The most interesting thing about Jay Hayes is now football.
A possible starter at defensive end after a surprise spring move, the Hayes story is no longer about red shirts, social media or Brian VanGorder impressions. Notre Dame actually needs him to play. A lot.
There’s no question Hayes is up for the opportunity. What’s less clear is how well he can deliver alongside Isaac Rochell, Jerry Tillery and Jarron Jones. The junior, who took a red-shirt last season, has just two career tackles and three games played.
That’s all going to change now. At 290 pounds he needs to provide a pass rush while also chasing down running backs in coverage. Basically, Notre Dame will ask Hayes to do a little bit of everything after having him do next to nothing the past two years.
Jay Hayes is next in Irish Illustrated’s A-to-Z series.
Meet Notre Dame’s replacement for Romeo Okwara. In a surprise move, Hayes shifted from defensive tackle to weak side end during spring practice, jumping into a competition with Andrew Trumbetti. This is the position where Okwara led Notre Dame in sacks last season, which doesn’t seem like Hayes’ game on paper. But a starting job is there to be won and Hayes might not have a better opportunity than this with three years of eligibility remaining. The best case here is clear. Hayes begins his ascent into the lineup and ultimately grows into an Isaac Rochell type who can help Notre Dame’s defensive line from multiple positions while never coming off the field.
When’s the last time a defensive tackle turned into an effective weak side end? We don’t know either. It’s hard to imagine Notre Dame starting a four-man line that lacks a natural pass rusher, but if Hayes gets the nod over Trumbetti that’s probably how this group looks. Hayes is going to play a lot of football this season. Even if the worst-case scenario happens and Trumbetti beats him out for the job, look for the Irish to lean on Hayes somehow.
Kona Schwenke never tried to play weak-side defensive end but Brian Kelly did try to red shirt him as a sophomore, similar to Hayes. Also similar to Hayes is the fact Schwenke played as a freshman, wasting a year of eligibility for five games and two tackles. His sophomore year was an even bigger burn, playing in three games and not posting a stop. Schwenke should have taken a red shirt somewhere along the way in what amounted to a misread by the coaching staff. Hayes will get a shot at a fifth year down the road. Schwenke could have been valuable in that role too. He was on the Seattle Seahawks roster as an offensive tackle in injured reserve last year. In terms of defensive tackles moving to defensive end, Trevor Laws qualifies but that comparison doesn’t make much sense to date.
Development Vs. Recruiting Ranking
Hayes was a consensus four-star prospect across the recruiting world and made the Top 250 on Scout, Rivals and 247. Both Rivals and 247 ranked Hayes as the nation’s No. 14 defensive tackle while ESPN had him lowest at No. 30 at the position. Interestingly, Hayes was rated over Daniel Cage on every service except Scout. As for whether or not Hayes’ development matches his recruiting ranking, that question will start to be answered this season.
Hayes At His Best
It’s probably Notre Dame’s postseason awards show last December because Hayes nailed that comedy routine. He’s played in just three career games and made two total tackles. On the field is tough to track.
Quote To Note
“Defensive end is a position where there’s more freedom. I feel comfortable out there.” – Jay Hayes during spring practice
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