Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith transcends growing pains to earn All-America honors
By the end of the season, one of college football’s most surprising and sanguine early story lines was in shambles.
All around Notre Dame sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith were varying degrees of growing pains, including some of his own. But the promise and production of the 6-foot-3, 235-pounder was still enough to land him on the Associated Press’ All-America second team.
He becomes the fifth AP All-American of the Brian Kelly Era (2010-present), joining two-time honorees linebacker Manti Te’o (2011, 2012) and tight end Tyler Eifert (2011, 2012) as well as defensive end Stephon Tuitt (2012) and center Braxston Cave (2012).
Classmate Will Fuller earned honorable mention at wide receiver.
Smith, who moved out of his comfort zone at outside linebacker and to a dire area of need inside at weakside linebacker, finished the 2014 season as ND’s leader in tackles (103) and tackles for loss (8.5). He added three sacks, six quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Smith was the No. 3 player nationally regardless of position per Rivals.com coming out of Fort Wayne Luers High School two years ago. He was one of five finalists for the Butkus Award this season after winning the high school version of the award as the nation’s top linebacker in 2012.
The Irish (7-5) face No. 22 LSU (8-4) Dec. 30 in the Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn. LSU team MVP La’el Collins, the team’s starting left offensive tackle, made the AP All-America second team as well.
Fuller, meanswhile, was ND’s leading receiver a year after a modest six catches in 2013. Fuller matched or exceeded that total in seven games in 2014 on his way to 71 receptions and 1,037 yards. His 14 TD receptions tied Alabama All-American Amari Cooper for second nationally.
The Associated Press All-America team.
Quarterback — Marcus Mariota, junior, 6-foot-4, 219 pounds, Oregon
Running backs — Melvin Gordon, junior, 6-1, 213, Wisconsin; Tevin Coleman, junior, 6-1, 210, Indiana.
Tackles — Brandon Scherff, senior, 6-5, 320, Iowa; Spencer Drango, junior, 6-6, 310, Baylor.
Guards — Tre Jackson, senior, 6-4, 330, Florida State; Laken Tomlinson, senior, 6-3, 320, Duke.
Center — Reese Dismukes, senior, 6-3, 296, Auburn.
Tight End — Nick O'Leary, senior, 6-3, 247, Florida State.
Wide receivers — Amari Cooper, junior, 6-1, 210, Alabama; Rashard Higgins, sophomore, 6-2, 188, Colorado State.
Kicker — Roberto Aguayo, sophomore, 6-1, 203, Florida State.
All-purpose player — Shaq Thompson, junior, 6-1, 228, Washington.
Ends — Joey Bosa, sophomore, 6-5, 278, Ohio State; Vic Beasley, senior, 6-3, 235, Clemson.
Tackles — Malcolm Brown, junior, 6-2, 320, Texas; Danny Shelton, junior, 6-2, 339, Washington.
Linebackers — Scooby Wright III, sophomore, 6-1, 246, Arizona; Hau'oli Kikaha, senior, 6-3, 246, Washington; Paul Dawson, senior, 6-2, 230, TCU.
Cornerbacks — Senquez Golson, senior, 5-9, 176, Mississippi; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, senior, 5-10, 195, Oregon.
Safeties — Landon Collins, junior, 6-0, 222, Alabama; Gerod Holliman, sophomore, 6-2, 213, Louisville.
Punter — Tom Hackett, junior, 5-11, 187, Utah.
Quarterback — Trevone Boykin, junior, TCU
Running backs — James Conner, sophomore, Pittsburgh; Ameer Abdullah, senior, Nebraska.
Tackles — La'el Collins, senior, LSU; Andrus Peat, junior, Stanford.
Guards — Arie Kouandjio, senior, Alabama; A.J. Cann, senior, South Carolina.
Center — Hroniss Grassu, senior, Oregon.
Tight End — Maxx Williams, sophomore, Minnesota.
Wide receivers — Kevin White, senior, West Virginia; Rashad Greene, senior, Florida State.
Kicker — Brad Craddock, junior, Maryland.
All-purpose player — Tyler Lockett, senior, Kansas State.
Ends — Shane Ray, junior, Missouri; Nate Orchard, senior, Utah.
Tackles — Leonard Williams, junior, Southern California; Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore, Mississippi.
Linebackers — Eric Kendricks, senior, UCLA; Benardrick McKinney, junior, Mississippi State; Jaylon Smith, sophomore, Notre Dame.
Cornerbacks — Vernon Hargreaves III, sophomore, Florida; Jacoby Glenn, sophomore, Central Florida.
Safeties — Jalen Ramsey, sophomore, Florida State; Cody Prewitt, senior, Mississippi.
Punter — JK Scott, freshman, Alabama.
Quarterback — J.T. Barrett, redshirt freshman, Ohio State.
Running backs — Jay Ajayi, junior, Boise State; Samaje Perine, freshman, Oklahoma.
Tackles — Cedric Ogbuehi, senior, Texas A&M; Jake Fisher, senior, Oregon.
Guards — Shaquille Mason, senior, Georgia Tech; Ben Beckwith, senior, Mississippi State.
Center — Jack Allen, junior, Michigan State.
Tight End — Clive Walford, senior, Miami.
Wide receivers — Justin Hardy, senior, East Carolina; Nelson Agholor, junior, Southern California.
Kicker — Josh Lambert, sophomore, West Virginia.
All-purpose player — J.J. Nelson, senior, UAB.
Ends — Shawn Oakman, junior, Baylor; Randy Gregory, junior, Nebraska.
Tackles — Michael Bennett, senior, Ohio State; Eddie Goldman, junior, Florida State.
Linebackers — Denzel Perryman, senior, Miami; Mike Hull, senior, Penn State; Eric Striker, junior, Oklahoma.
Cornerbacks — Trae Waynes, junior, Michigan State; Kendall Fuller, sophomore, Virginia Tech.
Safeties — Kurtis Drummond, senior, Michigan State; Su'a Cravens, sophomore, Southern California.
Punter — Austin Rehkow, sophomore, Idaho.