Notre Dame A-to-Z: Daelin Hayes

Notre Dame’s best hope for a pass-rushing presence off the edge lies in Hayes, an early enrollee withheld from heavy contact during the spring as he rehabbed from prep shoulder surgery.

Notre Dame concludes each practice with a team huddle and three-word mantra: “Count on me!”

When it comes to the Irish pass rush in 2016, at least in the form of an individual player coming off the edge, that mantra might as well be, “Count on Hayes!”

“No question he should be full speed (in August) and ready to go,” said defensive line coach Keith Gilmore of his semester enrollee, one treated with kid gloves in an effort to avoid undue stress on his surgically repaired shoulder during the spring.

“We’re counting on him.”

Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z preview of Notre Dame’s roster continues with Hayes, a crucial component to the defense’s sub packages this fall.

Hayes emerges as Notre Dame’s Rush End in both the Nickel and Dime packages, forming a bookend threat with Andrew Trumbetti on the edges as Isaac Rochell shifts inside. Whether the packages feature a three- or four-man front, Notre Dame would then feature three potential pocket stressors in obvious passing situations.

The above doesn’t only represent the “best-case” scenario for Hayes, but signifies the minimum impact necessary for the Irish defense to succeed in 2016. Notre Dame’s cornerback depth is arguably its best since 2010, and its linebacker corps, while unproven, appears to have the necessary pieces in place. Moreover, the front wall boasts a potential All-American in Isaac Rochell plus a solid 1-2 punch on the nose.

But the unit needs a pass rushing threat to complement the Trumbetti/Jay Hayes combo opposite Rochell.

It needs Daelin Hayes to be an impact freshman pass rusher in 2016.

Hayes’ prep shoulder injury hampers him in August as the wear-and-tear of training camp takes its toll. Similarly, should Hayes make it through the summer months unscathed, it’s reasonable to believe the arduous three-month regular season would likewise stress his shoulder, at some point shelving him when it matters most. 

The latter would be worse than the former, as a forced redshirt season in 2016 would be far better for Hayes’ future than a smattering of games in which he’s not full strength or is unable to play full tilt protecting prior injury.

A shade under six-foot-four and 255 pounds, Hayes is an intriguing pass rushing prospect entering the college game, but his prep career and skill set suggests duties as both an inside linebacker and/for future defensive end would not be out of the question.

Thus his frame, skillset, and necessity for instant impact are reminiscent of 1997 freshman Grant Irons.

A hybrid OLB/DE for Bob Diaco’s first recruiting class, Irons was dubbed a first-team Parade All-American out of The Woodlands High School, The Woodlands, TX. At six-foot-five, 230 pounds, Irons immediately carved a niche, playing in all 13 games for the Irish as a true freshman, earning early-season starts at inside linebacker due to the loss of team captain Bobby Howard to injury.

Irons moved outside as a sophomore before growing into a full-time (275 pounds) defensive end as a junior, senior, and fifth-year player. Irons battled through a broken fibula, arthroscopic knee surgery, and ultimate (and coincidentally in relation to Hayes) shoulder surgery, and as a result spent five seasons in South Bend, the last two as a team captain.  

Notre Dame’s future pass rush and Brian VanGorder’s ultimate success or failure as the program’s defensive coordinator is riding on it.

Hayes was’s No. 12 ranked outside linebacker prospect and the 240th-rated player overall in the 2016 cycle. He must meet or exceed expectations over the next four seasons as precious few edge players on the roster are blessed with his physical prowess at a vital position.

“He’s in here two to three times per day meeting with coaches and getting information. He’s a gym rat. He’s a different kid in that respect. I think he’ll have the mental part of it. Getting used to the speed of the game will be the big thing.” – Gilmore on Hayes and what awaits him in training camp. Top Stories