Nyles MorganAAA

Irish add linebacker Nyles Morgan to recruiting class


Notre Dame received a key recruiting pledge when inside linebacker Nyles Morgan committed to the Irish during the US Army All-American Bowl Saturday afternoon. The Chicagoland product is an elite, four-star player anchoring a position group that the Irish coaching staff targeted this cycle.

Morgan chose the Irish over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, a hard fought recruiting victory for a player that for a long time looked headed elsewhere. The consensus top five inside linebacker in the country should step onto campus and fight for a starting job.

“They do need a mike linebacker, so I’m going to come in and fill that role,” Morgan said live on NBC during his announcement.

Starring at Crete-Monee, Morgan was a first-team All-State player. He’s joined on the Chicago Tribune’s All-State first team by fellow linebacker Nile Sykes of Montini and Nic Weishar of Marist. Weishar was playing alongside Morgan on the West squad.

Notre Dame pushes their recruiting class to 23 official members with Morgan’s commitment, though Isaiah McKenzie could make that 24 as soon as he clears up some final academic work.

With the Irish roster turning over Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Prince Shembo and Danny Spond, all linebackers with starting experience, it was crucial to fill those holes in this recruiting class. After a slow start, the Irish will bring in Greer Martini, Morgan, Sykes, and Richard Yeargin, not to mention combination edge players like Jonathan Bonner, Andrew Trumbetti and Jhonathan Williams.

National Signing Day is February 5.


Pot of Gold pushes Notre Dame recruiting to the forefront


Take the U.S. Postal Service, add to it Notre Dame football and the holiday season, and you expect a punchline.

But this week, the Irish football program has received a lot of attention on the internet for its “Pot of Gold,” a recruiting tactic that has seen the Notre Dame football office presumably blow through their postage budget in a few short weeks.

The Irish’s first Pot of Gold was sent to blue-chip defensive tackle Matt Elam, one of the targets to fill Louis Nix’s shoes on the interior of the Irish defensive line. It’s rumored that as many as 11 others have gone out, with now Irish commit Kolin Hill receiving one, as well as linebacker target Nyles Morgan and tight end Dalton Schultz, who chronicled it on his YouTube channel.

For those still not sure what exactly a Pot of Gold is, the Irish recruiting office essentially mail-bombs a recruit, sending hundreds of letters timed to arrive on the same day. While it might sound ridiculous to those of us not picking between dozens of college scholarships, here’s Elam’s reaction:

And here’s Schultz’s YouTube response, which has gotten over 28,000 viewings in less than 48 hours:


The new recruiting initiative is the collective work of the Irish support and coaching staff, with J.R. Sandlin, the first-year recruiting analyst hired by Brian Kelly and Dave Peloquin, Notre Dame’s director of player personnel, spearheading the process. Sandlin cut his teeth in college football in the SEC, leaving a job as Tennessee’s recruiting coordinator to join the Irish staff. Before that he spent three seasons running the day-to-day operations of the Alabama recruiting office, seeing behind the curtain of Nick Saban’s juggernaut.

The Irish coaching staff has bought all in on the #PotofGold, using a hashtag on Twitter to push the idea viral. Kelly has mentioned it on his Twitter feed. So has co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford.

While it feels a little over-the-top to some ND football traditionalists, this is the era of football that we live in. Kevin Sumlin created a stir taking a helicopter to high school football games, creating a buzz with a showtime arrival. Other schools have showed up in limos, announcing their presence that way. That Notre Dame was able to create a national buzz during a recruiting quiet period, keeping momentum up as the home stretch approaches, was impressive.

As the Irish try to finish out their recruiting class with an elite group of national targets, drawing buzz for the amount of attention you throw at a recruit isn’t the worst idea in the world. And the early returns from the recruiting targets — the only measurement that counts — are impressive.

OL Tristen Hoge pledges to ’15 class

Tristen Hoge

After visiting Notre Dame multiple times, 2015 offensive lineman Tristen Hoge gave his commitment to the Irish coaching staff over the weekend, adding another key building block for the future. The six-foot-4, 285-pound Idaho native chose Notre Dame over an elite set of early offers, giving Harry Hiestand another top lineman prospect.

Hoge already had offers from Florida, LSU, Stanford, UCLA and a dozen more before choosing Notre Dame. By whatever rating system you follow, he’s one of the top linemen in the 2015 class, and projects as a guard or center at the next level.

If early success is any indication, Harry Hiestand’s third offensive line recruiting class is stacking up to be just as good as his other two. Hoge will join Jerry Tillery in the junior group. The 2014 class includes elite prospects Alex Bars and Quenton Nelson, along with Jimmy Byrne and Sam Mustipher.

Hoge is the third commitment to the 2015 class. Quarterback Blake Barnett committed to the Irish after the BYU game.

OLB Jhonny Williams commits to Notre Dame

South Bend Tribune

It took one visit to convince outside linebacker Jhonny Williams that Notre Dame was the place for him. Even amidst the wind and snow of last weekend, Williams knew the best option for him was the school just 30 minutes away from his home in Berrian Springs, Michigan. He made that decision official Wednesday morning, joining the 2014 recruiting class.

The 6-foot-6, 237-pound outside linebacker’s commitment to Notre Dame wraps up a whirlwind recruitment, as Williams is the ultimate late bloomer on the scene. Williams entered his senior season thinking he was going to play football at Toledo. That all changed when Missouri offered Williams his first BCS offer. That changed again when Notre Dame offered two weeks ago, just a day before Michigan called.

Williams’ breakout senior season at Berrian Springs brings the Irish a three-sport athlete that piled up impressive stats (69 tackles, 15 TFLs, 12.5 sacks) to go along with a unique athletic skill-set. When talking with the South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James, Berrian Springs head coach Bill Bergan described a guy that could wreak havoc off the edge of Notre Dame’s defense.

With coaching staffs evaluating senior film in November in search of more targets, Williams jumped off the screen.

“The numbers he had strength-wise, speed-wise, basically the combine numbers, are pretty impressive,” Bergan said. “Once you saw what he did on film, it was like ‘Oh boy, this is going to get crazy.’”

The craziness began in earnest last week when Notre Dame offered on Wednesday and Michigan followed suit on Thursday. The two winningest programs in college football wanted a shot at the lengthy defensive end that claims a 4.5 time in the 40-yard dash.

“I’ll remember those days for a long time, especially the Notre Dame offer,” Williams said this week.

With the Irish saying goodbye to Prince Shembo and Ishaq Williams in his senior season next year, finding another Cat linebacker was a necessity in this recruiting cycle. That Notre Dame’s gain came at the expense of Missouri, putting together an elite season in the SEC, goes to show you that the Irish’s star hasn’t necessarily fallen.

Williams is the 20th recruit in the Irish class, and joins Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Matt Dickerson and Andrew Trumbetti as edge players in this defense. Richard Yeargin could also be a Cat linebacker.

Ultimately, geography played in the Irish’s favor, with Williams wanting to stay close to home ($), where he’s helped his mother take care of his younger brother.

“I really loved the team atmosphere and the family environment,” Williams told Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated. “I have the utmost respect for Missouri and appreciate everything they’ve done. I didn’t wish that it worked out this way, but it’s just not the best decision for me to leave my family.”




Irish add QB recruit Blake Barnett to 2015 class

Blake Barnett

A little winter weather wasn’t enough to deter 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett from committing to Notre Dame this weekend. The junior quarterback from Orange County, California gave the Irish a building block recruit for next season’s cycle, with the offensive coaching staff finding what looks like an excellent fit for the Irish offense.

Barnett’s commitment didn’t come as a complete surprise, considering the junior came back to South Bend for his second visit in a month, after taking in the USC game. And with both his parents with him this weekend, Barnett confirmed his decision today via Twitter.

Barnett had early offers from Arizona, Cal, UCLA, Ole Miss and West Virginia among others, all programs that run an up-tempo, spread attack. That’s a sign that Kelly and Chuck Martin may have refined their focus, keying in quickly on Barnett and not on earlier offers to a more traditional dropback quarterbacks like Jack Beneventi.

Barnett’s thrown for 20 touchdown passes during his junior season, while the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder has run for 624 yards on almost eight yards a carry. He joins offensive lineman Jerry Tillery in the 2015 class.