This time around we’re looking at Nyles Morgan, a recent 2014 offer for the Irish. The Irish have beaten most schools to the punch on this unique linebacker prospect. The only other offer Morgan currently holds is from the Illini. He’s unique in that it will be intriguing to see what defensive position Morgan winds up at. He has great overall athleticism, but he looks to be somewhat light to play inside in a 3-4 scheme and perhaps too short to play OLB.
Size/ Physical Growth Potential
As I’ve already mentioned, the biggest question mark with Nyles Morgan is his lack of size. He’s listed at six-foot-two and roughly 215 pounds. I’d guess that Morgan is probably closer to 6-foot-1. I say this because he doesn’t appear that tall on film and in general most high school players will bump their listed heights by an inch.
Playing in the 215 pound range doesn’t concern me as he’s still so young. Odds are he’ll surpass 230 pounds by the time he reports to a college camp as a frosh. But I doubt he’ll ever be heavier than 235 and still be productive. Looking at pictures of him out of his pads he doesn’t appear to be very broad through the shoulders or deep in his chest cavity. He does have good musculature for a kid his age, however it doesn’t appear as though the Crete-Monee high school standout has the frame to support too much more weight.
If he were to wind up choosing the Irish and coach Diaco is still using a 3-4 system as his predominant front, I just don’t know if Morgan will ever be comfortable taking on 300-plus pound offensive lineman on a consistent basis playing on the inside. And we now know the Irish coaches are looking for taller athletes to man both the CAT and DOG positions on the outside.
Despite his lack of ideal size for the linebacker position, Morgan is a very good athlete. He may even be athletic enough to play in the box as a run supporting strong safety. Same can be said for a talent like five-star commit Jaylon Smith, but Smith has the prerequisite size to play inside for the Irish.
He has great movement skills, this means that he can run laterally, vertically in coverage and downhill. When I evaluated another 2014 linebacker ND offer in Clifton Garrett, it was clear that Garrett was at his best running straight ahead, downhill. At times it looked as if Garrett was a locomotive on a railroad track. Morgan is more agile player.
Both players move very well, however, Morgan is more impressive in is his ability to efficiently start and stop. He has very good change of direction ability as well. Morgan does ‘flash’ while you watch his tape. There are several plays in which he plants his foot in the ground and covers over ten yards in a matter of a few strides. There is very little wasted motion while Morgan is in pursuit.
He seems to do a lot of different things well. He looks at ease when leaving the box in coverage. He’s adept as an edge rusher, not overly physical but his quickness makes up for a lack of physicality.
For such a young player Morgan really displays great instincts. Again, he’s very efficient and relatively productive for a young talent at inside linebacker. His footwork is very consistent, few if any false steps, which is an indication of him believing what he’s keying on.
If Morgan were to slide inside and play WILL for the Irish he’d have to be able to deal with oncoming offensive linemen. Unfortunately we don’t get to see him take on many offensive linemen at the second level. This lack of activity at beyond the line of scrimmage could be due to Morgan’s quickness. He’s difficult for an offensive lineman to get his hands on in space. Or it could be due to the fact that the level of competition Morgan is lining up against is not very strong.
When we do see him taking on blockers they are slot receivers. When Morgan does take on these smaller blockers he does a very good job of extending his arms to keep them at bay before throwing off to make the tackle. This is nice to see, but dealing with high school wide receivers is a far cry from much larger offensive linemen.
The 2014 talent from Crete-Monee high school takes very good angles and is a very willing tackler. One concern for me is a lack of thump upon impact with a ball carrier. Although he’s willing to stick his face into a ball carrier we rarely see him actually knock the ball carrier backwards. It looks like he needs to get his weight up to be able to drive though players more regularly. At this point he’s not a very stout player, he’s best suited to be covered up and used as a free lancing chase player.
The majority of his tackles are made by dragging down the ball carrier. This can become a dangerous habit because it leaves him vulnerable to separated shoulders and or torn ligaments within the shoulder itself. Trying to hang on running backs can lead to the shoulder socket being twisted into unnatural position. His tackling technique and overall presence in the middle of a defense needs to improve if he wants to become a dominant inside linebacker.
I do like Nyles Morgan as an athlete and prospect but I have a difficult time making a projection as to what position he’ll be best suited for at the college level, especially for the Irish. Coach Kelly and his staff have established a prototype for both outside linebacker positions, one of the major criteria for them to recruit the position is height, specifically players who measure in at 6-foot-4 or taller. Morgan falls short here, no pun intended.
I can see Morgan lining up as a WILL, but again, I don’t know if he’ll grow to a size where he can be impactful in a 3-4. It will be an ever looming challenge for him to deal with uncovered guards working to him at the second level.
Size: 75 (Great athlete but a bit slight)
Strength: 70 (We don’t see him make too many impactful tackles)
Speed: 85 (Runs very well, could potentially play strong safety)
Athletic Skills: 85 (Moves well in all directions)
Versatility: 75 (Limited flexibility due to lack of size)
Overall Grade: 3
90-100 – Elite/Exceptional: Skill set is rare and gives prospect ability to dominate
80-89 – Very Good/Outstanding: Skill set is a significant strength
70-79 – Average: Skill set is solid, not a significant weakness
60-69 – Below Average: Skill set is not a strength for this player and could become a liability
50-59 – Very Poor: Prospect does not possess this trait and it is a definite liability
OVERALL/UPSIDE GRADE KEY
5 – Elite: Player is one of the best players at his position nationally, potentially dominant
4 – Very Good/Outstanding: Player is a potential standout and starter, could also play early
3 – Solid: Player is a potential contributor, could eventually start down the road
2 – Below Average: Player does not possess the talent to be a significant contributor
1 – Poor: Let’s be honest, Notre Dame is not going to bring in anyone with a one!!