Friday, October 10, 2008

Zenyatta Zeke Motta | by Pat

Despite a last minute offer from Florida that not surprisingly was extended right before he left for an official visit to South Bend this past weekend, Florida safety Zeke Motta made the call to ND yesterday and publicly committed to the Fighting Irish.

“I just got the right feeling from Notre Dame,” Motta said. “I just felt like I belonged there, and I didn’t get that at Florida. Not to take anything away from Florida — that’s a great team, and I would have loved to play there — but I felt more comfortable at Notre Dame.

“I just had to do what’s best for me.”
The 6'2" 210 pound Motta is the 16th member of the recruiting Class of 2009 and the 6th defensive player. Nearly a 4.0 student, Motta also plans to enroll early along with Tyler Stockton and E.J. Banks.

In addition to Florida, Motta also had scholarship offers from a whole host of programs including Florida State, Clemson, Wisconsin, North Carolina, UCLA, Stanford, Boston College, and Auburn, where his dad played football. The recruiting sites are pretty high on Motta as well, even if they aren't completely sure if he'll wind up as a safety or linebacker. He's a 4-star recruit on both Scout and Rivals. Scout lists him as the #19 safety and #245 on their Scout 300 list. Rivals slots Motta as the 10th best outside linebacker prospect in the country. They also included him in their breakdown of the safety position where they named him the #1 most physical safety in the country. ESPN has Motta as the #28 safety in the country.

He appears set as an outside linebacker at Notre Dame though at the strongside spot currently occupied by linebacker/safety Harrison Smith.
“The defense they run is designed for a lot of blitzes,” Motta said. “As an outside linebacker, I will be lining up on the tight end a lot and lining up in space and definitely going in on blitzes. ... They liked what I showed them and felt I was the right fit for their scheme.”
From his safety spot as a junior, Motta totaled 143 tackles and also blocked an impressive 5 kicks. His production earned him 1st Team Class 6A honors in talent rich Florida. Already this year he has 42 tackles and another 2 blocked kicks.

This past summer, Motta attended the FBU Top Gun camp which featured some of the most talented recruits in the country, including players like Cierre Wood and Shaquelle Evans. Motta was named to the Top 11 for best defensive players in the camp. The writeup makes it sound like he should be able to make the transition to linebacker fairly easily.
Motta displayed good closing speed in drills with his great lateral movement and excellent ball skills. If he concentrated on playing linebacker in college, he has the frame and tools to be one of the best around. He has good height, muscular calves and is really cut. Somebody was calling him Brian Urlacher at the camp, and it's easy to see the comparison physically.
Slightly creepy calf muscle information aside, Motta's work at the camp can be seen in this video recap.

There is also some video of Motta's high school highlights, courtesy of Keep an eye out for those blocked kicks. Motta has all the makings of an instant special teams contributor.

Speaking of, they are working with Sports Illustrated to cover recruiting and released their own Top 200 list of recruits. Here are the current ND recruits who made the list:
5. Cierre Wood
19. Tyler Stockton
70. Chris Watt
110. Zach Martin
141. E.J. Banks
173. Zeke Motta
184. Marlon Pollard
With the continued rise in teams playing the spread offense, safety/linebacker hybrids are great options for a defense. Players that are big enough to defend the run, but still comfortable covering backs and slot receivers in pass coverage are becoming increasingly valuable. At the very least ND will need more speed on defense to counter the speed that Michigan is bringing in on offense for their spread attack. With Dan Fox and now Zeke Motta, ND is doing a good job of adding more speed to the linebacker corp.

Finally -- and most importantly -- Motta would be the first Zeke to play football at Notre Dame since Bill "Zeke" O'Connor, a left end on Leahy's team in 1944.