Notre Dame defensive tackle Daniel Cage intends to take a medical red shirt this season as he battles through a series of concussions and recovers from a knee surgery over the summer, according to Cage’s mother. Although he intends to continue his football career in the future, Cage could face the possibility of having to retire if recovery does not go as planned.
Cage was expected to make a full recovery from a scheduled knee surgery earlier this summer, according to Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. What was unknown at the time was Cage had been suffering from headaches ever since being diagnosed with a concussion last November. It was the third concussion Cage has suffered since joining the Notre Dame program, which has increased the cause for alarm in treating his football plans.
“He wants to make sure it’s safe for him,” Bionne Cage, Cage’s mother, said according to Irish Illustrated. “We don’t want to put him in an environment where it’s risking a long term effect for a short term goal. Right now his head aches, his knee is healing. The process has been overwhelming and he wants to make sure he’s OK.”
At this point, Cage needs to focus on recovering from his knee surgery and hope the impact of the concussions do not linger. He would have to be medically cleared to return to the playing field.
Nothing has gone according to plan for Notre Dame (3-5) this season, but they managed to find themselves celebrating a win despite blowing a 20-0 lead at home on Saturday. Notre Dame saw a 20-0 lead turn into a 27-20 deficit against Miami (4-4, 1-3 ACC) in the fourth quarter, but the Irish responded with a 10-point run to come away with a much-needed win in Notre Dame Stadium. The game was clinched with a sack of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya.
Notre Dame started off as well as anyone could have expected, leading the Hurricanes 17-0 after one quarter of play and 20-0 just minutes into the second quarter. Notre Dame was suffocating Miami in the first half, but Kaaya and the Hurricanes would roar back with 20 straight points in the second half to take a 27-20 lead. That put the Irish in a tough spot, but they somehow managed to climb out of it.
It took Notre Dame just four plays to tie the game at 27-27 thanks to a big gain through the air from DeShone Kizer and a 41-yard touchdown run by Josh Adams. Having re-energized Notre Dame Stadium with the tying score, Notre Dame’s defense then came through with their best effort of the half, a three-and-out, which would help lead to an eventual game-winning field goal from short distance. Miami had a chance with the ball and just 30 seconds to play, but with no timeouts, there was nothing that could be done on a sack by Nyles Morgan to end the ball game at the Miami 41-yard line.
Notre Dame did get a little banged up in the game as well. Linebacker Greer Martini suffered a concussion in the first quarter, and defensive tackle Daniel Cage was also being evaluated for a head injury.
The Irish now keep their slim bowl hopes alive with the win, but still face an uphill. At 3-5, Notre Dame must win three of its final four games. Next week Notre Dame plays Navy in Jacksonville, followed by Army in San Antonio. The Irish then close out the season at home against Virginia Tech and on the road at USC. Nothing is impossible, but even games against the service academies may not be the automatic wins Notre Dame is accustomed to having.
Miami returns home next week to play Pittsburgh in ACC play.
Notre Dame’s defense struggled to hold down Northwestern last week, and it could be in for an uphill battle this weekend against Louisville. When the Cardinals visit South Bend, Indiana on Saturday, the Irish will be without two defensive players due to knee injuries. Defensive linemen Sheldon Day, a starter, and Daniel Cage will each sit out of this weekend’s game. Head coach Brian Kelly made that official while speaking with the media Tuesday.
Day is working through a sprained MCL and there is currently no estimation when he may return to the Irish defensive line. Day has been a key member of the Irish defensive line and has been a starter on the one side of the line. Day leads the Irish in tackles for a loss with 7.5. It is possible Day may not return before the end of the regular season, but there is no confirmation whether or not he might be available for Notre Dame’s potential bowl game.
Cage is expected to be back much sooner. Kelly suggested the reserve lineman, with a sprained knee, could be back for Notre Dame’s final game of the regular season against USC.
Notre Dame could use a little luck of the Iris in order to play into the College Football Playoff discussion this fall, but on Friday the bad news may have outweighed the good as fall camp got underway. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly announced Friday senior linebacker Jarrett Grace is “close to being ready” to getting back and helping contribute on defense, according to College Football Talk contributor JJ Stankevitz on CSN Chicago. The same cannot be said about senior defensive lineman Tony Springmann, whose career is now over due to a back issue.
Springmann just could not catch a break at Notre Dame. Last year it was a torn ACL that held Springmann back at first, but it was a back issue that developed that would ultimately sideline him for the 2013 season in South Bend. The back issue has continued to linger and now is to blame for bringing a premature end to Springmann’s career with two years of eligibility remaining. The injury also puts a dent in the depth on Notre Dame’s defensive line, leaving the Irish with two freshmen (Pete Mokwuah and Daniel Cage) now in line to back-up starter Jarron Jones.
Kelly intends to keep Springmann around the program this fall though.
“He’ll still stay involved in the program,” Kelly said [via CSN Chicago]. “Tony has done a great job of mentoring a lot of our younger players in the program, he’s shown great leadership, great resolve coming back from his knee injury. He’ll stay connected with our program and still be part of us.”
Grace went through two surgeries to repair a broken knee last season. At the time he suffered the injury in a win against Pac-12 South champion Arizona State in the Shamrock Classic last fall, Grace was the team’s leading tackler with 37 tackles. Having him back on the field should clearly be a boost for the Irish on defense.