Author: Keith Arnold

Spencer Perry

Irish get commitment from safety Spencer Perry


Florida safety Spencer Perry committed to Notre Dame on Monday, a little over a week after visiting campus for the Irish Invasion camp. The move followed Perry’s de-commitment from in-state power Florida, taking the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from a Gator pledge to a member of Notre Dame’s rapidly growing 2016 recruiting class.

Perry also had offers from Michigan, Ohio State, Auburn and several other programs. But the IMG Academy product didn’t take long to see Notre Dame and decide he needed to be in South Bend.

Perry will join teammate Tony Jones in the 2016 class, adding another key chip at a position of need. He also adds a really unique athlete with the type of length teams covet at safety, and the physicality to play either in-the-box or in center field.

Perry stepped up his announcement game, putting together a highlight video via Facebook to announce the decision. (See the above tweet.) Ever since visiting campus, he’s spoken highly of Notre Dame, and it’s a big recruiting victory for new secondary coach Todd Lyght.

How Perry fits into Notre Dame’s future plans is obvious. Landing another safety, especially one with the pedigree of Perry, is a huge victory for the rebooted recruiting staff of the Irish.

That Notre Dame now has key commitments from three Florida natives, with Autry Denson and Lyght each pulling a player from one of the state’s premier pipeline programs is worth noting, especially after the departure of Tony Alford and Kerry Cooks.

If all things hold, Notre Dame will enter July with 10 recruits, a much better place than where they were even a month ago. The Irish Invasion camp and getting prospects to South Bend continues to be a benefit for Notre Dame’s staff, allowing them to offer, evaluate and accept the commitment from Jalen Elliott, Jamir Jones, Kevin Stepherson and Perry.


Irish A-to-Z: Daniel Cage

Rice v Notre Dame

One of the last members of Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class was one of the first people to make an impact on the field. Defensive tackle Daniel Cage saw action early and often as a freshman, making an impact even before depth issues forced him into the mix.

While it was sooner than expected—and probably hoped—Cage immediately validated what Brian VanGorder saw on the recruiting trail, turning in a solid freshman season in the trenches. With a year in the weight room and better conditioning, bright days are ahead for one of the Irish’s most rugged run-stoppers.

Let’s take a closer look at Daniel Cage.


6’0.5″, 315 lbs.
Sophomore, N0. 75, DT



Notre Dame beat out Michigan State for Cage on Signing Day, getting a late January official visit and then sweating out a fax machine victory. Nebraska, Arkansas and Missouri were also on the list.

Cage was evaluated by former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, but the offer didn’t come until VanGorder took over. Cage’s three-star rating was thrown into the trash bin the minute he stepped foot on campus, and he played past that rating almost immediately.



Freshman Season (2014): Played in 11 games, one of six true freshmen to do so on defense. Pitched in four tackles including a half-TFL against USC. Missed the Louisville game with a knee injury and didn’t play against LSU.



I’m taking credit for a Bruce Heggie reference. And also for pointing out that some “developmental offers” see the field a lot sooner than others.

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.

For as different as VanGorder’s system is than Bob Diaco’s, you can’t help but think that Cage has turned out to be a perfect two-gap player, a fit in either system.



With Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day both back on campus, Cage will be a situational player for the Irish. And that’s likely the type of defensive tackle you want entering his sophomore season, a two-down run plugger, though he’s shown in high school that he can wreak havoc in the backfield. (Per Tim Prister’s profile on Cage, he had a ridiculous 22 sacks as a sophomore!)

Still, if Cage continues to shape his body and expand his work volume, you’re looking at Notre Dame’s next starting defensive tackle, likely in tandem with Jerry Tillery. As Kelly pointed out when he took the redshirt off Jay Hayes, Notre Dame hasn’t had too many good defensive linemen stick around for five years. That Cage was one of the first youngsters to play—even before the injuries hit—might mean that his upside could include Sundays, too.



It’s an important season for Cage, and really for the entire defensive line. We tend to forget the success of September and October, but the Irish defensive line was tough to run against, and that should be the case again in 2015.

But there’s no training wheels on to start this season, and that means Cage better be ready to go come jump street, because the opening seven weeks will test the Irish, especially against Georgia Tech and Navy. (Boston College, one of the nation’s best running attacks, is a November opponent as well.)

As for Cage, playing behind Jones will allow him to stay fresh and keep both players at optimal levels. And adding more importance to Cage’s play is the fact that Jones is still making his way back from a significant foot surgery, all but absent during spring drills.

Cage looks like a good one. We’ll find out if he projects to be great after this season.


THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL




Greg Bryant suspension tests offensive depth chart

Notre Dame v Syracuse

News broke Monday morning that running back Greg Bryant will be suspended for the first four games of the season. As first-reported by Irish 247, Bryant will miss a quarter of the regular season based on the dreaded-and-ambiguous “violation of team rules,” thinning a running back depth chart that was already down to just Bryant, returning starter Tarean Folston and converted wide receiver C.J. Prosise.

Incoming freshmen Dexter Williams and Josh Adams will have a chance to pick up the slack. Playing true freshman running backs isn’t necessarily a Plan A, but far from a crisis situation. Adams is over a year recovered from an ACL injury and Williams comes to South Bend with high expectations, so they’ll have an additional hop in their step during summer workouts with a job opening up for grabs.

Bryant’s absence also puts the spotlight on the slot receiver position. Earlier this summer, head coach Brian Kelly dropped the nugget that Prosise was nearing 230 pounds, not exactly the size you expect from a slot receiver. That kind of bulk points at more than just moonlighting at running back, meaning fifth-year senior Amir Carlisle will be taking the reins as the starting Z receiver.

But behind him remains a mystery. Torii Hunter Jr. has yet to emerge, though the coaching staff speaks highly of his talent and playmaking abilities. The door could also open for some talented freshmen, with C.J. Sanders as close to the slot receiver prototype as you could ask for. There’s also rising sophomore Corey Holmes, who flashed some nice ball skills during spring ball after making only two appearances early in the 2014 season.

(Crazy thought: But pairing Sanders with flex-tight end AlizĂ© Jones could give the Irish a similar look to when they utilized both Troy Niklas and Tyler Eifert as slot receivers — going jumbo with an offense that already plans on running the ball downhill.)

Of course, the suspension plays most heavily on the shoulders of Bryant. The former five-star recruit faces another bump in the road—this one self-imposed—after seemingly turning himself into a model student-athlete and leader on the team.

Transferring is not an option. Per Irish Illustrated‘s Pete Sampson, Bryant will be going nowhere, with Greg Bryant Sr. telling Sampson that his son remains involved in summer school and team workouts.

“That’s not even in the equation,” Bryant Sr. told Irish Illustrated. “We’ve been through that already when he was a freshman. That wouldn’t be in his thoughts and if it was, it would have to go through me.”

While the headline likely shook Irish fans this morning, the reality of the situation is far from dire. There are certainly high expectations for Bryant (both from the staff and the coaching staff), but take away the five-star pedigree that Bryant arrived with, and this is a back who’s struggling to stay in the two-deep, hardly cause for a four-alarm fire drill in the dog days of summer.

There’s been no official statement from Notre Dame on the suspension, but multiple outlets are reporting the suspension. If the suspension stands, Bryant will miss games against Texas, Virginia, UMass and Georgia Tech, returning to face Clemson.