Smith heads group of first-time starters

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
1:15
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly has said in the past that he believed Manti Te'o should not have been starting as a freshman. Kelly got to coach Te'o, one of the most celebrated additions in Notre Dame history, for the linebacker's final three seasons with the Irish. Te'o, for the uninitiated, finished his career as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Tuesday's initial depth chart lists another celebrated freshman with the first team in five-star linebacker Jaylon Smith.

Kelly noted during his Tuesday news conference that Smith is asked to do different things at the dog linebacker than Te'o was at the mike, but Smith's name atop the depth chart nonetheless speaks volumes.

"Consistent performance," Kelly said of Smith. "It's a different position. Manti was in a four-down defense; we were going into three-down defense. Jaylon's playing on the edge of a defense, asked to do a lot of different things.

"Probably not a fair comparison, other than they're both great freshmen players. Jaylon's asked to do a different job, plays so well in space, very smart player, plays instinctively. I think the one thing that Jaylon has done as well as a lot freshmen that I've been around [is] he doesn't make the same mistake twice."

Smith is one of three first-time starters listed atop the defensive depth chart, joining end Sheldon Day and safety Austin Collinsworth, whom Kelly said was more of a "1A" to Elijah Shumate's "1B."

Offensive positions of note include Christian Lombard starting at right guard, with Ronnie Stanley at right tackle, a position Kelly deemed "fluid" while noting that true freshman Steve Elmer will also likely play Saturday and eventually could start.

The second-team running back is a three-way battle among Amir Carlisle, Cam McDaniel and true freshman Greg Bryant. Will Mahone is out Saturday because of a high ankle sprain.

Smith was able to ascend over Ben Councell for the No. 1 spot at drop linebacker after starter Danny Spond retired during camp because of hemiplegic migraines. And Kelly made it clear that nothing was handed to the No. 7-ranked player in the ESPN 300 upon his summer arrival.

"He had to work for it — it was Danny Spond, it was Councell and it was Jaylon Smith; it didn't start the other way around. So he was No. 3 on the depth chart when he ran out there," Kelly said, adding, "He went out and he did his job, so he comes from a good family, he comes from a great program where they obviously did a great job of teaching him how to go about and do his thing and he's been great and he's put himself in a position now to do some great things."

Matt Fortuna | email

College Football

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