FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame kicked off national signing day on a positive note.
Defensive lineman Daniel Cage was the second player to send in his national letter of intent to the Irish on Wednesday, the first day high school seniors who hadn’t enrolled in college early could sign with programs.
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Cage, from Cincinnati, flipped his commitment from Michigan State to Notre Dame and is part of two groups coach Brian Kelly said he felt were strengths of this year’s recruiting class.
(Cage) is a ferocious player, said Kelly, whose first recruit to sign Wednesday was kicker/punter Tyler Newsome. He’s an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball. His strength, lower body strength, he’s a guy that’s going to play the shade, he can play the nose. He’s a guy that’s very disruptive inside.
Notre Dame had 23 players in this year’s signing class, which is ranked No. 6 by Scout.com and No. 10 by 247Sports and No. 11 by Rivals.com and includes Carroll standout Drue Tranquill. Receiver Justin Brent and defensive lineman Andrew Trumbetti enrolled early.
Kelly said he was proud of the players Notre Dame added to its defensive front seven and offensive line.
Yeah, there’s some great skill players, but you’re winning up front, Kelly said.
Along with Cage and Trumbetti, Notre Dame signed 6-6, 264-pound Grant Blankenship; 6-4, 275-pound Jay Hayes; 6-4, 315-pound Pete Mokwuah; and 6-5, 230-pound Jhonny Williams to play on the defensive line. The Irish will need to fill the holes left on their line with defensive end Stephon Tuitt and nose guard Louis Nix III leaving for the NFL with a year of eligibility remaining.
The Irish also added linebackers Jonathan Bonner, a 6-3, 245-pounder; Kolin Hill, a 6-2, 220-pounder; Greer Martini, a 6-3, 225-pounder; Nyles Morgan, a 6-2, 223-pounder; and Nile Sykes, a 6-2, 220-pounder. Notre Dame is replacing middle linebacker Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox as well as outside linebacker Prince Shembo from last season’s team.
Morgan could be the most important linebacker to sign with the Irish as he could be called up to play in the middle right away.
Certainly feel like he has all the tools to do that, Kelly said. I think there’s still some competition there that he’s got to get through, but his skill set, it’s pretty easy to see. That’s what a mike linebacker looks like.
Notre Dame’s offensive line recruits are 6-6, 290-pound Alex Bars; 6-4, 285-pound Jimmy Byrne; 6-3, 294-pound Sam Mustipher; and 6-5, 302-pound Quenton Nelson, who is the only player to sign with the Irish to receive a five-star rating from Rivals.com.
I think what you’ll see with all of our offensive linemen, they all can get out and move their feet, Kelly said. They all have the ability to run block, pass protect. We like our guys to move, whether we’re running zone schemes or gap schemes, screens, all those things. You’re going to see that there’s an athletic component to all of these guys.
Kelly was also happy to add another athletic quarterback in DeShone Kizer from Toledo Central Catholic. The 6-5, 212-pounder joins Everett Golson, who returned from a semester suspension because of an academic misstep, and Malik Zaire, who didn’t play as a freshman last season.
Now we’ve got three quarterbacks on campus that all do the same things, Kelly said. You don’t have to adjust your offense. All three of the quarterbacks finally all do the same things.