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Notre Dame Football 2014 Recruiting – Defensive Tackle Review

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Coach Brian Kelly and his staff addressed the need at defensive tackle in the 2014 class with three high-upside prospects.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


Welcome to the fourth of our six-part, in-depth series on the 2014 Notre Dame football recruiting class. Following signing day, we unveiled the OFD average grades for the newest members of the Fighting Irish family.

This installment will focus on the defensive tackles: Jay Hayes, Pete Mokwuah and Daniel Cage.

For reference, here is the previous positional pieces:

Offensive Line

Quarterback, Wide Receiver and Tight End

Defensive End

The transcript from Coach Brian Kelly's press conference on national signing day can be found here.


Irish Defense Tackle - Signees
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Position 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.906 Jay Hayes Brooklyn, NY 6-5/260 Defensive Tackle
.837 Pete Mokwuah Staten Island, NY 6-5/305 Defensive Tackle
.892 Daniel Cage Cincinnati, OH 6-3/295 Defensive Tackle

Official OFD Recruit Grading Scale:

95-100: Elite impact freshman with All-American potential

90-94: Multi-year starter with All-conference potential

85-89: Eventual starter with chance to play as underclassman

80-84: Raw prospect with decent potential but a couple years away from impact

75-79: Likely a backup

70-74: Reach by the coaching staff

Note: All Height/Weight/40 times as listed on


DT Jay Hayes

(Brooklyn, NY - Poly Prep) - 6'5"/270

OFD Average: 91

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Jay Hayes was an early commit to us out of Brooklyn, New York, Poly Prep Country Day. He's going to be playing in the All-Star game here, and one thing I'll say about Jay is that he has been probably one of our -- I would say best recruiters in a sense from day one. He's talked about Notre Dame and why you make a decision to come to Notre Dame. I remember one of his quotes when I was with him was, Coach, some of these guys don't get it. They don't really understand why you would come to Notre Dame. And he's such a thoughtful kid at his age that he understands why he would come to Notre Dame for all the right reasons, getting a degree and opening up doors for him for the rest of his life.

Having said that, he's a heck of a football player. Long, and he's long. He's 6'4", long arms, about 275 pounds. He's got multi-position capabilities. He can play inside, he can play outside. Really like the way he plays the game, ferocious attacking player and a guy that we have a lot of trust in their head coach. He's a defensive line coach by trade, and he's one of the best he's ever had. Really excited about Jay Hayes coming into our program.

Eric: 91

Reminds me of a skinnier and more athletic version of Kapron Lewis-Moore. Solid but not outstanding burst off the line. Hayes has a nice combination of speed and power moves. For a New York kid he looks fairly polished with pass rushing moves which is a bonus. I think he's dropped a lot of weight over the past year yet he has a frame to get a lot bigger. He stands out for having long legs and he moves really well in the open field for a lineman too. He could grow into an athletic nose guard. I think he's more suited as a 4-3 tackle and he could even have a lot of success as an end in the 3-4. Either way, there's a lot of potential and versatility. He'll get the New York State treatment but I can see him having a Sheldon Day-type of a freshman year.

alstein: 90

Handles blockers naturally and easily and delivers a major pop on ball carriers. Skeptical whether a NYC lineman can make an instant impact at the level Notre Dame demands.

pburns2010: 92

Hayes is enormous, athletic, and plays like a crazy person. I believe he can crack the two deep before the end of fall camp, and I fully expect to see him usurp Springmann as the #2 NT on the roster next season. That is if he doesn't bump out to DE and give us his best Stephon Tuitt impression.

4pointshooter: 92

Jim Miesle: 91

Hayes brings some really nice positional flexibility to the table, being able to play either inside or outside depending on the front. Eric compares him to KLM, but I see him as more of a (slightly) smaller version of Stephon Tuitt. He may not possess the raw athleticism of Tuitt, but he has the potential to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.


DT Pete Mokwuah

(Staten Island, NY - St. Joseph by the Sea) - 6'5"/305

OFD Average: 85

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Pete Mokwuah is a young man out of Staten Island out of St. Joseph By the Sea. A shorter recruiting period for us, as well, but Pete was a great fit for us, and looking for to augment our defensive line position, we wanted to find the right profile young man. He's Nigerian. We've had a great Nigerian connection here, Romeo Okwara, Prince Shembo, just to name a few, and then Pete was able to connect Catholic institution, goes to a Catholic school. That profile fit very well for us. A kid that's serious about his academics here at Notre Dame. All very good profiling for us in terms of the right fit here at Notre Dame and a 6'4", 315-pound defensive lineman, pretty good fit there, too.

So all of those things together, we really liked his personality. His mom got a chance to come up with him and see Notre Dame. He's got a couple of sisters, one at UConn, one at St. John's, so the family really understands about college and getting a great education and so it was a really good fit in getting Peter here at Notre Dame.

Eric: 84

Tough prospect to rate because he's so much bigger than everyone and is legitimately already at sufficient playing weight for Notre Dame's defensive line. Clearly he's not going to be a sack machine in college but Mokwuah's quickness is impressive for someone around 300 pounds. He moves a lot better than I thought he would and looks to have a nasty streak. I don't know if I'd call him a diamond in the rough because the consensus among experts is that he's very underrated relative to his ranking. I will say I like him better than Dickerson so I'll take that trade, so there.

alstein: 84

Another NY defensive lineman. Massive frame for BVG to work with at 3-4/4-3 NT. High ceiling and decently athletic for his size, but likely a long way off from being a major contributor.

pburns2010: 86

Mokwuah is a large, large man - but at the moment, that's about all he has going for him. My ranking definitely bakes in a redshirt year for him to learn the nuance of playing interior lineman in college football, and trading some bad weight for some good weight. I expect him to start making an impact in 2016, providing solid depth in 2015.

4pointshooter: 85

Jim Miesle: 87

I graded Mokwuah the highest of the group, and the biggest thing that led to grade was his ability to contribute right away. I don't know if he will need to contribute as a freshman, but it will be good for the staff to have the potential to put him in for 5-10 snaps per game if necessary. Regardless, he will be a space eater up front for the Irish defense in the near future.


DT Daniel Cage

(Cincinnati, OH - Winton Woods) - 6'3"/290

OFD Average: 86

Brian Kelly's thoughts from the signing day press conference:

Daniel Cage out of Cincinnati, Ohio, Winton Woods High School. I think from Daniel we got a chance to see him here last weekend on his official visit, and he's got a great family. I think what stood out with the poor weather conditions that we've had here, they made the drive up from Cincinnati, and what a great family. The mom and dad were here, got a chance to see Notre Dame for the first time, and the support that Daniel got in making a decision to come to Notre Dame, you know, it was a family decision certainly because the parents got a chance to really understand Notre Dame and understand how a degree from Notre Dame is really going to help Daniel.

This guy is a ferocious player. 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. And again, I know that area pretty good. It's good football, Winton Woods, they play a great schedule, got a real good nose for the football. Just good competition and plays the game hard every snap. Really pleased in getting Daniel. As you know, it was not a long recruiting process.

We told Daniel, the circumstances, because of losing a player and then having a couple of guys go early, we had to recruit him in a shorter window, but we were able to show him why we thought Notre Dame was the right fit for him, and he got a chance to see Notre Dame, and he signed with us today. Daniel Cage, we're excited about having him at Notre Dame, as well.

Eric: 84

Nice burst off the line with quick feet. He doesn't appear to use a lot of power instead getting by defenders using his quickness. Shows a nice ability to take on a block and still make a play on a ball carrier. I'm interested to see how he develops with a little more weight while not being asked to penetrate the backfield on the majority of snaps. Good athlete with decent open field speed and change of direction. He certainly tracks down enough ball carriers away from the line. Strength is my biggest question mark. That should come with more time in Notre Dame's S&C program.

alstein: 85

Good size and athleticism combo and potentially provides flexibility as a 0- through 5-technique DT with his frame. Plays with an attitude but needs to improve first step and stay lower to win LOS battles.

pburns2010: 86

Cage is very quick off the line, and plays very low for a DT, two attributes that will help him making the jump to the next level. If he can make up for his lack of height/length with quickness and power (think Nix), he will be a big contributor after putting on some extra weight.

4pointshooter: 87

Jim Miesle: 90

In a recurring theme along this year's defensive line class, I gave Cage the highest grade of the group. What can I say-there is a lot to like from the entire group. The reason why I scored Cage so high is that I think he finds a role this fall as a true freshman in the DL rotation. I also like his potential and ability to play multiple techniques inside (as pointed out by alstein). He may never put up huge numbers in terms of tackles, but his impact on the game will be felt throughout his career.

As a commenter somewhere pointed out, Cage is the kind of guy that would normally end up at a Big 10 school and ND fans would be asking themselves in a few years "Why didn't Notre Dame go after that guy?"