Needing to replace four NFL-bound offensive linemen, Notre Dame turned to the transfer portal for some interior experience. Marshall guard Cain Madden announced a grad transfer to the Irish on Friday afternoon.
To stick with the summer’s format, let’s discuss his arrival and impact in “99-to-0” terms …
Listed measurements: 6-foot-3, 313 pounds.
2021-22 year, eligibility: Madden can only enjoy this transfer because of the universal pandemic eligibility waiver. He started for the Herd the last three seasons, in addition to playing in all 13 games in 2017, but with 2020 essentially not counting for eligibility concerns, Madden has this one season remaining.
Depth Chart: A second-team All-American does not transfer to a national program like Notre Dame if he does not expect to start.
Recruiting: A former walk-on, Madden got to enjoy more of the traditional recruiting process this time around. A visit to Florida State as the pandemic-long dead period ended may have worried some around the Irish program, but that was the biggest threat to this commitment.
CAREER TO DATE
Starting 31 games at any team in the FBS level will garner attention from the rest of the country. Madden first started in 2018 as a result of an injury to a classmate, but he then never relinquished that gig.
Marshall went 24-12 in those three seasons with Madden the crucial piece of its offensive line.
NAME, IMAGE, LIKENESS
Ready to work.#GoIrish ☘️ pic.twitter.com/zHmsMFWwRF
— Cain (@MaddenCain) June 4, 2021
Three pieces of Notre Dame’s offensive line are known, if not completely set in positions. Junior Zeke Correll will start at center, and senior Jarrett Patterson and fifth-year Josh Lugg will start somewhere.
Patterson and Lugg seemed likely to form a guard-tackle duo on one side of the line, presumably the right side, based on spring practices. That logic leaves the left guard position open for Madden.
However, Madden played right guard with great success at Marshall. His arrival should thus split up the veteran duo, with Lugg at right tackle and Patterson then moving to either left tackle or left guard, depending on which early-enrolled freshman is most ready for a starting role on Labor Day Eve, tackle Blake Fisher or guard Rocco Spindler.
Both impressed throughout the spring, and Patterson was long seen as a tackle prospect, but Fisher is the more likely starter.
Spindler’s early arrival impressed to the extent that Dillan Gibbons sought a transfer to Florida State for a chance to start. Madden’s arrival, however, should bump Spindler back down to the second-team for the year.
That is neither a bad thing nor a shock for Spindler. Notre Dame has not started a freshman on the offensive line in the opener in 15 years. Ever expecting otherwise would have been the shock, even if it may still happen with Fisher at left tackle.
Madden will provide the Irish experience and a knack for run blocking, while allowing Spindler some time to develop into a surefire 2022 starter.
To run that sequence back one more time … Spindler enrolled early and played so well, Gibbons felt obligated to transfer for his final season. He went to Florida State, which then tried to also pull in Madden. Instead, he went to Notre Dame thanks to the roster spot opened up by Gibbons’ departure.
NOTRE DAME 99-TO-0
Let’s try this again
No. 99 Rylie Mills, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 98 Alexander Ehrensberger, sophomore defensive end
No. 97 Gabriel Rubio, early-enrolled freshman defensive tackle the size of a Volkswagen
No. 95 Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, fifth-year defensive tackle-turned-end
No. 92 Aidan Keanaaina, sophomore defensive tackle
No. 88 Mitchell Evans, early-enrolled freshman tight end, a former high school quarterback
No. 87 Michael Mayer, star sophomore tight end and lead offensive weapon
No. 85 George Takacs, senior tight end, ‘152 years old’
No. 84 Kevin Bauman, sophomore tight end
No. 82 Xavier Watts, sophomore receiver
No. 81 Jay Brunelle, speedy sophomore receiver
No. 80 Cane Berrong, early-enrolled freshman tight end
No. 79 Tosh Baker, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 78 Pat Coogan, incoming freshman center
No. 77 Quinn Carroll, junior offensive lineman
No. 76 Joe Alt, incoming and towering freshman offensive lineman
No. 75 Josh Lugg, fifth-year right tackle, finally a starter
No. 73 Andrew Kristofic, junior offensive tackle, possible backup center
No. 72 Caleb Johnson, early-enrolled offensive tackle, former Auburn commit
No. 70 Hunter Spears, junior offensive guard, former defensive tackle
No. 68 Michael Carmody, sophomore offensive tackle
No. 57 Jayson Ademilola, senior defensive tackle
No. 56 John Dirksen, senior reserve offensive lineman
No. 56 Howard Cross, junior defensive tackle
No. 55 Jarrett Patterson, the best Irish offensive lineman
No. 54 Jacob Lacey, junior defensive tackle
No. 54 Blake Fisher, early-enrolled freshman left tackle, starter?
No. 52 Zeke Correll, junior, starting center