Following Saturday's big announcement from OLB Jaylon Smith that he would be attending the University of Notre Dame, the internet may actually have caught fire* for a few minutes with the collective rejoicing of Fighting Irish fans across the country.
*There is no evidence of this, but who really knows?
Soon after, a bit of a debate emerged on Twitter concerning the more important commitment-was it Manti Te'o or Jaylon Smith?
Jaylon Smith's commitment to ND is huge. Bigger than Clausen or Lynch. Bigger than Te'o. He'll have 8 months to recruit for ND.— Keith Arnold (@KeithArnoldNBC) June 2, 2012
At first glance, there are several obvious comparisons: each plays linebacker, a consensus Top 25 recruit and were sought after by the top programs around the country. Here are the recruiting service rankings for each:
Manti Te'o (Final Rankings)
Rivals - 5 star, #2 ILB (#12 overall)
Scout - 5 star, #1 SLB (#6 overall)
ESPN - 93 grade (#2 overall)**
**Note: Stars were not used by ESPN in 2009
Jaylon Smith (rankings as of 6/6/2012)
Rivals - 5 star, #1 OLB (#4 overall)
Scout - 5 star, #1 OLB (#17 overall)
ESPN - 4 star (88 grade), #2 OLB (#20 overall)
I believe the answer to the question really lies in the way it is asked-which commitment will have a bigger impact to the program or to his class?
If you were going to ask me which player had/will have a bigger impact on his class, the choice is easy-it has to be Jaylon Smith. Manti Te'o was essentially a verbal commitment for a matter of minutes prior to signing his binding LOI (and bringing his bestie Toma along to South Bend). Smith will be verbally committed to Notre Dame for about 8 months prior to NSD-plenty of time to work on the other top targets not yet committed to Notre Dame. Word on the street is that he has already started recruiting other players, joining James Onwualu, Malik Zaire and Steve Elmer as chief recruiters.
If you would ask me which player's commitment means more to the program long term, I think the answer is not quite as clear. As of today, the answer has to be Manti Te'o.
He is heading into his final season with the program and will have one of the finest careers any linebacker has seen while playing under the Dome. With 324 career tackles, he is already #8 on the All-Time Career list. It seems a near certainty that he joins the Bobs (Crable - 521 and Golic - 479) in the Top 3 by season's end (399 total needed for sole possession of 3rd).
In addition to being the heart-and-soul of the defense for the past two years (and playing nearly all of 2011 on a bad ankle), Te'o established Notre Dame as a destination for top defensive recruits.
The last 5 star defensive recruit prior to Te'o (according to Rivals.com) was DE Victor Abiamiri in 2003. Since Te'o, Rivals listed Ishaq Williams and Stephon Tuitt as 5 stars in 2011 (in addition to Smith).
According to Scout.com, DE Ethan Johnson was the last 5 star defensive recruit prior to Te'o. Since, there has been Tuitt, Williams, and Aaron Lynch in the 2011 class, Tee Shepard and Sheldon Day in the 2012 class, and of course Smith in the 2013 class.***
Note: the star rankings for each site only go back to 2002
By opening the door for future defensive studs and delivering on his 5 star promise, it's hard to say that Manti Te'o wasn't the bigger "get" for Notre Dame. It was his commitment that has opened the floodgates (if only still slightly larger than a trickle) for future stud defensive recruits.
Since Smith is about 15 months from his first action in the Blue and Gold, the book isn't yet closed on this debate. In fact, I expect that it will only get bigger with time.