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Notre Dame Football 2014 Recruiting – Linebacker Review

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Coach Brian Kelly and his staff addressed a key need at linebacker in the 2014 class, bringing in three talented prospects ready to make a contribution.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


Welcome to the fifth of our six part, in-depth series on the 2014 Notre Dame football recruiting class. Following signing day, we unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family.

This installment will focus on the linebackers: Nyles Morgan, Greer Martini, Nile Sykes.

For reference, here is the previous positional piece:

Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Tight End

Defensive End

Defensive Tackle

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.


Irish Linebacker - Signees
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.972 Nyles Morgan Crete, IL 6-1/225 Linebacker
.883 Greer Martini Woodberry Forest, VA 6-3/232 Linebacker
.872 Nile Sykes Lombard, IL 6-2/223 Linebacker

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on


LB Nyles Morgan

(Crete, IL - Crete-Monee) - 6'1"/225

OFD Average: 96

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Nyles Morgan out of Crete-Monee High School, played on a state championship team as a junior, and this year came up a little short. One thing that stands out about Nyles is his thirst for knowledge of the game. Every time I'm with him, he just wants to talk about football, and he's a good student, and his mom and dad want him to just talk about academics, and he's a good student and he recognizes the value of getting a degree at Notre Dame. A couple of his choices were Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, so he understands that clearly, but every time he's with me he just wants to talk about football. He is a student of the game.

He couldn't wait for today because after today he gets to talk a lot more football, and on a daily basis he's going to be talking about football.

Just got a great nose for the football, plays downhill, plays fast, great instincts, and when he arrives, he arrives with a bad attitude when he gets to the football. He's just that kind of player. Very, very talented. You know, I think from our standpoint, an inside guy that certainly has the physical tools to be an exceptional player here at Notre Dame.

Eric: 93

Pretty close to the total package at middle linebacker for what the Irish are looking for out of the position. He's got quick feet and hits extremely hard. I don't think he's amazing in pass coverage--not many high schoolers are--but there's a suddenness to his game that makes him dangerous even when making reads on pass plays. Athletically there's a lot to like and his play recognition is great too. His combination of size and speed is exciting. I don't have him as the top player in the class but he should be one of the best players on the team even as an underclassman. He's got the potential to be an All-American.

alstein: 97

Complete package as an inside linebacker, not quite as "ready-made" physically as 1 or 2 other prospects in his class, but not far off either. Likely instant impact on the 2-deep.

pburns2010: 97

I love the way Morgan attacks the LOS. He's going to play extremely aggressively at the next level, and has some work to do to fit into a system where he won't be the best athlete on the field at all times. That being said, I expect him to be starting next to Jarrett Grace by the end of next season if he can pick up the scheme to go with his skillset.

4pointshooter: 96

Jim Miesle: 95

Larz wrote a nice piece last week about what Morgan brings to the table. Like most LBs coming into college, he will have to work a bit harder to refine the pass coverage aspects of his game. I think he sees the field early and often as a freshman. Overall, it wouldn't surprise me to see a similar development arc to Manti Te'o - plays some initially to adjust to the speed of the college game, then is in the conversation to start by the time late October or November rolls around. He will be a fixture on the Irish defense for the next 3 or 4 years.


LB Greer Martini

(Woodberry Forest, VA - Woodberry Forest) - 6'3"/232

OFD Average: 83

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Greer Martini out of Woodberry Forest High School. That's been a really good high school for us. Obviously we've got a couple guys in Randolph and Prosise, so there will be our third. Coach Alexander does a great job of developing his players, and they're just a great fit here at Notre Dame. Greer Martini is one of the smarter defensive players we signed. We got a chance to spend some time with him here on campus. His leadership skills, his ability to recognize and really -- you have to have leaders. He's a really good player, and he's a really good leader, and he'll be a very good linebacker for us here at Notre Dame and will also be a guy that makes others around him better.

So we're really excited about having Greer with us. He's a good size at 6'3", 225. He's only going to get bigger and stronger while he's here. He'll be an inside linebacker for us, and again, a position of need for us moving forward.

Eric: 82

Best described as a big, physical, down-hill linebacker. A middle linebacker's middle linebacker if you will. Martini looks polished in some important areas. He scrapes across the line and reads plays really well. When he diagnoses a play he's aggressive in pursuit and fills holes really well. He's a lot like Fox and Calabrese in that when he makes the right read he can be a really effective inside linebacker, which is probably a big reason why Diaco liked him so much so early in the process. My big concern is sideline to sideline agility and overall athleticism which again mirrors Fox and Calabrese. He's got nice speed but maybe not quite like Jarrett Grace. I'm a little concerned he'll get squeezed out of playing time if there's a significant shift away from a 4-linebacker system. That colors my grade quite a bit but Martini could be a very steady run-stopping Will linebacker if the opportunity presents itself.

alstein: 83

Explosive hitter with a great frame to work with. May lack true sideline-to-sideline athleticism but could make major impact as OLB in 4-3 looks.

pburns2010: 82

Martini is a bit small and lacks the talent that many of the other LBs in this class bring to the table. He will certainly need a year to put some weight on, and even then will need to try to crack the two deep at OLB. If he is able to always be in the right spot, he may be able to make up for his deficiencies, but that is a tall order in college football.

4pointshooter: 84

Jim Miesle: 85

Martini really feels like the forgotten player in this class-likely because he has been committed since the summer of 2012. There really is a lot to like about his game and his potential. Eric compares him to Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese-which is fair, but he is more of a combination of the two than anything else. He needs a year to add some additional weight and focus on some speed and agility drills, but like so many other guys in this class has a nice upside. I won't be surprised to see him starting in a few years.


LB Nile Sykes

(Lombard, IL - Montini) - 6'2"/223

OFD Average: 88

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Nile Sykes, the linebacker from Montini Catholic High School. Chicago Sun Times all-area, just a great addition to our class. Really like Nile and his personality. He's got a great family. Mom and dad, really excited about being a part of the Notre Dame family. Listen, that matters, too. We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family, and to bring Nile and his family in, he's a versatile player. He can play inside, he can play outside. He is a physical player. He's got very good ball skills, instincts, and again, another versatile player in our front seven that's going to add to the depth of our football team.

Eric: 88

Great player with really impressive quickness and first step. Some think he'll develop into an edge rusher but he's too good in space to do that. As a middle linebacker Sykes should flourish at Notre Dame. He'll have the size to get off blocks but has the foot speed and tackling power to impact the game from all over the field. He's big for a high school senior and his speed is solid. He doesn't look quite on Morgan's level with overall speed and I think that limits his potential a little bit. Just a nice athletic big body who is going to help out early in his career. Having him and Morgan together in the class is a humungous upgrade at middle linebacker.

alstein: 84

Recent convert to linebacker is a natural run stopper. Needs to develop coverage skills and play diagnosis might be a concern for someone so inexperienced, but should have the athleticism to play any LB spot.

pburns2010: 91

Sykes has so many tools I am looking forward to seeing in an Irish uniform. His quickness and attack mentality when coming into tackles is extremely exciting, and he has very active hands when he gets engaged at the LOS. I expect him to start training at the drop OLB position behind Jaylon Smith, but with some additional weight, he could play either OLB spot in a 4-3.

4pointshooter: 89

Jim Miesle: 88

Sykes (along with Morgan and Martini) will help inject some additional athleticism into the linebacking corps for the Irish. He worked out at Core 6 Athletes with Nyles Morgan and LSU signee Clifton Garrett and didn't miss a step. A transfer in high school led to a position change (from DE to LB), which really helped show off his ability playing in space. Like so many other members of this class, he has the flexibility to play multiple positions or in multiple fronts. I think he plays more weak-side (WILL) than MIKE over his career in South Bend, and could be the perfect complement to the aforementioned Morgan in a year or two.