Brian Kelly recruited Nyles Morgan to be the next Manti Te'o.
On Saturday during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the four-star linebacker from Crete, Ill., accepted that challenge when he committed to Notre Dame. Morgan becomes Notre Dame's 23rd verbal commitment and rates as the nation's fifth-ranked inside linebacker, a need position within the Irish class. He's also the second-ranked player in Illinois this cycle.
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound Morgan chose Notre Dame over finalists Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Florida. The Irish, Rebels and Gators got official visits.
"It was hard you know because I really loved both schools who were contending for this. But it just came down to what was most important" Morgan said in announcing his commitment.
Morgan arrived at the Alamodome in San Antonio with just one hat in Notre Dame, although he had Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the table. He said he made his decision almost two weeks ago, holding off on the announcement for the nationally televised all-star game.
Despite the departure's of Morgan's area recruiter (Chuck Martin) and his potential position coach and coordinator (Bob Diaco), the Irish landed the linebacker with a strong push over the past two-and-a-half months. Kelly played a major part in that.
Notre Dame's run started with Morgan's attendance at the USC game, which he followed up with a trip to the home finale against BYU. Three days later Morgan returned to campus for another unofficial visit as Notre Dame moved into a strong position.
Kelly made his in-home visit with Morgan in December.
"They want me to really replace Manti Te'o," Morgan told Irish Illustrated this spring. "That's a pretty special feeling seeing that he won almost all the awards you can win. I would say that's a pretty good feeling."
Morgan's commitment is a major boost to Notre Dame's front seven, where the Irish now have 12 verbal commitments. Just at linebacker the Irish now have Morgan, Richard Yeargin, Nile Sykes, Kolin Hill, Jhonny Williams, Greer Martini and Drue Tranquill, who could be a safety as well.
Morgan is the highest rated of that group, with Yeargin the only other four-star commitment.
This recruiting run is a major departure from the past three cycles when Notre Dame signed eight linebackers total in Ishaq Williams, Jarrett Grace, Anthony Rabasa, Ben Councell, Romeo Okwara, Doug Randolph, Jaylon Smith and Michael Deeb.
The Irish shed four starting caliber linebackers this off-season in Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Prince Shembo and Danny Spond, who retired from football before the season.
Morgan's commitment keeps Notre Dame at No. 8 in the Rivals.com Team Rankings.