If Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith wants to get a look at Patrick Willis, he'll have to find the recently retired San Francisco 49ers star on YouTube. But the Fighting Irish's top defender doesn't have to mimic the former All-Pro linebacker to play like him.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah told FOXSports.com that Smith, who will be a junior this fall, reminds him of Willis -- at least in one particular area.
"I don't know if there's a better talent in the country," Jeremiah said. "The player he reminds me of is Patrick Willis just in terms of sheer explosiveness. I don't know what he'll run (in the 40), but it's really impressive when you watch him in a game against Florida State with Dalvin Cook and all the athletes they have and (Smith) looks like the fastest guy on the field."
College Football 24/7 named Smith one of the top 15 defensive players in the nation last month. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder was a Butkus Award finalist as a sophomore last year, establishing himself as one of the elite linebackers in the country in just his second year of college. He made 112 tackles, nine for losses, and played his best football against Notre Dame's toughest competition: he made a career-high 14 tackles against Southern Cal and Stanford.
Smith enters 2015 as a frontrunner for the Butkus honor.
Jeremiah also said Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley would have been the top offensive tackle chosen in the 2015 NFL Draft had he chosen to forego his senior year.