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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 15 D.J. Morgan, safety-turned-linebacker

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-2 1/8, 220 pounds
2018-19 year, eligibility: A junior, Morgan has three seasons of eligibility remaining including 2018.
Depth chart: Morgan was one of three safeties to move forward defensively to linebacker this spring, but in doing so, his playing prospects did not inherently spike as the other two’s did. Morgan remains behind fifth-year Buck linebacker Drue Tranquill and sophomore Jordan Genmark-Heath, not to mention the looming chances of early-enrolled freshman Jack Lamb.
Recruiting: A rivals.com four-star recruit, Morgan committed to Notre Dame rather than Arizona State, Cal or Colorado, among others. His primary Sun Devil recruiter was Del Alexander, now the Irish receivers coach. Rivals rated Morgan the No. 23 safety in the class of 2016 and the No. 47 prospect in California.

CAREER TO DATE
Morgan has seen action in a total of two games after preserving a year of eligibility as a freshman in 2016. In the second of those, a blowout of Miami (OH), Morgan made his two career tackles, one on the second-half’s opening kickoff and one to close the third quarter on a fourth-and-six. It should be noted: Morgan stopped RedHawks quarterback Gus Ragland short of the line to gain.

QUOTE(S)
The only mention of Morgan this spring came the day before spring practices commenced when Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was listing possible depth options at rover. In time Morgan and his 11 pounds gained in the offseason made more sense further toward the interior.

WHAT WAS PROJECTED A YEAR AGO
“An inability to climb this particular safety depth chart puts a rather staunch ceiling on Morgan’s short-term future. [Former] Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko is desperate for a contributor on the defensive backline. The opportunity is there, and was all spring, yet Morgan did not force himself into the conversation.

“With that in mind, Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian will undoubtedly be happy to have a physical player at his disposal. Morgan should contribute on special teams this year. That is not necessarily a sentence to irrelevance. If he makes some plays in that third of the game, Elko and Kelly will have to take notice.”

2018 OUTLOOK
Morgan’s only genuine chance at competitive use this season is on special teams. While he never quite took off in that role last year, the opportunity is still very much there and the Irish would be thrilled to find a reliable kickoff and punt coverage specialist.

Notre Dame’s coverage units have been better than often described, but they are by no means a recent strength. In that regard, Morgan could make himself a valued contributor.

DOWN THE ROAD
The arrival of Lamb and fellow early-enrolled freshman linebacker Bo Bauer cloud Morgan’s move to linebacker from safety, but the parallel additions of early-enrolled freshman Houston Griffith and consensus four-star recruit Derrik Allen at safety made the position switch a necessary one. Nonetheless, it is hard to envision a scenario where Morgan stays ahead of both Lamb and Bauer.

It is still early in Morgan’s career, but a path to playing time in the long view is as difficult to navigate as one is in 2018 when a two-time captain starts ahead of him.

NOTRE DAME 99-to-2:
No. 99 Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle, senior
No. 98 Ja’Mion Franklin, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 97 Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle, senior
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 94 Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 91 Ade Ogundeji, defensive end, junior
No. 89 Brock Wright, tight end, sophomore
No. 88 Javon McKinley, receiver, junior
No. 87 Michael Young, receiver, sophomore
No. 86 Alizé Mack, tight end, senior
No. 85 George Takacs, tight end, early-enrolled freshman
No. 85 Tyler Newsome, punter and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 84 Cole Kmet, tight end, sophomore
No. 83 Chase Claypool, receiver, junior
No. 82 Nic Weishar, tight end, fifth-year senior
No. 81 Miles Boykin, receiver, senior
No. 80 Micah Jones, receiver, early-enrolled freshman
No. 78 Tommy Kraemer, right guard, junior
No. 76 Dillan Gibbons, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 75 Josh Lugg, offensive lineman, sophomore
No. 74 Liam Eichenberg, starting left tackle, junior
No. 72 Robert Hainsey, right tackle, sophomore
No. 71 Alex Bars, left guard and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 70 Luke Jones, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 69 Aaron Banks, offensive tackle, sophomore
No. 68 Jarrett Patterson, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 60 Cole Mabry, offensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 57 Trevor Ruhland, offensive lineman, senior
No. 57 (theoretically) Jayson Ademilola, defensive tackle, incoming freshman
No. 56 John Dirksen, offensive lineman, incoming freshman
No. 55 Jonathan Bonner, defensive tackle, fifth-year senior
No. 54 John Shannon, long snapper, junior
No. 53 Khalid Kareem, defensive end, junior
No. 53 Sam Mustipher, center and captain, fifth-year senior
No. 52 Bo Bauer, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 47 Kofi Wardlow, defensive end, sophomore
No. 45 Jonathan Jones, linebacker, junior
No. 44 Jamir Jones, defensive end, junior
No. 42 Julian Okwara, defensive end, junior
No. 41 Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle, sophomore
No. 40 Drew White, linebacker, sophomore
No. 39 Jonathan Doerer, kickoff specialist, sophomore
No. 34 Jahmir Smith, running back, early-enrolled freshman
No. 33 Shayne Simon, linebacker, incoming freshman
No. 31 Jack Lamb, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 30 Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, linebacker, sophomore
No. 29 Ovie Oghoufo, linebacker, early-enrolled freshman
No. 28 Nicco Fertitta, safety, senior
No. 27 Julian Love, cornerback, junior, second-team All-American
No. 25 Braden Lenzy, receiver, incoming freshman
No. 24 Tommy Tremble, tight end, incoming freshman
No. 24 Nick Coleman, defensive back, senior
No. 23 Drue Tranquill, linebacker, two-time captain, fifth-year senior
No. 22 Asmar Bilal, rover, senior
No. 21 Jalen Elliott, safety, junior
No. 20 Shaun Crawford, nickelback, senior
No. 20 C’Bo Flemister, running back, incoming freshman
No. 19 Justin Yoon, placekicker, senior
No. 19 Justin Ademilola, defensive end, incoming freshman
No. 18 Joe Wilkins, cornerback, incoming freshman
No. 17 Isaiah Robertson, safety-turned-rover, sophomore
No. 16 Noah Boykin, cornerback, incoming freshman

MEDICAL EXEMPTION
No. 35 David Adams, linebacker, sophomore

OUTGOING TRANSFER
No. 11 Freddy Canteen, receiver, outgoing transfer