Dec. 29, 2015
Q. There’s no way you’re rooting for Ohio State this week?
Jaylon Smith: I can’t (laughter). Go Irish.
Q. Has that made for interesting chatter around the holiday table?
Jaylon Smith: Yeah, absolutely. It’s something that we’ve all looked forward to. As a fifth-year senior last year, though, it’s still good for the family.
Q. Were you recruited by OSU?
Jaylon Smith: That was my second option.
Q. And Notre Dame because…
Jaylon Smith: Just a better fit for me.
Q. Does it mean anything special to play against them?
Jaylon Smith: Yeah, I think it’s something that the country wants to see. We also are looking forward to it, as well.
Q. Two large programs with great traditions. What was unique about the Ohio State tradition? Your brother was a part of that, but what stood out to you that that became your second choice?
Jaylon Smith: I mean, just the players, the camaraderie they had, the brotherhood. I think Urban had just got there. Going to a practice, just how live it was, exciting. Everybody is so juiced up. I liked the idea of that intensity factor.
Q. Why did Notre Dame win out for you?
Jaylon Smith: Why?
I mean, a lot of people talk about the education factor, the graduation rates, all of that good stuff. But, man, I just felt like it was a better fit for me.
Q. When you get ready to play this offense, is there anybody on the schedule you played that gave you a similar look, or is this team you’re about to face unique?
Jaylon Smith: There’s a couple of teams that are good ideas for what we want to see. A little bit of Boston College, Wake Forest. I forget the other team.
Yeah, I mean, basically three teams that we’re kind of going off of. We have a lot of time, so it’s a lot of film that we got a chance to watch, them playing 12 games.
Q. What are the similarities? Power run game?
Jaylon Smith: A little bit of that. Definitely the read zone, some of the passing concepts. No team is dead-on similar. I think it’s just a matter of picking your pieces, then just preparing the right way.
Q. When you get ready to play a team that has a running threat quarterback, as a linebacker, how big a concern is it?
Jaylon Smith: I don’t look at anything as a concern, I think it’s just a great challenge playing against a great runningback, even a quarterback who can run very well as well.
Really just looking forward to that opportunity.
Q. Your defensive coordinator was here a minute ago. He said of the defense this season, it was inconsistent. Would you agree with that?
Jaylon Smith: That’s the truth. It was inconsistency throughout each game in a matter of there would be quarters where we’re playing great, we’re unstoppable. Then there’s a few plays, six or seven plays that happen where it’s like, What’s going on?
I think the explosive plays definitely killed us. At the same time it’s something that we can learn from.
Q. When you’re getting ready to play a team like this, that wants to push you around physically, kind of out-tough you in some cases, how excited do you get? What kind of challenge does that bring?
Jaylon Smith: You get very excited. It’s two Midwest teams, that’s both of our mentalities. That’s why it’s set out for a great afternoon on Friday.
Q. Take me through being a student of football, to being that next-level player.
Jaylon Smith: I mean, a lot of people see all the athletic traits and things of that nature. But I don’t think that makes you great. It’s about your work ethic, your work habits, just going about learning defense, understanding the game, what offenses are trying to do.
From your position, it’s understanding, you know, your defensive coordinator’s mind, his scheme. Not just memorizing what you’re supposed to do, but understanding the full concepts.
Q. You’ve had the kind of season where everybody pretty much knows your name. When you ask Ohio State about defense, they talk about No. 9. Do you embrace that role as being that guy?
Jaylon Smith: I think it’s a blessing. Your opponent understands that you’re a pretty solid player.
At the end of the day it’s about getting a victory. If you don’t prepare the right way, I mean, there’s no way that can happen. It’s something that I’m just looking forward to going out there and giving it my best.
Q. When this game was announced, you know something like 20 guys on the roster, you know the talent at Ohio State, did it strike you how much talent between the two teams would be on the field?
Jaylon Smith: I never thought about that. Yeah, I imagine there is going to be a lot of scouts, a lot of eyes watching.
Q. If anybody is disappointed about not playing for a playoff, it would get your attention real quick?
Jaylon Smith: Absolutely.
Q. You didn’t complete your ultimate mission, but it’s been a special season in a lot of ways. What has that season been like for you?
Jaylon Smith: This season has been a journey, setting out goals. Wasn’t able to achieve them in the manner that we wanted. But the most important thing is that we stayed together. We rallied and overcame adversity for the most part. It was just a great atmosphere for our team.
It’s something that team 127 will definitely cherish for the rest of our lives.
Q. What has your experience been like at Notre Dame?
Jaylon Smith: It’s been everything that I’ve asked for and more, everything that I’ve expected. Choosing a school like the University of Notre Dame, it’s just a matter of where we get an opportunity to go out and play for our team and Our Lady.
Q. (No microphone.)
Jaylon Smith: He’s been the heart of the defense, bringing that same mentality. You can expect what you’re going to get out of Joe. You know when he’s in the room. He’s just a great impact for the team and for the university.
Q. Sheldon, the same thing, what is his impact on this team?
Jaylon Smith: I mean Sheldon has been just the juice man, you know, keeping everybody intense. Definitely picking up from Jarron being out from a vocal standpoint.
I think the way he’s played this year has been unbelievable.
Q. What do you want your legacy to be?
Jaylon Smith: I just want to win. I want to beat Ohio State. I think everything else will speak for itself. Looking forward to practice today.
Q. Your NFL decision?
Jaylon Smith: After the bowl game, maybe a day or couple days after the bowl game. I’ll get a chance to talk to my parents and we’ll go from there.
Q. Have you gotten your evaluation?
Jaylon Smith: I haven’t actually saw them, but I think they were all first round.
Q. An evaluation that you obviously liked?
Jaylon Smith: Absolutely (laughter).
Q. Do you take this week and appreciate some of the things and decide that this is it so you can appreciate everything?
Jaylon Smith: I mean, I appreciate everything regardless. When I was a freshman, I appreciated everything. I don’t think that changes at all. It’s just a matter of preparing.
I mean, with all these great things going on, what it comes down to is Notre Dame versus Ohio State on the football field. The winner takes all. It’s something we want to win.
Q. (No microphone.)
Jaylon Smith: It’s always fun to me. I don’t take anything for granted. You never know when it can be your last practice or last game.
Q. What do you see from Ohio State, such a talented group?
What stands out?
Jaylon Smith: I think that in itself, just how dynamic they are, how many athletes they have that can create big plays at any given moment. It’s hard to prepare for that.
Q. What makes Ezekiel Elliott so good?
Jaylon Smith: His work ethic, how great he wants to be. Not a lot of players have that want. It’s something that is just a matter of preparation and playing great team defense.
Q. Coach VanGorder said ‘inconsistent’ would be the best word to describe the play of the defense this year. Do you think that’s a fair evaluation?
Jaylon Smith: Absolutely.
Q. Why do you think that is?
Jaylon Smith: If you look at the stats, if you look at each game, there’s quarters where we’re unstoppable, we’re a great defense. Then there are six or seven plays that occur where it’s like, What is going on?
What is this?
I mean, I think that’s the right word, inconsistent.
Q. Who are some of the younger guys we haven’t seen on the field that you feel will be big-time players next year?
Jaylon Smith: I think Nyles Morgan, with Joe leaving, just how much he’s learned from sitting behind Joe and watching him and learning every move that he’s making. I think that’s going to be great for him.
Drue Tranquill as well.
Q. Drue is such a tough guy in the way he rehabs. How special of a kid is he? Do you think he can come back from two ACL injuries?
Jaylon Smith: I think he’ll be fine, just the mentality he has. He’s a special person. We’re very fortunate to have him.
Q. Notre Dame hasn’t won a major bowl game in 20-something years. What would it mean to be part of the team that got the victory?
Jaylon Smith: It would be great. It would be great just to get out of that slump and beat a team to do that, to help bring light back to Notre Dame and our football program.