Matt Cashore / Irish Illustrated

Irish A-to-Z: D.J. Morgan

Notre Dame’s new look special teams concluded spring ball in search of eager, able tacklers. For Morgan, opportunity knocks as a sophomore.

  • Class: Sophomore (Eligibility 4)
  • On the depth chart: Third-string safety
  • Post-spring status: Unchanged

One of four safeties to join the 2016 recruiting class, Morgan was a three-star prospect per both Scout.com and 24/7 -- the nation’s 58th-ranked safety per the former; 29th according to the latter.

Rivals.com awarded the former Saint John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) product four-star status, its 23rd ranked safety nationally. He initially committed to Arizona State under the recruitment of wide receivers coach Del Alexander – both are now part of the program in South Bend instead. 

QUOTABLE

“I feel like we got the best football player off the best team in California in D.J. Morgan.” – Former Irish associate head coach, Mike Denbrock

BEST CASE SCENARIO

Running under the season’s opening kickoff or punt as a member of the Irish coverage units.

Morgan is one of a dozen young players that could carve his first niche on special teams for new coordinator Brian Polian. It should be his primary focus when the first whistle goes live in August Camp.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

A sophomore season on the sidelines.

If Morgan can’t find at least a part-time role on special teams this fall it doesn’t bode well for his long-term future. By all accounts, the California-product is an ideal fit as a student-athlete in South Bend…now he just has to forge his way onto the playing field.

In 2017, that likely has to be as part of the Irish Run Teams, because the redshirt-freshman ended spring ball a few ticks behind what can only be described as questionable collection of safety personnel.

Morgan’s career arc will become clear by season’s end. If he plays, he has a chance to be a long-term presence on Polian’s special teams. If not – younger talent is en route.

CAREER COMPARISON

Former safety redshirts of the Brian Kelly era include Chris Badger (religious mission), Eilar Hardy (torn ACL), C.J. Prosise (YO!), John Turner (career backup), Mykelti Williams (violation of team rules), and Morgan – the latter of which was the only freshman redshirt among four safeties in his recruiting class.

Prosise serves as the exception to the rule in terms of ensuing career arc.

Morgan can break the mold by not only finding a special teams role, as did Turner as a redshirt-freshman in 2013, but also thereafter building on it as a consistent tackler and player of impact on Polian’s specialty units.

Then again, All-World Irish Captain Harrison Smith once redshirted as a freshman safety, so hope is far from lost in terms of Morgan’s future career as a safety.


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