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Irish A-to-Z: Daniel Cage

Jun 17, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

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While he’s hardly a recruit that spent a lot of time on Notre Dame fans’ radar, defensive tackle Daniel Cage became a key component in the Irish’s 2014 recruiting plans with the departure of Matt Dickerson late in the cycle. A much-needed interior presence on the defensive line, Cage’s recruitment was brief but successful.

At over 300-pounds and 6-foot-2, Cage has the versatility to be a one- or two-gap player for the Irish. He’s also one of the first targets and acquisitions for Brian VanGorder, the product of a “wider net” being cast.

Let’s take a closer look at the incoming freshman and Cincinnati native.


6’2″, 305 lbs.



While he came onto Notre Dame’s radar late, Cage is far from a consolation prize. For a lack of national profile, Cage has several offers that point to a potentially productive player, with Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas all chasing him.

Cage didn’t take an official visit to South Bend until the last week of January, just days before Signing Day. And while his recruitment was a flurry of activity, Brian Kelly sounded more than happy to see Cage’s fax come in early that Wednesday morning.

“As you know, it was not a long recruiting process. We told Daniel the circumstances, because of losing a player and then having a couple of guys go early, we had to recruit him in a shorter window,” Kelly said on Signing Day. “But we were able to show him why we thought Notre Dame was the right fit for him, and he got a chance to see Notre Dame, and he signed with us today.”

Cage acknowledged that Bob Diaco didn’t initially offer him when he was first evaluated. But VanGorder’s entrance — and the changing personnel on the roster — reopened those doors.



It’s worth noting that Brian Kelly knows Cincinnati quite well from his time as the Bearcats head coach, and he spoke of the reputation not just of Cage, but the Winton Woods program. What that means in the short term is still up for debate.

With just YouTube clips to look at, Cage is clearly a big body, but he’s got athleticism that appealed to Brian VanGorder. The interest was mutual once a shift to a 4-3 system was discussed, making Cage more than just a run-plugger who eats blocks. He played as both a defensive end and tackle in high school, though projects as a tackle at Notre Dame.

Finding the field may be easier than expected, with the depth behind Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day still very much a work-in-progress. But without any updates from campus on Cage’s acclimation to college football, it’s still an educated guess to see how quickly he sees the field.



What will be fascinating to follow is the “larger net” that Kelly and VanGorder cast for defensive line prospects. Looking back at the earliest offers from this coaching staff, all the way back in 2010 and 2011, the hit rate is about 50-50 on those “developmental” offers. Keeping a complete flier like Bruce Heggie out of it, this staff has done a very good job finding below-the-radar type players like Romeo Okwara and Chris Brown, humble recruiting rankings that will be exceeded come this season.

Cage will be part of a new wave of defensive tackle prospects, with five bodies set to join the program between the 2014-15 recruiting cycles. They’ll be replacing players like Tony Springmann and Chase Hounshell, playing a different system, but hopefully turning into effective players.

That Cage came on board at the end of January doesn’t mean anything. But after being in the NFL for the better part of the last decade, VanGorder’s been given a lot of say in player evaluations, and Cage was clearly his call. That he was so quick to jump on the Cincinnati prospect should give us an early litmus test of VanGorder’s player evaluations and also a look at how the defense will change under his direction.


The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne


  1. iamgolden4life - Jun 17, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    I would almost Guarantee that Daniel Cage sees the field for this year . This guy has got a mean streak in him that will help anchor this D-Line sooner rather later. I hope Tony Springmann is able to stay healthy all year long too because he would bring that veteran leadership to this D- Line we will need throughout our daunting schedule. Maybe it’s just me but I’m overly excited about the progress we have made in the trenches in these recent years and the potential that comes with the hiring of coach BVG to teach these young men. I think overall that his aggressive style of defense with our front 4 getting after the Q.B. and corners that will be left on Islands with their man, will only entice future big time recruits to come play in BVG defense. Quick note I read someone say that Hilliard has requested to room with Crawford @ the Opening in July, take it as you will. WEAreND

  2. njnapa - Jun 17, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    Love Cage’s tape and expecting him to be a solid contributor this year. This Van Gorder defense is going to be fun to watch!

  3. shaunodame - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:59 AM

    I think you said it well Keith, Daniel Cage is one of our first looks at the new style Defensive Tackles we will add over the next few seasons. Interested to see how these guys can impact the game and help our defense. In VanGorder we now Trust.

  4. yaketyyacc - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:29 AM

    Cage is another addition to the aggressive defense van Gorder is instilling and installing.
    Navy may have the triple option, but even that cannot penetrate the concrete wall Van Gorder is constructing.
    Definitely going to be an interesting season ahead.

  5. upthera44 - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    Surprised so many are predicting major contributions from defensive lineman like Cage: straight out of high school and not particularly heralded. In an elite program, shouldn’t players like Cage should develop for a year or two before being major contributors

    • iamgolden4life - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Guys like Micah Dew Treadway will benefit from the red shirt year and possibly Pete Maukwah(not sure that’s spelled correctly) but Daniel Cage is going to be in the 2 deep this year. He has way too much talent not to be on the field and is physically ready to move OT’s and OG’s off the line of scrimmage and into the backfield on a weekly basis. It was a blessing to get this kid so late in last years class. We must continue to build on this front seven year in and year out. I haven’t seen depth like like we have now ever, and I’m in my early 30’s. Defense wins championships and if you haven’t noticed we’ve made it our priority to stock the shelves. Some 5 stars are never stars, just like some 3 stars make us wonder who rates these guys( just ask Johnny Football). In the very near future BVG and this defense is what everyone will be talking about. WEAreND

    • shaunodame - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      I think that for the most part your comments ring true, but there are always players who regardless of their perceived recruiting ranking and regardless of their teams perceived supremacy, who come in and can just flat out play regardless of age. I can’t help but think of guys like Joey Bosa at OSU and Vernon Hargreaves at Florida and perhaps the best comparisons are our own Tarean Folston and KeiVarae Russell right here at ND.

      I think another thing that helps Cage (and Jay Hayes and Pete Mokwuah) is the scheme change on Defense. New scheme/new coach means new opportunities for everyone.

  6. domerboyirish - Jun 18, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    I’m just thankful we are FINALLY done with the letter B! C is one letter closer to the start of the season!

  7. 1historian - Jun 18, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    When I was in the service (approximately at the same time as the invention of dirt) there was a thing known as ‘short time’, referring to the days left until someone was transferred to somewhere else. To go under 100 was a milestone, which we passed a while back (noted by me!!) and the next official milestone is 69 days, which comes up in 3 days. It is a milestone for reasons I am confident you learned lads and ladies out there can discern easily so I won’t go into detail.


    Once we hit 69 and keep on counting down we are OFFICIALLY on short time until THE KICKOFF.

    For now we must settle for – 72 and a wakeup.

    • nudeman - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      One does not “hit” 69.
      One performs it

  8. mtflsmitty - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Barnett to AL.

    • nudeman - Jun 18, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Personally I have zero hard feelings. Can’t miss what you never had. And despite his many pro-ND pronouncements, in retrospect ND never had him

      A swarm of messages coming any second:
      – Denouncing him for being so stupid to turn down ND
      – Saying he just rejected a 40 year decision
      – Saying he’s a scumbag
      – Saying he just gave the finger to Our Lady
      – Blaming him for the Iraq implosion
      – Saying he doesn’t give a sh** about academics

      My only comment is this: I don’t understand how he ever committed to ND in the first place. Alabama and Oregon are world’s apart from ND in almost every regard, especially Bama which exists in an antebellum state. From CA to AL? Wow.

      Culture shock coming, y’all. Good luck kid.

      • bernhtp - Jun 18, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        After a three-interception loss with his hands are tied around a tree, I wonder if he will enjoy squealing like a pig. Now that’s culture shock.

        But I agree. I certainly understand Alabama for an elite prospect, but not in context of a Notre Dame decision first unless he just liked the gold helmets.

        • nudeman - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:06 PM

          “I think when I went back there and speaking to the coaches ahead of time, that’s when I really started to figure out that that was the place I really wanted to be,” Barnett told”

          Was in love with ND. His commitment was “solid”
          Thent it turned out Oregon had been his fave school, all along
          Now Bama.
          I’m just waiting for Lower Intestine U to call.

          How could any school feel comfortable with his word, especially with 8 months to go before NSD.
          This young man is either highly impulsive and impressionable and/or he’s getting little or no direction from his parents. Seems like the right thing to do after decommitting from ND would have been a big timeout, deep breath and not even think about recruiting for a couple months.

          I expect we’ll hear from Harv Updyke any day now.

      • onward2victory - Jun 18, 2014 at 3:31 PM

        Or Bama paid him more than Oregon…

      • nudeman - Jun 18, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        By the way, the “I love ND/Oregon has been my dream school/Bama is where it’s at” nonsense all happened in a nice, tidy 2 week span.

        Coming soon from Barnett:
        – “The Longhorn tradition … you just can’t beat it. Hook ’em HORNS!!!”
        – “I’ve ALWAYS loved USC going back to the great Reggie Bush teams; #I’m_a_Trojan for life”
        – “BC offers me the unique combination of urban living, mediocre football and academics. I am EAGLE Baby!!!”
        – “Charlie Weis offers me a unique oppty to learn from a SB winning OC. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!”
        – “I’ll be rooming with Gunner Kiel and am looking forward to battling him for the backup Bearcat QB job”

        All this will only get us to August.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jun 18, 2014 at 6:10 PM

        Classic nude!

  9. johngaltisspeaking - Jun 19, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    I have to see him in action but sounds very promising.

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