuse.

“Coach Lyght is a great coach with a lot of accolades,” Elliott said. “It’s one thing to tell me, but it’s another thing to show me. It’s cool to know that he has confidence in me.

“Coach VanGorder was very excited. He really explained how much they wanted me in the program and how much they needed me to get on board. After talking with them, it was hard to turn it down. I really did feel like they needed me. Hopefully I can come in and play early and have an impact on the team.”

Elliott’s visit to Notre Dame, though, was more than a glorified sight-seeing tour. The versatile defensive back also competed in the Irish Invasion camp on Friday night, swiveling through drills and batting down attempted passes inside the hollowed grounds of Notre Dame Stadium, all the while imagining sellout crowds and future victories.

“It was unbelievable, because I got the opportunity to go ahead and commit (earlier in the day),” Elliott said. “Then it was like, ‘OK, now I get to go into the place where I’m going to be playing. It was just like, ‘Wow.’ Thinking about it filled up with everybody in town, it’s going to be amazing. I can already kind of feel the atmosphere.”

But what kind of player is Notre Dame really getting? Elliott, who is slated to play free safety in South Bend, passed for 1,736 yards and 24 touchdowns and added 271 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as a quarterback at L.C. Bird High School last season. When asked to describe his game, he leaned on attributes, not positions.

“I like to describe myself as a playmaker,” he said. “When the team needs a play, I like to go make that play. I’m an athletic, long-type dude. Rangy. I can play corner or safety. They want me to play free safety because of my range.

“I’m a leader. I’m going to be able to lead the defense, and hopefully get us to where we want to be.”

At Notre Dame, that will always be in the college football playoff, on the road to a national championship. But before he can reach those goals, Elliott — one of eight commits in Notre Dame’s 2016 class — plans to make an official visit to South Bend for the USC game on Oct. 17, while also focusing on leading L.C. Bird to another state title in his senior season.

And before he and his new team can chase a championship, Elliott also plans to help Irish head coach Brian Kelly build a championship class.

“I’m trying to get everybody I can,” he said. “We need, I think, one more corner and one or two more safeties. Carlos (Becker), Eric (Cuffee) — I’m trying to get all of them to get onboard with us. We got Kevin (Stepherson), the wide receiver from Florida. That’s a great look.

“I’m trying to really build this class. I think Notre Dame knows that I can help their recruiting class, because of some of the connections I have. I’m definitely going to start getting on it.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @mikevorel

Jalen Elliott, stands on the sidelines during Irish Invasion Friday June 19, 2015 in South Bend. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ