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Notre Dame Football

Scouting the Roster: Nyles Morgan

May 17, 2017

Player name: Nyles Morgan

Player position: Mike linebacker

Years left of eligibility: One

Projected rank on the depth chart:
Unquestioned starter in the middle of the defense

Player productivity so far: As a freshman, Morgan was forced into the lineup before he was ready. He recorded 47 total tackles while starting games down the stretch after Joe Schmidt's injury.

He should have been on the field more as a sophomore and had very little production as a backup, but took off last season as a starter.

He led the team in tackles (90) and sacks (4) in 2016. It was a very good season for a first year starter and it included 5 games where he put up double digits in tackles.

What player does best: Morgan has special physical traits and we see that on the field with his play. Whether it is blowing up a guard like Quenton Nelson in the spring game or running down a play near the sideline, he can make many plays others can't.

He is a strong player versus the inside run game because he is good at taking on and shedding blocks. He's also improving as a blitzer and is a plus player in coverage. Morgan does a good job of running with crossers and matching up with the tight ends down the field.

He can take backside angles to the football by shooting gaps and making plays that way as well. Morgan is an all-around talent with ability to do just about everything at a high level.

What player needs to work on: In saying all of that, he isn't a perfect player from play to play. He must be more consistent and has a tendency to overrun plays at times. He doesn't miss tackles often, but missed more than he should have last season. He easily could have been a 100 tackle guy.

Although he can look dominant at times, he will disappear for stretches of games. He hasn't quite established himself as a great player yet mostly because of that.

His recognition skills are improving, but he can do more to avoid blocks by diagnosing things quicker rather than having to fight through trash all the time. He can also improve his overall pass rush skills.

Productivity of former ND players and top players in the country at his position:

Morgan's numbers: 90 tackles 6 TFLs 4 sacks 3 PBUs

Joe Schmidt 2014 - 8.13 tackles per game (Morgan had 7.5 last season) 0.5 TFL 2 INT 1 PBU

Schmidt 2015 - 78 tackles 4 TFLs 1 sack 1 INT 3 PBUs

Manti Te'o 2011 - 128 tackles 13.5 TFLs 5 sacks 2 PBUs

Te'o 2012 - 113 tackles 5.5 TFLs 1.5 sacks 7 INTs 4 PBUs

Reuben Foster Alabama 2016 - 115 tackles (15 games) 13 TFLs 5 sacks 2 PBUs

Raekwon McMillan Ohio State 2016 - 102 tackles 7 TFLs 2 sacks 2 PBUs 2 FFs

Jarrad Davis Florida 2016 - 60 tackles (9 games) 6 TFLs 2 sacks 4 PBUs

Ben Boulware Clemson 2016 - 116 tackles (14 games) 11.5 TFLs 4 sacks 1 INT 2 PBUs 3 FFs

Marquel Lee Wake Forest 2016 - 105 tackles 20 TFLs 7.5 sacks 3 FFs

What can we hope for? I think we can hope for a monster senior season from Morgan. From a numbers perspective, he wasn't that different from some of the top inside linebackers in college football last season. I assume that we will see an improvement with those numbers in this scheme and the new coaches as well.

I don't think it is out of the question for him to have aspirations of a season that is similar to the kind of year Te'o had in 2011 or 2012. If that happens, then I would expect the defense as a whole to greatly improve as well and for him to be an All-American candidate.

He has the physical traits that can make him a disruptive football player and he'll be playing in a defense that preaches disruption. It could equal to a dynamic season that could translate into him becoming a day one or day two pick in next year's NFL Draft.

What is a realistic expectation?
I think it's realistic that he will get to over 100 tackles this season and have at the very least slight improvements with his sacks and tackle for loss numbers. It's realistic to think he will be a top 10 inside linebacker in the country this fall. That's not far off from Morgan's floor, to be honest.

Some of his overall production and level of play could be affected by the players in front of him, though. If the defensive tackles are not playing at an above average level, it will make Morgan's job a lot more difficult. Because of that there should be a little bit of precaution in assuming he is going to be a Butkus award finalist simply because he should improve as an individual and under these new coaches. He may improve and it might not show as much as it could due to the surrounding talent.

However, looking at what Marquel Lee did at Wake Forest should make Morgan feel very positive about his own expectations this season. Clark Lea helped take Lee's game to a higher level as a senior. His abilities as a blitzer/pass rusher shined through. We could very well see that with Morgan this season with him in the backfield making plays much more often.
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