• Assets: Strong, physical player against the run and as a pass defender. Shows a strong desire to throw his body around and mix it up in the ground game. Not afraid to align head-up on a receiver in press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Uses hands liberally to re-direct routes. Great want-to and motor.
Plays the ball in the air well in terms of timing jump. Shows ability to turn and run with streaking receivers. Effectively leans on receiver up the sideline. Uses sideline as an ally. Uses backside to maintain contact with receiver once he turns and looks for the football. Shows quality timing, vertical jump defending the pass. A turn-and-look defender. Good knee bend in backpedal. Thrives on, responds to the challenge of man-to-man coverage.
Aggressively sets the edge against the run. Will blow up plays with his ability to penetrate the edge. Shows linebacker-like qualities/physicality against the run. Nice wide base defending the run. A quality knee bender when it’s time to square up a ball carrier.
• Room for improvement: Has a tendency to grab receivers who gain a step on him. Will sometimes over-aggressively run himself beyond the ball carrier in the ground game. Lots of moving parts when breaking down to make a play. Can get caught leaning. Some doubt about the legitimacy of the 4.45 time in the 40, although he has run with virtually anyone he’s gone against in games/camps.
• Schools of Interest: Notre Dame. ACC: Pittsburgh; Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State; Big 12: Oklahoma; SEC: Tennessee; Pac 12: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
• Early line: Most believe Michigan is the team to beat for Kelly-Powell. He has said that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh stays in frequent (daily) contact via texts.
Kelly-Powell has made multiple visits to Notre Dame and likely will be back again this summer. Cited Brian Kelly as a significant reason as to why he could choose Notre Dame. Has developed a relationship with secondary coach Todd Lyght, who is open-minded about using Kelly-Powell as a cornerback.
A strong Big Ten interest with Michigan State and Ohio State vying for a shot at Kelly-Powell. Recently visited Wisconsin, which he called a 10 on a 10 scale. School with the best chance outside of the Midwest likely is Oklahoma. UCLA’s name has popped up frequently. Expressed an interest in visiting Oregon, Pittsburgh and Penn State.
• ND’s 2017 safety recruiting: Generally listed as a wide receiver prospect, verbal commitment Isaiah Robertson (Naperville, Ill.) is favored by Notre Dame at safety. Notre Dame’s next safety prospect most inclined to choose the Irish is Kelly-Powell, unless it’s four-star prospect Chaz Ah You (Provo, Utah) – Scout’s No. 106 overall player – who also favors BYU.
Five-star Jeffrey Okudah (Grand Prairie, Texas) – Scout’s No. 18 overall prospect – four-star (and No. 146 overall) Daniel Wright (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and four-star (No. 266) Davondre Robinson (Santee, S.C.) are thought to have the Irish among their top 5.
• ND’s 2016 safety depth chart: Reinforcements in the form of four freshmen have replenished the safety position, led by early-entry Devin Studstill, who received the majority of the first-team reps at free safety this spring.
Veteran Max Redfield remains in the picture and is a key component with his extensive playing experience. Ultra-competitive but tough-luck strong safety Drue Tranquill continues to pursue 100 percent health following his second ACL injury.
Sixth-year senior Avery Sebastian has a history of injuries, but he showed himself capable this spring supporting the run. He’ll battle Tranquill for playing time. Sophomore Nicco Fertitta will be a mainstay on Notre Dame’s coverage teams, but likely will face significant competition on the safety depth chart from freshman Jalen Elliott.
Another early-entry freshman, Spencer Perry, looked out of his element at safety this spring. He could end up at outside linebacker. Freshman D.J. Morgan is a talented athlete with good size.
• Summary: You’ve got to admire the competitive nature of Jaylen Kelly-Powell. He attacks the ground and passing games with a fervor that shows a real love for the game. One can see how important football is to Kelly-Powell. His compete level on the football field and in the weight room would be difficult to exceed. He’s motivated to win the individual battles a defensive player faces on a play-to-play basis. There’s a “pride in authorship” to the way he plays the game, and that’s a trait that can’t be taught.
Most schools see Kelly-Powell – and rightfully so – as a safety. But he does have man-to-man coverage skills mixed with tremendous want-to. Kelly-Powell said that Notre Dame secondary coach Todd Lyght is the exception to the rule and likes him at cornerback.
Not sure cornerback would be the best full-time use of Kelly-Powell. He’s likely going to have speed issues with those ultra-quick wide receivers on the collegiate level. Better to utilize Kelly-Powell at a safety position and benefit from pass coverage skills that are above the norm on the last rung of the defense. He’d also be an interesting nickel prospect who could use his physicality to re-direct slot receivers.
Ultimately, the Irish are going to have a devil of a time beating Michigan and Jim Harbaugh for Kelly-Powell’s services. Kelly-Powell understands the value of the Notre Dame education and has the whole “set for life” mantra down, so Notre Dame has gotten through to him. Brian Kelly, who took the time to show Kelly-Powell around the campus during one of his several visits, impressed him.
This is a very interesting prospect because of the uniqueness he brings to the safety position. He has cornerback skills. He also has some linebacker traits. It will be important that the school he ultimately chooses puts him in advantageous positions to maximize his ability. If you leave him on an island in a match-up that is less favorable, there likely will be some diminishing returns.
This is a prospect to keep an eye on regardless where he ends up. His competitive nature warrants a watch. It will be revealing to see how he handles himself at The Opening in Oregon from July 5-10. One thing about Kelly-Powell that we know will happen in Oregon – he’ll compete with everything he has.