Notre Dame making LB recruit Jacob Phillips a priority

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Jacob Phillips won’t pretend he knows a lot about Jaylon Smith.

Even though Phillips is one of Notre Dame’s top remaining linebacker targets in the 2017 class, his knowledge of Smith didn’t start to accumulate until after the Irish extended Phillips a scholarship offer.

At that point, Smith had already wrapped up his Irish career. Despite watching little of Smith’s play at Notre Dame, Phillips still knows the comparison is meaningful. Linebackers coach Mike Elston has made sure Phillips has become familiar with Smith’s accomplishments.

“I've heard that he's a Butkus Award winner, so obviously he's a great linebacker,” Phillips said. “One of my coaches, he's a huge Notre Dame fan. When I told him that, he was very happy about that. It means a lot. It's definitely a blessing to get compared to him."

Notre Dame’s coaching staff used a similar Smith comparison with freshman defensive end Daelin Hayes. And like Hayes, Phillips could also grow into a defensive end at Notre Dame. The Irish already have three commitments at linebacker in the 2017 class and stopped actively recruiting many of their previous targets at the position.

But Phillips remains on the short list. His physical stature at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds remains one of the top reasons. Phillips has the build to play a number of positions in college. Few recruits are as put together heading into their senior year.

“When I went for the junior day, they told me that I’m too critical to not keep inside the box, but I’m very long and lengthy so I can play outside of the box,” Phillips said of his discussion with Notre Dame’s coaching staff. “They said the player they can relate that to is Jaylon Smith. They’ll kind of use me in different ways that they used him to set me up as my own position. I wouldn’t be playing Mike, but I’d be playing Will or Sam.”

The junior day visit in March was Phillips’ first trip to South Bend. The Irish will try to get him back on campus in the coming months.

“That was a lot of fun,” Phillips said. “You really get to experience how different Notre Dame is. You get to see all the different historical things about Notre Dame. It was very enlightening. I got to talk to the D-coordinator, head coach and coach Elston. I got to watch them during practice and see how pumped up they are about the season.”

Notre Dame will face plenty of competition in recruiting Phillips. East Nashville (Tenn.) Magnet product recently added an Alabama offer to an already impressive list of schools.

Rivals ranks Phillips as a four-star recruit and the No. 9 inside linebacker in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and No. 22 at the position.

This summer, Phillips hopes to narrow his options to roughly eight schools before settling on five official visits. Phillips named seven schools who have consistently communicated with him.

“Probably the people recruiting me the hardest are Oregon, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Vandy, Mississippi State,” he said.

There’s no sign of Notre Dame easing up on Phillips. Elston has made that clear.

“He was telling me how much (of) a priority I am for them,” Phillips said. “Even though they already have some commits he really wants me. He hopes that I’ll consider them heavily.”

Below are junior highlights of Phillips via Hudl.

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Linebacker recruit Jacob Phillips remains a priority for Notre Dame in the 2017 class. (Tribune photo/TYLER JAMES)