Notre Dame football recruiting: Morgan keeps eye on Irish

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

CHICAGO

When Chuck Martin suggested to Nyles Morgan that he should stop by Notre Dame for a Wednesday practice before last Saturday’s Stanford game, the senior linebacker prospect couldn’t come up with a reason not to make the trip.

So Morgan and a friend hopped in the car and made the roughly 90-minute drive from Crete, Ill., to South Bend to watch the Irish prepare for their regular-season finale.

The unannounced visit may have been the biggest sliver of evidence of Notre Dame’s increased chances of landing the 6-foot-2, 225-pound inside linebacker.

The trip marked Morgan’s third to Notre Dame since the beginning of October. He previously made an official visit for Notre Dame’s night game against USC (Oct. 19) and an unofficial visit for Notre Dame’s Senior Day game against BYU (Nov. 23).

Then came the hiccup of Martin’s departure from Notre Dame. A day after Martin, then Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and lead recruiter in the Chicago area, visited Morgan on Monday he was named the head coach at Miami of Ohio.

At Wednesday night’s Chicago All-Area banquet hosted by Tom Lemming and NCSA Athletic Recruiting at Soldier Field, Morgan said the news caught him by surprise. It won’t, however, greatly hinder Notre Dame’s chances recruiting him in the long run.

“I know a lot their coaches pretty well,” Morgan said. “It does have an impact on me but not as much as losing my position coach.”

Irish recruiting coordinator Tony Alford has since reached out to Morgan to maintain his recruitment. The staff is currently working on sending head coach Brian Kelly for an in-home visit next week, likely on Tuesday, Morgan said.

Morgan chooses his words carefully when talking recruiting and rarely tips which way he’s leaning. On Wednesday, he at least admitted that Notre Dame’s firmly in the running alongside the likes of Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Florida.

"They stand pretty high with the rest of them,” Morgan said of Notre Dame. “Everybody is kinda starting to balance things out. We'll see at the Army game.”

Morgan said he plans to announce his college decision on Jan. 4 during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Morgan has already used three official visits — to Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Florida, but remains unsure how the rest of the month will unfold. He has until Dec. 16, when the NCAA dead period starts, to wrap up final campus visits before his decision. Trips to Texas A&M and Vanderbilt have been discussed.

In the past few months, Notre Dame’s pitch has become increasingly clear. With Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese wrapping up their careers this season, Morgan recognizes the opportunity.

"Their starting inside linebackers are seniors, so I can see myself coming in and playing,” Morgan said.

Conversations with Notre Dame’s prized outside linebacker in the last recruiting cycle, Jaylon Smith, have helped the Irish cause.

"I talk to him all the time,” Morgan said. “I talked to him on my official at the USC game and the BYU game.”

Morgan hasn’t reached five-star status to match Smith, but his importance to Notre Dame’s recruiting class could approach the same level. Rivals ranks Morgan as the No. 5 inside linebacker in the 2014 class and No. 75 prospect overall. 247Sports slates Morgan No. 4 at his position and No. 55 overall.

Asked what will be the deciding factor that makes the difference for one school, Morgan reveals nothing.

"I don't know, man,” Morgan said. “They're all kind of even.”

In less than a month, the Irish will learn if they made the final push in front.

2014 Notre Dame inside linebacker target Nyles Morgan will announce his commitment at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Photo courtesy of Tom Lemming.