Jaylon Smith isn't 6-foot-8, and he doesn't dominate college football in quite the same way that LeBron James dominates the NBA. But the comparison rolled off Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire's tongue anyway: Facing his teammate Smith in practice is "like playing with a LeBron James."
What is one supposed to get from this?
That Smith, one of the nation's elite linebackers and only a junior this fall, is on a level of his own athletically? Yes, that's the only sensible correlation Zaire could have been making. And why not? NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah saw Smith as the fastest player on the field the night the Fighting Irish took on Florida State last year, and compared his explosiveness to that of retired Pro Bowler Patrick Willis. College Football 24/7 rated Smith as the No. 6 defensive player in the nation earlier this summer. He has the speed to make plays on the perimeter, chasing down sweeps and maintaining enough awareness to stay free of blockers in pursuit. Yet against the inside runs, he's not afraid to play through blocks rather than around them. You'd have to go beyond Manti Te'o to find the last Notre Dame linebacker with more ability.
Whatever Smith and James might or might not have in common, Smith's ability is uncommon.
Here are four other things we learned around college football fall camps Tuesday:
2. Shedding pounds. NFL scouts will get a new look from LSU senior offensive lineman Vadal Alexander this fall, one that will only help the Tigers star secure a higher standing for the 2016 NFL Draft. As The Advocate tells it, Alexander has dropped six inches from his waist, 10 pounds, and a drop in body-fat percentage from 27 to 20. Along with evaluating a trimmed-down player, scouts will also get a look at the most versatile All-SEC offensive lineman since Alabama's Barrett Jones.
3. Awesome Adams? After a few practices, Oregon's graduate transfer QB Vernon Adams has drawn a rave review from offensive coordinator Scott Frost and teammates such as WR Devon Allen, courtesy of The Register-Guard. But before you take a dip into some Ducks-green Kool-Aid, keep this in mind: Adams is turning in a schedule that included the likes of Montana Western, North Dakota and Portland State for one that includes Michigan State, Arizona State and USC.
4. Bruins bruises. Suffice it to say UCLA coach Jim Mora would like a mulligan on Monday morning's practice. Start all over again and perhaps three-fifths of his offensive line would make it through the day without an injury. As it happened, Bruins fans are braced for three injury reports.
5. McKenzie back deep. Electrifying Georgia return specialist Isaiah McKenzie has returned to practice from an injury. But this year, the sophomore is expected to play a bigger role in the UGA offense as a receiver. No role is too big for one of the most explosive athletes on the roster; coach Mark Richt would be wise to make McKenzie the team's No. 2 offensive weapon behind star rusher Nick Chubb.