Notre Dame fills gap inside by signing DT Cage

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND -- The good news came early for Notre Dame. Less than 45 minutes after the 7 a.m. start to national signing day, the Irish added a new commitment in defensive tackle Daniel Cage.

The 6-foot-2, 305-pound prospect from Cincinnati became the second recruit to send in his letter-of-intent and pushed the 2014 recruiting class to 23 players.

The Irish struck out on the four other prospects they were involved with announcing commitments on signing day, but they landed the big body they needed inside.

“This guy is a ferocious player,” head coach Brian Kelly said of his new addition on the defensive line. “He's an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball, his strength and lower body strength.

“He's a guy that's going to play (in the gaps), he can play the nose. He's a guy that's very disruptive inside.”

The Irish had turned their attention to adding a pair of defensive tackles in January and did just that with the signings of Cage and Pete Mokwuah (6-4, 315). Both rate as three-star prospects, but the Irish needed to make a move at the position after Matt Dickerson flipped his commitment to UCLA earlier in January.

“As it related to the defensive line position, we just felt like we didn't cast a large enough net,” Kelly said. “We just needed to be out there larger in terms of our number of candidates, and so that's why we went back in that way.”

The Irish went fishing with a number of offers to defensive tackles such as Michael Sawyers, Trey Lealaimatafao and Courtney Garnett, but ended up reeling in Mokwuah and Cage. The two will become the newest candidates to help the Irish replace the departed Louis Nix.

They’ll join the likes of Tony Springmann, returning from a season-ending knee injury, and Jarron Jones along the interior.

“I think every one of the guys that we've recruited on the defensive line have to come with a mentality that you're coming ready to play,” Kelly said.

As a senior at Winton Woods, Cage tallied 36 tackles and six sacks. Rivals ranks him as the No. 27 defensive tackle in the 2014 class. 247Sports slates him at No. 42.

Cage had intended to announce his decision around noon on Wednesday but sent in his papers early because of a weather-induced school canceling. Only punter/kicker commit Tyler Newsome sent in his letter earlier.

The Irish beat out Michigan State for Cage’s services.

“He’s not a super athlete, but he gets the most out of his ability,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He has that relentless style of play that you really need at that position. He’s an outstanding run-stuffer although not a great pass-rusher. He’s a stay-at-home defensive tackle.”

Cage could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The rest of the day unfolded in an uneventful manner for the Irish. Linebacker Nyles Morgan’s fax came through last, just before Kelly’s noon press conference.

The Irish had hoped to secure signatures from four other recruits on Wednesday, but all decided to join a different program. Garnett and wide receiver Michiah Quick signed with Oklahoma, cornerback Terrence Alexander picked Stanford and safety/wide receiver John “JuJu” Smith signed with USC. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston has led the recruitment of defensive lineman Daniel Cage. SBT photo/JAMES BROSHER