After three of Fort Wayne’s highest-profile high school football players signed their college letters of intent, the question turned to playing time. For all three, the answer could be right away.
Bishop Luers’ Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame) and TyVel Jemison (Purdue) and Homestead’s Isaac Griffith (Indiana) were among those seniors making their college choices official on Wednesday’s signing day and almost immediately began looking toward their prospects in the fall.
Smith, a linebacker, is a five-star player who is expected to make an immediate impact for the national runner-up Irish.
I will be among the best 11, Smith said Wednesday in the Luers cafeteria about a possible starting position. It’s all confidence and work ethic. It’s not just about being high-caliber in high school, but you have show up when you get to college.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith is projected to compete with junior Danny Spond at outside linebacker.
One thing that we do a very good job is we play a lot of guys, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
I will tell you this, we are going to put the best 11 on the field. If Danny Spond is the best 11, he’s playing. If Jaylon Smith is the best 11, he’s playing. We recognize the fact that everybody has a value to what we are doing, but we are also going to play the best players.
Smith earned individual honors this past season, including Indiana’s Mr. Football, the Butkus Award and All-American status from Parade magazine and the U.S. Army.
Jaylon Smith projects extremely high, 247Sports national recruiting director J.C. Shurburtt said about Smith.
At the Army All-American bowl, he’s flying around like it is the Super Bowl. It is like the perfect storm for a linebacker prospect, really. He’s got all the measurables, yet he is also extremely productive and a big-play football guy.
Griffith, a receiver, and Jemison, a cornerback, could also get on the field in their first seasons.
(The IU coaches) told me from the start that they want the players who are willing to compete and win games, Griffith said. The biggest thing is they are going to play the best players, no matter if they are a freshman or a senior. They told me to come in and expect to play and expect to work.
The 6-1, 180-pound Griffith had 32 catches for 700 yards and seven touchdowns last year in an injury-plagued senior season with the Spartans.
You look at Isaac Griffith and the first thing that comes to mind is production, 247Sports national writer Steve Wiltfong said. He’s a guy that I think will have a chance to play early at Indiana.
After some last-minute anxiety because of academics, Jemison signed with the Boilermakers with a chance to get into the lineup and make the kind of impact that past Fort Wayne players have made for the Purdue defense, including Anthony Spencer, Bernard Pollard and, currently, Landon Feichter.
I am ready to start my own tradition and my own legacy, Jemison said. It is amazing to play in Division I, and I’m happy to play in the Big Ten. I feel like it gave me the best opportunity to go and play college football and go there and start, that’s why I picked Purdue.
Along with Smith, the 5-10, 180 pound Jemison helped the Knights to a fourth straight 2A state championship in November.
These guys return the football, they take the football the distance, Purdue cornerbacks coach Jon Heacock said of Jemison and fellow defensive back recruits Da’Wan Hunt and Leroy Clark.
Guys in the back end that can go up and intercept balls and have vision on a football and go make a play. They will tackle you, they will hit you and they all have the ability to cover.
The Journal Gazette’s Tony Krausz and the Lafayette Journal and Courier’s Mike Carmin contributed to this report.