Notre Dame football recruiting: Nyles Morgan picks Irish

BOB WIENEKE
South Bend Tribune

Technically, there were three caps signifying college choices placed in front of standout linebacker Nyles Morgan Saturday as he announced his college choice.

For a while, though, it's been widely speculated that only one hat was needed, and that was the Notre Dame cap sitting right in front of him, Vanderbilt and Mississippi caps sitting dormant nearby.

"It just came down to what was most important," the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Morgan said Saturday during NBC's broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Morgan, who played at Crete-Monee High School in Crete, Ill., becomes an important piece of Notre Dame's 2014 recruiting class, filling a need at inside linebacker as the Irish look to regain the defensive dominance that helped them to the 2013 BCS National Championship Game.

"They do need a MIKE linebacker," Morgan said, "so I can come in and fill that role."

Morgan's commitment is a big boost to an inside linebacker corps that has graduated a number of upperclassmen the last two seasons.

Last season, the Irish lost heavily-decorated Manti Te'o, the inspirational leader of a unit that led the Irish to the BCS National Championship Game.

Last season's two leading tacklers, Dan Fox (95) and Carlo Calabrese (91), were fifth-year seniors, and Jarrett Grace, who started three games, is returning from a broken leg he suffered in early October.

ND last month added commitments from a pair of players who could play inside -- Nile Sykes, like Morgan from the Chicago area, and Kolin Hill of Schertz, Texas, who was told by Irish coach Brian Kelly that he could end up at either inside or outside linebacker.

Also in the inside linebacker group is Greer Martini, who committed to Notre Dame in July 2012.

It had been speculated during the week that Morgan would commit to Notre Dame, and during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, that's what he did. Morgan had whittled that number down from a long list, one that included, among others, Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska. Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC.

247Sports.com ranks Morgan as a four-star recruit and the No. 3 inside linebacker nationally. Rivals.com ranks as the No. 2 player in Illinois, the nation's fifth-best inside linebacker and the 75th-best player in the country. CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming ranks Morgan as a four-plus star prospect.

"He is one of the more dominating, tough and instinctive ILB prospects in the country," Lemming said. "He is big, fast, aggressive and tough ballplayer with a take-no-prisoners attitude."

Morgan is the 23rd player to verbally commit to Notre Dame's recruiting class of 2014. Irish coach Brian Kelly cannot publicly comment on a prospect until that player has signed a national letter-of-intent. Signing day is Feb. 5.

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.