The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their Buckeye careers as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
Defensive tackle recruiting has been one of the most often-criticized aspects of Urban Meyer's tenure at Ohio State. It's no secret that the nation's elite tackles often reside in the southern portion of the country, typically in SEC territory. Landing these massive space-eaters has been a chore for the Buckeyes over the last several cycles.
Thus, when there's a really talented tackle prospect in the state of Ohio, it becomes almost imperative that the Buckeyes keep that talent from ending up elsewhere. In the case of four-star Cincinnati (Winton Woods) product Jerron Cage, Larry Johnson and the rest of the staff were able to accomplish just that.
The Cage File
SIZE: 6-foot-2, 282 pounds
SCHOOL: Winton Woods (Cincinnati)
COMPOSITE RANKING: ★★★★
COMPOSITE RANK: 14 (DT)
Having gone through the same process in 2014 with older brother Daniel, the Cage family was familiar with the recruiting process. The elder of the two brothers never received an Ohio State offer and ultimately signed with the Fighting Irish in February of 2014. Notre Dame instantly became a favorite to land Jerron, which is understandable thanks to the families ties.
Early on in the cycle, however, it was the Buckeyes and Spartans that were standing out to the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder. Cage planned on visiting Ohio State early on in 2015, but plans ultimately got pushed back to April when he arrived in Columbus for the Ohio State spring game. Cage used this experience to check out the Ohio State facilities and familiarize himself with both Cincinnati native Kerry Coombs and future position coach Larry Johnson.
The four-star was back in Columbus on June 16th for one of Ohio State's summer camp events. His performance was good enough to earn the coveted Buckeye offer, and it took just about a month for him to jump at the opportunity.
On July 21st of 2015, Jerron Cage made the call and committed to the Buckeyes. After missing out on a number of top tackles in February of that year, the addition of the state's top player at the position was certainly a welcomed sight.
Notre Dame extended an offer two months after the Buckeye pledge, and the folks in South Bend immediately started talking about a potential flip. Despite his committed status, there was certainly a sense of uneasiness when the four-star went on to make multiple trips to South Bend during the 2015 season.
He would then take another handful of visits to Notre Dame in 2016. A relatively quiet and private kid, Cage consistently stated that while he had great respect for the Irish, the trips were alongside his family and primarily to see his older brother in South Bend.
Cage addressed those rumors this past September with Cleveland.com:
In the grand scheme of things, it turned out that the numerous trips to Notre Dame were much ado about nothing. Cage made about a half dozen trips to Columbus in the past year, and his status really was never in doubt.
Ohio State has become known for taking oversized defensive ends and converting them into interior linemen. However, Cage isn't one of those players. He did occasionally line up on the outside in high school, but make no mistake about it, he is a defensive tackle at the next level.
Cage will arrive in Columbus at right around 280 pounds. He'll have the summer to put in work in the weight room where he'll look to add to his frame. We ultimately see him playing around the 290 to 300-pound range once he's ready for action.
The position will return a lot of talent for the 2017 season as guys like Dre'Mont Jones, Michael Hill, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, and Tracy Sprinkle all will be battling for playing time. For Cage, a redshirt season certainly appears likely, and that should give him ample time to pack on some pounds.
It's crazy to think that the state's top-rated defensive tackle is actually one of the lower-rated signees in the Class of 2017. Don't sleep on Jerron Cage, though. He's a disruptive player on the inside and adds some needed talent to the position; even if he's not needed to make an impact right away.
Meet Jerron Cage: