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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Cain Madden

June 4, 2021

It was a no-brainer for Notre Dame to reach out when Cain Madden entered the transfer portal. Of course they would when there is uncertainty about who will start up front. So when a player who was voted as a second team All-American became available, it made total sense for the staff to pursue him.

It also made a ton of sense for Madden to make Notre Dame his choice over Florida State for obvious reasons. The path to playing time is less clear, but the upside of starting at a program that has continuously produced strong lines and NFL talent had to overwhelm any pitch FSU could come up with.

I’m sure there is excitement from fans about the potential impact Madden can have and I do believe he is someone who immediately makes the team better. That doesn’t necessarily mean I believe he is a plug and play option at guard, though.

Despite his high grade from PFF and his All-American recognition, I don’t think it’s a slam dunk he will start for Notre Dame. He’ll have to come in and beat out at least a couple of players first.


First off, he has the nickname “Dump Truck” for a reason. This is a player who is going to win in a phone booth. He can move defenders off the ball, plays with good leverage, and has a strong base.

Look at the pop he gives the nose tackle on the double here that knocks the defender back. You love to see it.


Marshall ran a ton of inside zone and he really did a nice job of working off of his initial block and moving to the next level. When he arrives at the linebacker, you can see the pop and leg drive.


He has good awareness of when to get off the double and move to pick up the linebacker. There is a balance to working with the other linemen on these blocks and he manages to find the appropriate balance just about every time.


Madden has some nastiness in his game. He’s going to get in that extra shot when he can and obviously that is a fit with the kind of players Notre Dame has had up front in recent years.


I didn’t see him matched up one on one too often in pass protection in the three games I watched. I thought he did a nice job passing off stunt and anchored well against the bull rush. In general he showed good balance, a solid punch, and played within himself.


These areas are why it’s not a guarantee that he’s going to walk in and start immediately.

We can start with his size. Listed at 6’3”, but I believe that what we’ve heard about him being closer to 6’1” is more accurate. He has short arms and can let longer defensive tackles get to his chest. He’s a scrapper so he works hard to reset and continue to win his block, but the battle is already lost on some snaps.

Going back to the nickname “Dump Truck”, there’s a reason why Vin Diesel isn’t living his life a ¼ mile a time driving that kind of car. He’s not a great athlete and some of that is hidden by the fact the offense he was in didn’t ask him to pull or get out in space a lot.

There was one screen in the App State game where he was frankly too slow getting out to the corner when the play was set up well to be successful. There were also too many times I saw him end up on the ground at the end of a play and that is always something that pops out with an O-lineman as an athlete.

When it comes to pass protection, how many elite 3-techs has he been asked to block one on one? The list has to be short if there is a list. He’ll be asked to do that more at Notre Dame against better players and he isn’t the most natural moving laterally.

I didn’t see an All-American on film and it does bring into question PFF’s O-line grades again, but that’s another topic for another time.

Why this is a good pickup

Despite some of his weaknesses, this is a player who has played a lot of football the last three seasons. I didn’t see him make mental mistakes. He’s going to battle his butt off. He plays mean. It’s also worth mentioning that Nick McCloud was someone who took off in only one year in Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning program so we may see some of the same with Madden.

It’s also fair to assume that he probably got a strong recommendation from Marshall offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey. He worked for Brian Polian at Nevada so there is a connection there that could vouch for him as a player and a person.

I don’t see him having the type impact that one might expect from an All-American caliber player. I think he has a solid chance at winning a starting job and if he does, that strengthens the entire line in the staff’s quest to find the best five guys.

The idea that this is a mistake to take him in an uncapped year for scholarships because he may block a younger player from playing is ludicrous. If the younger player is better, he’ll start. 

He makes Notre Dame immediately better even if he doesn’t win a starting job. I think he can be a Trevor Ruhland type of player at minimum for the Irish and though Ruhland wouldn’t have started on last year’s line, he certainly could help the 2021 O-line be better. Madden makes the ‘21 Irish better and that is all that matters.

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