After only a few days on the job, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has already made a positive impact on the recruiting trail.
Among the players VanGorder visited with in the last few days was Nile Sykes, a three-star inside linebacker from Lombard, Ill. The pair spent about an hour together Friday at Montini High School, and Sykes came away impressed with VanGorder's personality and coaching credentials.
"He seemed like a really nice guy, he seemed like he cared," Sykes said in a phone interview Saturday. "We didn't just talk about football. The first thing he wanted to talk to me about was my family … He just wanted to know more about me. I can appreciate that."
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Sykes — along with fellow Chicago-area commit Nyles Morgan — is a key commit for a Notre Dame team needing to add depth at inside linebacker. He committed to Notre Dame before Brian Kelly hired VanGorder as his defensive coordinator, though he was recruited by former offensive coordinator Chuck Martin. Sykes said he didn't know former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco too well.
VanGorder told Sykes he has the look of a Will inside linebacker, though cautioned that plenty can change between now and fall camp. But here's where VanGorder's NFL experience came into play — after spending seven seasons coaching with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, he has a bank of experience to impart on his collegiate pupils.
In this case, VanGorder offered Sykes a promising comparison: A former star at Mizzou, first-round pick and captain of the Falcons' defense.
"He said I kind of reminded him of (Sean) Weatherspoon from the Falcons," Sykes said. "I guess that's a good thing."