Nyles Morgan will most likely be the key to any success Notre Dame has in 2016.
As the saying goes, the most popular player on the Notre Dame football team is the backup quarterback. Last year (and perhaps most of 2014 as well) the most popular player may have been the backup middle linebacker, Nyles Morgan.
For all of the emotional ownership Notre Dame fans had with Joe Schmidt and his story of walk-on turned starter, there was no denying the fact that Schmidt was lacking in every physical category possible when compared to Morgan. It wasn’t even close. Still, Schmidt possessed something much more valuable to Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder in that he understood the mental part of the game, and directed the the team on the field- almost like a player-coach.
All last season, we watched as Schmidt struggled and yet- no Morgan. Fans were beside themselves, and the reasons / excuses about Schmidt knowing the defense better than Morgan were falling on deaf ears as we saw Schmidt getting worked over, physically. The drumbeat for Morgan got louder.
Joe Schmidt is gone, and now after spring ball, we are told that Morgan has finally grasped this defense that many have described as ridiculously too complex. That’s great, but my first thoughts about all of this still haunt me.
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What happens if something happens to Nyles Morgan? What if VanGorder loses Morgan mentally, or even worse, what if Morgan gets injured (which is a plague upon this Notre Dame house)? Who do the Irish turn to as the man in the middle? Who steps up and stops the bleeding?
While most fans could rattle off a few names, the truth of the matter is that there really is no one right now. No one that can even come close to the potential that Nyles Morgan is holding. This makes Morgan perhaps the most valuable player on the Notre Dame football team for the 2016 season. Can he live up to that hype? Can he live up to that legacy in the making?
With Joe Schmidt gone, and the heat up on Brian VanGorder to produce a better defense, all of those answers will go hand in hand with the number of wins the Irish can rack up. It may not be fair, but the greatest players answer those questions and answer them undoubtedly.