Cage a crucial addition to defensive front

Cage a crucial addition to defensive front

O'Malley's 19th of 23 "Eye in the Sky" film reviews for Notre Dame's incoming pledges examines the final Irish commitment, four-star defensive tackle Daniel Cage. How will the nation's 15th-ranked DT prospect per Scout.com improve head coach Brian Kelly's Irish roster both in 2014 and beyond?

Cage: strengths and areas for development

A late addition to Notre Dame's defensive line prospect list, the 6'3" 290-pound Cage likely isn't quite as tall as listed (a likely sticking point for former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco who covets taller defensive players), but Cage consistently disrupted the pocket during his prep career…Gets off the ball quickly and after creating pressure, can close on the quarterback at 290 pounds…Sheds initial blocks well, moves easily through traffic and can locate the ball from an interior position…

Arrives at the ball carrier with intent to dominate and be remembered, not merely to make a tackle…Shows he can get a consistent push vs. double teams, a trait more important at the next level than making plays in chase as collegiate runners and quarterbacks aren't often tracked down by interior linemen...

Can get a little high when initially blocked successfully but doesn't quit on snaps…Keeps his hands active even when initially blocked, allowing him to disengage and make tackles in-line...Wingspan of a taller player (a Mike Elston target trait in DL recruits)…Aggressive on every snap, would likely benefit and be comfortable with a defensive front that includes ample stunts and movement, as Cage can create havoc upon shedding initial contact...

Joins Jay Hayes, Quenton Nelson, Nyles Morgan, Andrew Trumbetti, Jimmy Byrne, and Jhonathan Williams on my Class of '14 All Rage team. Plays angry from snap to the echo of the whistle, and that's the highest compliment a football player can receive.

Cage, coupled with Pete Mokwauh and Hayes provide the Irish staff what it needed in terms of numbers -- and developable talent -- in the 2014 interior defensive line recruiting haul.

Road blocks to playing time

His classmates, Jay Hayes, Andrew Trumbetti, and Pete Mokwuah.

Notre Dame's projected defensive front includes one constant in defensive end Sheldon Day, plus one likely returnee, nose guard/defensive tackle Jarron Jones. Thereafter are a pair of seniors returning from injury, Tony Springmann (knee) and Chase Hounshell (shoulder x3). Expected to challenge the veterans for a starting role is sophomore Isaac Rochell (DE, potentially DT) with 5th-year senior Justin Utupo and redshirt-freshman Jacob Matuska providing depth.

There's room for two, if not three freshmen to force their way into action, and Cage is best equipped from the quartet of newbies to do battle inside. (Trumbetti is the most likely to play, though was a true DE, while Hayes could play both inside and out.)

I expect new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to play up to 9, potentially 10 defensive linemen in 2014, because outside of Day, there are more questions than answers.

(Note: Grant Blankenship, Jhonathan Williams, and Jonathan Bonner could help on the defensive line as pass rushers, but none from the trio impacts Cage's quest for playing time inside.

Reminiscent of… Former Irish nose tackle Cedric Hilliard (1999-2003).

Join our Football Forum Discussion Thread on Cage and each of the 19 pledges already reviewed, here.

Daniel Cage on Film

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Nic Weishar Film Review

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