Seasoning Awaits Sykes

O'Malley's 21st of 23 "Eye in the Sky" film reviews for Notre Dame's incoming pledges examines Nile Sykes and how the Montini Catholic (Lombard, Ill) outside linebacker could improve the Irish roster -- and inside linebacker corps -- in future seasons.

Sykes,'s 49th-ranked outside linebacker prospect is expected to receive his initial evaluation as an inside 'backer in new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's defense.

Sykes: strengths and areas for development

Moves well in space, showed good instincts off the edge as an outside linebacker, both as a blitzer and in flats coverage during his senior season…Strikes defenders consistently, though plays a bit high at times…Major change will be in his sight progressions: the 6'1" 220-pound Sykes appeared comfortable reading a quarterback and his intended receivers in short zones, as well as the read-option handoff in the backfield -- now he'll have to navigate traffic and lead blockers while doing the same…Uses his feet and hands to shed, then closes the final 3-5 yards quickly and with a pop at the end…

Able to use inside leverage to beat blockers from the edge and get to the backfield (not only an upfield outside shoulder rusher)…As with most of the team's defensive prospects in this cycle, appears to understand quickly diagnose what an offense is trying to accomplish after the snap…Does not stay blocked long…Can get a bit high at times in the backfield as a tackler, but that's likely the desire for a kill shot…Once he receives more coaching at the position, Sykes won't miss the quarterback often on timed blitzes -- he has the makings of a fine pocket finisher...

Showed very good use of hands albeit vs. smaller edge blockers -- the move inside will challenge this assessment…A bit stiff in his pass drop but has good hands, initial quickness, and most important, instincts, and as an inside 'backer, that covers most of the bases as a pass defender…

Add 10 pounds of strength and ample work on the nuances of playing inside and Sykes could be a quicker than average (for Notre Dame) inside 'backer down the road…His physicality isn't in question, nor is desire, but playing uncovered between the tackles isn't easy after a career spent on the edge.

Road blocks to playing time

Sykes will doubtless work behind the remaining inside corps as he learns the position. His quickest route to the field is special teams but scout team duty and redshirt seems to be the most prudent approach.

Most inside linebackers need to gain strength and learn the position upon arrival, Sykes is no exception. (Recent redshirts to enjoy strong fifth years include Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Corey Mayes and Brandon Hoyte. Current 5th-year Kendall Moore is pending.)

Reminiscent of… Former Irish inside linebacker Corey Mays (2001-2005)

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