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Irish A-to-Z: Nyles Morgan

Jul 29, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

Nyles MorganAAA AP

Say this for Nyles Morgan: He’s not one to shy away from expectations.

When the freshman linebacker takes the field when training camp opens next week at Culver Military Academy, he’ll be wearing No. 5, last seen on Notre Dame’s most decorated defender ever.

Like Manti Te’o, Morgan walks into a program desperate for him to play to his reputation. The Chicago native was an elite recruit that the Irish coaching staff fought hard for. He’ll likely open with a spot in the two-deep, with the chance to fight for a role in the rotation at a middle linebacker position that’s filled with question marks.

Let’s take a closer look at freshman Nyles Morgan.


6’2″ 223 lbs.
Freshman, No. 5



Morgan was an elite recruit, a U.S. Army All-American, a first-team USA Today All-American, and a first-team All-State player on the Chicago Tribune’s team. A Top 100 prospect by just about every measure, Morgan chose Notre Dame after a long recruitment that had the Irish trailing for most of the time.

In the end, Morgan chose Notre Dame over an offer list that includes some of the best programs in the country: Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, USC and others. He took official visits to Ole Miss and Florida and one to Notre Dame in October, before eventually committed to the Irish at the Army Bowl.

With Bob Diaco gone to UConn and area recruiter Chuck Martin taking the Miami job, Brian Kelly took over Morgan’s recruitment, with the Irish head coach closing the deal with the help of new coordinator Brian VanGorder.

Kelly talked about his prized recruit on Signing Day.


“One thing that stands out about Nyles is his thirst for knowledge of the game. Every time I’m with him, he just wants to talk about football,” Kelly said on Signing Day.  “Just got a great nose for the football, plays downhill, plays fast, great instincts, and when he arrives, he arrives with a bad attitude when he gets to the football.  He’s just that kind of player.  Very, very talented.  You know, I think from our standpoint, an inside guy that certainly has the physical tools to be an exceptional player here at Notre Dame.”



Put Morgan in the “Sky’s the limit” category. While most of us have only seen YouTube footage of his on-field exploits, Morgan more than held his own at the Army game, and early reports have him arriving this summer in excellent physical shape and ready to compete immediately.

If there’s an early prototype for VanGorder’s Mike linebacker, Morgan is the closest thing that we’ve seen. While that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that he’ll be a star player for the Irish, Notre Dame’s staff firmly believes they have a potential great one in the Chicagoland product, and Morgan was one of the essential “must-gets” of the 2014 recruiting cycle.

Fast, athletic and mean, Morgan has everything you want from a blue-chip recruit. Now he’s got to play to that star-rating, sometimes easier said than done.



Morgan couldn’t ask for a better situation to walk into. With a new defensive system in place and a hole in the depth chart, the freshman will see the field from day one and will likely contribute from the middle of the defense come the season-opener against Rice. Getting early snaps can only help him, as Morgan will undoubtedly look like a freshman at times, seeing and doing things for the first time at this level.

It’s hard to remember now, but even Te’o ran around lost as a freshman, with then defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta begrudgingly throwing Te’o to the wolves as the 2009 season rolled on. VanGorder’s system stresses aggression and attacking, something that’ll likely make Morgan’s job easier. But only if he’s able to mentally handle the transition, a challenge that Irish fans should be optimistic about, especially after re-reading Kelly’s Signing Day comments.

Ultimately, Morgan’s going to play. How much and how well remains to be seen. But on the hoof, there’s probably not a more impressive linebacker on the roster than Morgan, who certainly doesn’t look like your average freshman.

For Notre Dame’s defense to succeed, he can’t play like one, either.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke
Nick Martin
Greer Martini
Jacob Matuska
Cam McDaniel
Mike McGlinchey
Colin McGovern
Pete Mokwuah
John Montelus
Kendall Moore

  1. jomilly - Jul 29, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Id say jayon is more impressive

  2. jomilly - Jul 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

    Id say jaylon is more impressive

  3. iamgolden4life - Jul 29, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Nyles will definitely spend his fair share of time on the field this year. He will be pairing next to Jaylon in which I think will be one heck of a LB core. I know Joe Schmidt is the current man for the job b/c of his knowledge of the defense but I find it hard to believe that lasts long. He is a big hitter with the ability to run sideline to sideline. It will be important guys like Jarron Jones, Sheldon Day, and Daniel Cage wreak hvac on the D-line this year to keep opposing O- lineman off our linebackers this year. They all have good size to do just that. Note: I have heard Cage is already over 300 lbs and was tossing people around. He is very strong and will be counted on early in his career. He was a huge pickup late in last years class. WeAreND!!! GoIrish!!!

  4. rambler09 - Jul 29, 2014 at 2:39 PM

    Well, there is a more impressive linebacker on the roster- named Jaylon Smith. Of course, they’re both incredible… but Jaylon was #3 overall in the country for a reason. I hope Nyles can develop into a player similar to the one who last wore that number.

    Reading this article I can’t help but think how nice it would be if we were always pulling players like this to fill in our linebacking corps. Look at our offensive line- that’s the gold standard for having elite depth at a position. We’re very lucky to have Nyles but imagine if he came in and had to compete just like Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars will need to. That’s how you achieve excellence. The one position on the roster that I know will excel this year is the o-line because elite talented players are competing fiercely to start. Alabama usually has that kind of competition at every position on their roster.

    I’m not a pessimist and I think we have a good chance to be really competitive this year… but it’s hard to read an article like this and not think of it in contrast to the situation of Bars/Nelson. For now, all we can do is win with what we have and the depth will come. Go Irish.

  5. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 29, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    BIG TIME SEC PLAYER. Now if he only had the team mates to back him up.

    • irishmob89 - Jul 29, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Yeah, if only he had a Jaylon Smith, or a KeiVarae Russell to back him up…or even a Max Redfield…oh wait, he does!

      • mattymill - Jul 29, 2014 at 10:57 PM

        Good points irishmob, but it’s best to simply ignore him.

  6. shaunodame - Jul 29, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    I cannot agree more with the “sky’s the limit” evaluation comment. I love Nyles raw potential and would not be surprised one bit if it’s his name at the Top of the Mike LB Depth Chart by week 12, if he doesn’t see it earlier, of course. I’m very interested to see what height/weight he checks in at initially.

  7. goirishgo - Jul 29, 2014 at 7:33 PM

    “He arrives with a bad attitude when he gets to the football.”

    I like this kid already.

  8. tucsonfan - Jul 30, 2014 at 12:55 AM

    Sounds good, but seems a bit light to me (weight-wise, I mean). Wasn’t Manti around 250 lbs? Some awfully big guys will be coming at him in the middle.

    Off point, but I also wonder about Redfield–everyone seems to think he’s a star, but we’ve seen nothing yet in terms of actual playing time to confirm that. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t be shocked if people end up disappointed in his play, at least this year.

    Totally agree Jalon is more impressive than Morgan–maybe Keith meant among the incoming LB’s?

    • dudeacow - Jul 30, 2014 at 10:34 AM

      223 was his listed weight as of either 2013’s Opening or the Army All-American Game. He’s had 7 months to get up in the 235 range. But even with that added weight, he won’t lose his speed or quickness, because he joined his high school’s track team this spring simply to help his speed.

      As for Redfield, he’s our most physically gifted safety (not to mention being our highest-rated one ever), so people are understandably excited about his potential. He had a disappointing freshman season, but word was out at the end of spring that he finally clicked with the defense. BK called him a dynamite player and took him out of the Blue-Gold game early along with players like Jaylon and Russell just so he didn’t get hurt. It seems like he’s made major improvements.

  9. chaunce922 - Jul 30, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    Yea hes clearly got the athleticism to play the position i do wish he had abit of weight on him too. Hopefully come next season we start hearing about him putting 15-20lbs so he can take out them tough run games late in the season. But for now i forsure think he’ll be productive, were starting to finally get some depth in the LB core and thatll only make them all better fighting for the starting spot, hopefully he gets the playbook down and lets his instincts and athleticism take over..

  10. yaketyyacc - Jul 30, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    Morgan is going to be another Lou Gehrig, once he breaks into the lineup, he will be there for good.

  11. irishdog80 - Jul 30, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    I like that he is a true student of the game. He comes across as very smart and aware in the interviews he has done–a great trait for a future leader of the ND defense.

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