February 5, 2014 // Recruiting

Brian Kelly on Notre Dame’s Defensive Recruits

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Nyles Morgan - Notre Dame ILB

Photo: John Albright / Icon SMI

Brian Kelly broke down each of the members of the #GoldenArmy14 that Notre Dame signed on Wednesday.  We already highlighted what Kelly had to say about the offensive recruits so here we will do the same for the defensive recruits.

Grant Blankenship – OLB/DE - Here’s a young man that has just blossomed in the last couple years, 6’6″.  I was in his home last week, and he just continues to grow.  He’s about 265 pounds.  We loved him in camp.  We had a hard time with anybody blocking him.  He was a guy that just stood out right away for us when we saw him in our summer camp working out.  Had a great senior year, and again, a guy that continued to just grow.  I think he’s just starting to hit his potential level, and it’s only going to get better and better. 

Jonathan Bonner – OLB/DE - He was the St.Louis Post Dispatch Defensive Player of the Year.  We really project him to be an outside player for us, an edge player, rush player, a guy that gets after the quarterback, and really was impressed with Jonathan, his personality, his character.   When he came up here, again, a lot of these guys we see firsthand, so our evaluations in a lot of these young men, we got a chance to see them.  Jonathan really impressed us in all of those areas. 

Daniel Cage – DT - This guy is a ferocious player.  He’s an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball.  His strength, lower body strength, he’s a guy that’s going to play the shade, he can play the nose.  He’s a guy that’s very disruptive inside.  And again, I know that area pretty good.  It’s good football, Winton Woods, they play a great schedule, got a real good nose for the football.  Just good competition and plays the game hard every snap. 

Jay Hayes – DE - He has been probably one of our‑‑ I would say best recruiters in a sense from day one.  He’s talked about Notre Dame and why you make a decision to come to Notre Dame.  I remember one of his quotes when I was with him was, Coach, some of these guys don’t get it.  They don’t really understand why you would come to Notre Dame.  And he’s such a thoughtful kid at his age that he understands why he would come to Notre Dame for all the right reasons, getting a degree and opening up doors for him for the rest of his life. 
Having said that, he’s a heck of a football player.  Long, and he’s long.  He’s 6’4″, long arms, about 275 pounds.  He’s got multi‑position capabilities.  He can play inside, he can play outside.  Really like the way he plays the game, ferocious attacking player and a guy that we have a lot of trust in their head coach.  

Kolin Hill – OLB - Kolin was a young man that we offered when he didn’t have a lot of action, but we saw a young man that we thought we could develop into just an outstanding football player.  Here’s a guy that really will continue to just develop.  He has not even seen his ceiling yet.  Really excited about Colin and what he can do for us at the linebacker position. 

Greer Martini – ILB - 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.  

Pete Mokwuah – DT - A shorter recruiting period for us, as well, but Pete was a great fit for us, and looking for to augment our defensive line position, we wanted to find the right profile young man.  He’s Nigerian.  We’ve had a great Nigerian connection here, Romeo Okwara, Prince Shembo, just to name a few, and then Pete was able to connect Catholic institution, goes to a Catholic school.  That profile fit very well for us.  A kid that’s serious about his academics here at Notre Dame.  All very good profiling for us in terms of the right fit here at Notre Dame and a 6’4″, 315‑pound defensive lineman, pretty good fit there, too. 

Nyles Morgan – ILB - 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. 

Nile Sykes – ILB - 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. 

Drue Tranquill – S - I offered him a scholarship, and we really didn’t have a position for him because we just loved the way he played the game, and so that’s kind of how the recruiting process went on Drue.  People have asked does he play safety, does he play running back?  I don’t know where he plays, but he’s going to play somewhere here at Notre Dame because he’s a darned good football player, he’s athletic, he’s competitive, and we’ll find a place for him somewhere.  

Andrew Trumbetti – DE - The thing that I would say about Andrew, the thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film, he was returning kickoffs in high school, and not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs.  We knew about his athletic ability right away, and certainly we loved the fact that he was a multisport player, was a track athlete, and when we got a chance, when Coach Diaco was here before he moved on to Connecticut, got a chance to see him in track practice and got a chance to see his footwork and his quickness and all those things, and that started the recruiting process for us, and then obviously getting a chance to see him up on campus in our summer camps.

Nick Watkins – CB - This kid is an exceptional football player.  We think we got one of the best corners around.  Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us.  He can play man, he can play zone.  I got a chance to see him play.  I didn’t see him play one game in person, but I saw a lot of his tape.  I just think he’s an outstanding player that is going to develop here, and again, from my standpoint, love the ability that we can get a corner that has some size to him. 

Jhonny Williams – OLB/DE - Here’s a young man that just started play the game, 6’6″, 230 pounds, and who knows what his future is going to be.  There’s no ceiling on Jhonny Williams’s future. You know, he’s one of the top players in the state of Michigan, and I think from our perspective, we’ve got one of those guys that if you call him a sleeper or whatever you want to call it, he didn’t play great competition, but he’s going to get an opportunity to play against the very best competition here.  But we’ll take that any time with his athletic skill set.  At his size, his athletic ability, we’re really excited about developing Jhonny Williams. 

Comments to this Article

  • ccb commented on February 6th, 2014 at 2:05 am

    nice summary!
    This is a meat and potatoes recruit class – front 7 on D/ + OL on offense.
    If I had to choose between this kind of class and flashy RB or WR’s.
    I’ll take this class.

    Games are won in the trenches, ie see the super bowl Seahawks.
    Go Irish!


  • Woody O’Hardy commented on February 6th, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Concur. Love this class! with Bryant’s redshirt. And the talent from last year, I think this is an impressive haul. This class compliments last year’s perfectly.

    Like the Seahawks comparison. Let’s see what BVG can do!!!

    Well done Coach Kelly.



  • jeff commented on February 6th, 2014 at 4:21 am

    Tee Sheppard to Ole Miss. Fresno has not been good to ND.


  • drew commented on February 6th, 2014 at 8:07 am

    Kelly said he needs to “cast a wider net ” on d- lineman they recruit. No —-! They lucked out on bringing in Mokwuah & Cage or it would have been a disaster of Willingham proportions.


    SteelFanRob replied on February 6th, 2014 at 5:48 pm


    Don’t invoke Willingham negatively. You’ll offend the ever offensive “Ron Burgundy” and he’ll call you a racist. Plus, like a total scumbag, he’ll give out your Social Security # or other personal information about you he got unsolicited and unwelcome on this site.

    I’d be careful if I were you, “drew”, “stay classy” “Ron Burgundy” might just begin to stalk you in one of his homoerotic fantasies.


    Ron Burgundy replied on February 6th, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Simmer down Roberto and grab a cupcake.


    SteelFanRob replied on February 6th, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Ron = cupcake

  • duranko commented on February 6th, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    ccb, the depth chart is now more solid than it has been since 1993, albeit young in the DL and ILB areas. This now enables the staff recruit proactively rather than reactively. Barnett is the cornerstone of the 2015 class. What is needed are some explosive players, difference makers. We have some on campus, Bryant, Folston, Fuller, Brown, Hunter, Smith, Redfield, perhaps Russell but to climb the next rung we need to have the kind of guys who can make plays against the FSUs and Alabamas of the college football world.

    Again, we are very young and inexperienced at DL and ILB, but when you contemplate Spring Practice 2015 it is going to be a joy to watch the battles on the Offensive Line and the battles for starting positions on the defensive Front Seven.

    The foundation is solid. We just need to add some more playmakers.


  • duranko commented on February 6th, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    the more closely you examine the defensive recruit list, the better one feels. You have to ask yourself, who are the two or three recruits who are the reaches? And, in fact if you go back through the class of 2012 who do you find who is a reach on either side of the ball, give or take a John Turner?.


    fxm replied on February 7th, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I think this Jhonny Williams is going to turn out to be real scary to opposing QBs down the road. Although against lesser competition, I have heard some compare his film to Aaron Lynch.


  • Jack W commented on February 6th, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    We are going to look back on this class in 3 years and think how did wet so many great defensive players. I see this group as the ones that won two national championships! Hopeful thinking, I know.
    Go IRISH!


  • JOHN F. FITZGERALD commented on February 7th, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Quality article

    we need quality in all out ventures


  • Dave commented on February 7th, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    I like that there are a lot of very good multi-sport athletes who make the best college football play makers.
    Go Irish!


  • Storespook commented on February 9th, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Looks like some good recruits on the D side. Now, hopefully, they can prosper from coaching & playing opportunity and wreak havoc on the field of play.


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