Blue and Gold Illustrated’s Dan Murphy (subscription required) reported Wednesday that incoming Notre Dame football freshman linebacker Nile Sykes won’t be playing for the Irish this fall, citing unnamed sources.
Soon after the report was published, Sykes tweeted, “I am still currently a Notre Dame student.” The tweet has since been deleted from Sykes’ Twitter account.
If—and that's still an important distinction to make—the linebacker were to leave the university, what impact would that have on Notre Dame in 2014?
Sykes, a 3-star signee from Oak Park, Illinois, was slated as the No. 36 outside linebacker in the country and ranked at No. 459 overall. On national signing day, Irish head coach Brian Kelly called Sykes a “great addition to our class.”
“[We] really like Nile and his personality,” Kelly said. “He's got a great family. Mom and dad, really excited about being a part of the Notre Dame family. Listen, that matters, too. We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family.”
Kelly praised Sykes’ ball skills and instincts and said the Montini Catholic High School product has the versatility to play inside and outside.
Sykes is one of three linebackers in Notre Dame’s class of 2014. According to Murphy, Sykes has been projected to play outside linebacker for the Irish. While Sykes—the lowest-rated linebacker signee in Notre Dame’s class—likely would not be making major contributions as a freshman, a potential departure would further thin an already questionable position.
Notre Dame returns sophomore Jaylon Smith but must replace Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox and Prince Shembo in the linebacking corps. With Jarrett Grace’s status still up in the air and Ben Councell also returning from injury, Smith is the only healthy player with starting experience.
Still, Sykes probably would not be expected to leapfrog other returning players such as John Turner and James Onwualu on the depth chart.
Thus, a potential departure would mainly impact the Irish down the road. Should Sykes leave the program and free up a scholarship, Notre Dame could take on another player in the class of 2014. Thanks to a recent run of commitments, the Irish currently have 17 players in their class of 2015. Over the past 34 days, Notre Dame has landed 10 new commitments. The surge has bumped the Irish to No. 8 in the class rankings.
But Notre Dame may also be approaching its upper limit for commitments in the class of 2015. A host of players in the senior class could have fifth-year options, which would further tighten the strings on the size of this cycle’s recruiting class.
Whose is next to join? Class is closing out quickly. Go Irish!— Kerry Cooks (@CoachKerryCooks) July 3, 2014
First, however, there is clarity needed on Sykes’ situation.
Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.