Daelin Hayes, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive edge player out of Skyline High School Ann Arbor, Mich. -- via a circuitous route -- is less than a week away from declaring his college choice after de-committing from USC a couple of months ago when Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian was relieved of his duties.
With an upcoming visit from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly expected within the next few days while Ohio State and Michigan State continue running with the lead pack, Hayes has set Tuesday, Dec. 10 as the day he will make an announcement of his final and, presumably, binding verbal commitment.
How that will shake out remains to be seen, although a source told Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson earlier this week that Hayes ultimately would choose the Irish.
“He will be at Notre Dame,” the source told Sampson.
Stay tuned on that front.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at what kind of football player this part-linebacker, part-defensive end is and should become.
This is, first and foremost, a physical powerhouse. It looks as if opposing ball carriers are getting hit by a load of bricks when Hayes lowers the boom. It looks like a sledgehammer making contact and it looks like it hurts.
Hayes really filled out leading up to his senior year at Skyline. Earlier in his prep career, he looked like a pure linebacker. But his hard work in conditioning and in the weight room have revealed his long-term body makeup, and it is that of a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4, but an even better fit as an end in a 4-3.
Hayes is thick. As his body matures and he continues to hammer away in the weight room and nutritionally, we’re seeing the development of a big, strong, powerful man. He still has the innate quickness of a linebacker with quality knee bend and a low center of gravity. But as his body matures, he’s trending closer to the snap of the football.
Combine the attributes of expanding size/strength with the natural genes of an athlete and you have a truly unique skillset. Once he crosses the face of an offensive lineman, it’s over because that low, concentrated center of gravity, knee bend and widened base allow him to corral smaller, faster athletes.
As a pass rusher, he’s more power rusher than speed rusher, but his quickness accentuates his power. Right now, he overwhelms physically as a pass rusher. As he matriculates to the next level, he’ll become more adept at using his hands and the various pass-rush moves to complement his power. It’s a lethal combination.
His closing speed to a quarterback after he comes off a block is a sight to behold. Again, because he shows the lower-body characteristics of an athlete, he can come off a block and explode toward the quarterback. He shifts into another gear once he clears the block and has his target in sight.
Interviews with Hayes are revealing as well. There’s a whole bunch of personality in that physically gifted body. He is mature from the standpoint that he knows what he wants and he knows how to get there. His work ethic is his trump card. There are a lot of physically-gifted high school football players out there. Add up all of Hayes’ traits and you have the makings of a very special football player/student-athlete.
Prior to Hayes’ junior season, when asked about the players he uses as role models, he cited Adrian Peterson offensively, and Notre Dame sophomore-to-be Jaylon Smith, who ultimately could play a significant role in Hayes’ college choice.
Both Smith and Hayes were listed as outside linebackers coming out of high school. They are different players with different body types. Hayes is a more compact version of defensive end Stephon Tuitt than he is Smith, but his athleticism is that of an outside linebacker, particularly when he’s closing in on a quarterback or chasing down a running back.
He knows he’s good, but he also knows he has to work at being great every day. His work ethic is commensurate to his physical talent. He recognizes that he has an obligation to himself to maximize his talent.
If that talent ends up wearing a Notre Dame uniform, his best position in the current defense would be that of a big end, which is the position Isaac Rochell plays. Rochell has another year of eligibility with the Irish.
If Hayes chooses Notre Dame and Rochell stays at big end, look for the prized freshman to bounce to the other defensive end spot, which will be vacated by the graduation of Romeo Okwara. Andrew Trumbetti currently is Okwara’s backup. Trumbetti better start working immediately.
Daelin Hayes is a five-star prospect and a star waiting to happen on the next level.