Notre Dame football recruiting: Irish pick up pair of LB commitments in Sykes and Hill

South Bend Tribune

Early Sunday evening, Nile Sykes best summarized how many phone calls he’d received on Sunday this way.

“I don’t even know,” the inside linebacker from Montini Catholic High in Lombard, Ill., said.

A few minutes later, addressing the same topic, Kolin Hill, like Sykes a linebacker, was asked the same question.

“Countless,” said Hill, a standout from Clemens High in Schertz, Texas. “I can’t even describe how many phone calls I’ve gotten.”

Neither may know exactly how many calls, tweets and texts were sent their way Sunday, but they both now know that they’ll be playing their college football at Notre Dame.

The two became the 20th and 21st players to verbally commit to ND’s recruiting class of 2014.

NCAA recruiting rules prohibit Irish coach Brian Kelly from publicly commenting on a prospect until the Feb. 5 national signing day.

Both made official visits to Notre Dame this weekend, and both jumped at offers that were made late in their respective senior seasons.

“I couldn’t wait to get up there,” said the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Sykes, who projects as an inside linebacker in ND’s system. “I saw everything and more. I definitely saw myself being there.”

One of the factors that jumped out to the Chicago-area standout was the fact that starting inside linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese are graduating, and depth at the spot was one of the last remaining holes to fill on ND’s board.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to have a chance to play early at a big-time program like Notre Dame,” Sykes said.

Missouri, Syracuse and Illinois were among the schools that had offered Sykes.

Hill had narrowed his list to Notre Dame and Texas Tech. After leaving campus Sunday around 5 a.m. to get to Chicago for a flight back to Texas, he arrived home around 11 and then met with a Texas Tech recruiter around 2. By that point he was beginning to feel the burden of the pending decision.

“I was stressing out,” the 6-2, 220-pound Hill said.

After the Texas Tech meeting, Hill met with his father about the decision, which at that point had not been made. That, however, soon changed.

“After that I just talked to my dad,” Hill said. “I just felt like I needed to commit.”

Soon after, he called ND assistants Kerry Cooks and Mike Elston and informed them he was Irish. He expects to talk to Kelly around 11 a.m. Monday.

Academics helped push ND past the home-state school.

“It’s like going to an Ivy League school,” Hill said.

While Hill could fill in inside, he also could play outside linebacker after playing defensive end as a high schooler. Kelly told him that he could play inside or outside.

“He told me I have options,” Hill said.

CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming rates Sykes as a four-star talent and Hill a three-plus guy with four-star potential. ranks Sykes as the No. 18 inside linebacker prospect in the country with Hill one slot behind.

The two add depth to a position that this season had to overcome the loss of Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o, and then lost Jarrett Grace to a broken leg.

ND had other inside linebackers on its board, but Sykes and Hill, Lemming said, are right there with the guys who had been offered earlier.

“These two,” Lemming said, “are as good as a lot of the guys they were going after.” 574-235-6428 Twitter: @BobWienekeNDI

Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly had reason to celebrate Sunday when linebackers Nile Sykes and Kolin Hill both verbally committed to the Irish.