Film Room: Breaking Down Notre Dame Transfer Cain Madden

A look at what Notre Dame is getting in Marshall guard Cain Madden
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Notre Dame picked up a commitment yesterday from Marshall grad transfer Cain Madden. Offensive line was a concerning spot for the Fighting Irish coming out of the spring, and the Notre Dame staff is hoping the addition of Madden helps answer those questions.

Yesterday we broke down how the commitment of Madden impacts the Notre Dame depth chart. This analysis is all about Madden's background and what he shows on film.


Background on Madden from the official Marshall football site:

Height: 6-3
Weight: 313

Career Starts: 31

2020 Pro Football Focus First Team All-American
2020 Walter Camp Foundation Second Team All-American
2020 Associated Press Second Team All-American

2020 First Team All-Conference USA

2019 Second Team All-Conference USA

In 2019 he earned the Offensive Gridiron Gladiator Award, which the Marshall website says goes to "the player who is relentless and gives his everything all of the time."

The video at the bottom of the article contains analysis of Madden and what his commitment could mean for Notre Dame.

Games Evaluated: Florida Atlantic, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Appalachian State, Western Kentucky


HANDS - Madden has extremely powerful hands and upper body strength. He also knows how to use his hands effectively. Madden quickly gets his hands on defenders and uses them to effectively get movement at the point of attack. On top of his hand placement, when Madden strikes he does so with impressive natural power. If he gets his hands in the chest of a defender he's going to win that battle more often than not.

POWER RUN GAME - Madden is at his best in the power run game. When he can play in tight quarters he was dominant in Conference USA. He can quickly step and deliver power in his gaps, getting impressive movement at the point of attack. When the former Marshall standout won the leverage battle, kept his base and kept his hips square to the line he was punishing in tight quarters.

Madden does a great job working on first-level combo blocks. When he comes for help in the run game he delivers punishing blows and allows his teammate to get a great push. When linebackers try to shoot gaps against a Madden combo he comes off quickly and smashes the defender. 

FINISHER - When Madden gets low, gets his hands inside and gets his feet moving he finishes at a very high level. He does an excellent job staying engaged in tight quarters, he gets a good push and when defenders start looking for the ball he buries them. Madden impresses with his ability to power step through contact and he thrives at working his feet the entire play.

FOOTBALL IQ - Madden is a very smart football player and he plays with good angles. He handles line games effectively, and his anticipation in those instances allows him to make up for athletic deficiencies. I broke down five games from Marshall's 2020 season and the one thing that really stood out is the fact Madden simply does not make mistakes. When he doesn't get the job done it's almost always about a defender beating and not due to a technical mistake.

ANCHOR SKILLS - Madden doesn't always play with good leverage in the pass game (see below), but when he does he anchors extremely well. He has a short and powerful lower body. When he bends his knees, stays low and keeps his base he can strike pass rushers effectively, can stone them in place and he delivered some really impressive blows to linebackers in such instances.


FOOT SPEED/ATHLETICISM - Madden is a below average athletic in many ways. He has heavy feet and doesn't move all that quickly. Even at Marshall his effectiveness was relegated to tight quarters. He could drive defenders in impressive fashion on stretch plays when they were lined up on him and he got immediate contact, but when he had to look for work, get to the second level or work in space he struggled, and struggled consistently.

Madden also lacks ideal flexibility and balance, and the result is him spending more time on the ground when he should. When defenders get good shots on his side he goes down like a big tree and lacks the balance to recover and stay up. When he loses his base he has the same problem. The quality of competition for him at Marshall was poor, but when he was matched up against athletic front line defenders he had issues, especially in the pass game.

If he's allowed to simply play power football and play in tight quarters he can be highly effective, dominant even. The problem when projecting him into the Notre Dame offense is the heavy dose of outside zone the Irish like to use, the frequency with which they ask their linemen to work on the second level and their counter/gap plays. Those are areas where Madden struggled on film at Marshall, but the Thundering Herd coaches didn't use those concepts very often.

LENGTH - Madden is listed at 6-3 but he does not look that tall. He also doesn't seem to have the length you need in a shorter, less athletic player. The sixth-year senior has powerful hands, but against more athletic players his lack of length proved problematic. Madden also had issues against longer defenders who were able to get their hands on him.

INCONSISTENT PAD LEVEL/BASE - When Madden keeps a good base, bends his knees and keeps a nice forward lean he's really good. The issue is far too often he locks his legs, loses his base and gets high off the snap. You see it mostly in pass protection and when working on wide run blocks (e.g., outside zone). When this happens Madden gets rocked off balance and can be beat. This is an area where the Irish coaches will need to emphasize with him constantly. Keep your base, keep your base, because that is when Madden is at his best.

ABILITY IN SPACE - Madden has to stay in tight quarters. As mentioned above he's not overly effectively on wide runs, he's not comfortable working to the second level and he doesn't offer much in the screen game.


NFL Draft analyst Ryan Roberts of Coast To Coast Scouting has done extensive analysis of Madden. Here are his thoughts on the new Notre Dame offensive lineman:

"A pure guard during his time with the Thundering Herd, Cain Madden brings a nasty demeanor that every offensive line coach will love. After announcing his intentions to return for his sixth year of eligibility, Madden made a surprise decision to graduate transfer for his final season.

"With his decision to join one of the proudest offensive line traditions, the Fighting Irish are getting a mauling presence who is the definition of a finisher in the run game. Madden plays to the echo of the whistle, bringing a large degree of physicality and tenacity to the position. He was overwhelming often in Conference USA, displacing gaps with high regularity.

"With the bump in competition, Madden's physical profile could limit how effective his transition is. He does a solid enough job framing in pass protection but has some limitations against more twitched up interior rushers. A player who wants to play solely in tight spaces, Madden is an underwhelming athlete on the interior who will struggle to play outside of his frame, especially when working wide zone concepts.

"This lack of foot quickness does him no favors working to the second level, lacking the ability to cut off flow. Couple his underwhelming athleticism with an extreme lack of length and you have the recipe for disaster working in space.

"As a depth piece, Madden offers the type of experience and consistent play that brings a ton of value to a team. His lack of athletic traits, however, offers little upside as a starting option against a huge spike in competition level."

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