At 6'1, 220 pounds, 2014 Oak Park & River Forest (Ill.) high school's Nile Sykes is physically geared towards the linebacker position as opposed to defensive end. Throughout his high school career though, Sykes has been asked to keep his hand in the dirt to provide pressure off the edge and been very productive in the process.
But Sykes wants to make sure those days are over.
"I don't want people to think I'm a defensive end anymore," Sykes told GoBlueWolverine. "When they think of me I want them to think go ‘Nile Sykes, he's a linebacker who can also play defensive end, not a defensive end who's trying to play linebacker.' I want them to think linebacker first."
Sykes, in one of his first big opportunities to prove to scouts, reporters and coaches that he can move well enough with his athletic frame and 4.7 40 yard dash time to become a fixture at the linebacker position, showed well at the recent Core 6 Showcase in Chicago.
"I felt great working out," said Sykes. "I woke up with the mindset of going out there and showing the people that were going to be there, and whoever was watching live, that I can play linebacker and do it effectively, at a high level. There was great talent -- the running backs were great, and it was very rewarding knowing I came out with defensive MVP."
Sykes has had several schools visit with his high school coaches at OPRF in recent weeks, including Ohio State and Michigan, with the Buckeyes already informing him they're okay with his decision to be a stand-up defender.
"With different schools it varies," he said, "but Ohio State was in last week and I asked coach Vrabel what position did he see me as in the Ohio State defense, and he said most likely at SAM linebacker. That gave me some confidence in knowing that he could see me playing that position."
Michigan continues to evaluate Sykes with assistant Curt Mallory dropping by his school last week, and although the conversation between one another over the phone hasn't revolved around an eventual position at the next level, that could all change with Sykes hoping to get up to Ann Arbor soon.
"I don't know really what they're looking for me to play," said Sykes. "But in the coming months I want to find a day to go up there and talk some more about where they see me and where I stand right now."
"He said he just said they're interested and wants us to stay in contact and get up to some of their junior days."
The in-state Fighting Illini have also been able to strike up a good rapport with Sykes who has a scholarship offer in hand and plans to be in Champagne for an unofficial visit Saturday.
"My relationship is awesome with them," said Sykes. "I've gotten to know the coaches very well and even coach Beckman -- I talk to him from time to time. They really like me and I like them too."
Sykes, looking to major in business management or sports medicine in college, is gaining some interest from schools outside the region but, if possible, would like to remain in Big Ten country if he finds a school he's most comfortable with.
"If I'm really liking a school not in the Midwest then I'm going to go after it," said Sykes. " But if I can find something good up here -- cause I want my family to be able to come see me sometimes -- but if there's a school I can't turn down that's far away, I won't, but I would try to stay up here."
Sykes heads to Indiana Sunday for an unofficial visit, and he also plans to make it up to Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the coming months.
'14 Nile Sykes proving himself at LB
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