NO. 2: DE- DAELIN HAYES (Soph.)
• The Journey: Hayes was one of five early-enrollee freshmen in the spring of 2016.
After playing in the season-opener against Texas, Hayes made at least one tackle in eight of the next 11 games, including seven in a row despite relatively limited playing time at defensive end.
Hayes completed his rookie season with 11 tackles (five unassisted), three of which came in the rain-soaked game at N.C. State when he forced a fumble that the Irish recovered.
He showed his versatility early in the second quarter of the September home game against Michigan State when he ran with a Spartan tight end up the seam and was credited with a pass defensed as freshman safety Devin Studstill came up to make the interception.
It was an encouraging start on the collegiate level following an injury-plagued prep career, particularly his senior season when he missed the majority of Skyline High School’s (Ann Arbor, Mich.) campaign.
• The Spring: When spring drills opened and with the arrival of defensive coordinator Mike Elko, Hayes was inserted as the No. 1 right defensive end (predominately in a two-point stance) from the outset.
It’s difficult, however, to assess exactly what kind of 2017 spring Hayes has had. He’s been unchallenged for a starting role by sophomore Julian Okwara, who will have a role in his own right as a pass rusher, but not as a defensive end that can, at least at the present time, set the edge.
Hayes certainly looks the part and shows quickness and play-making ability off the edge, but still must prove he can handle the rigors of 70 plays a game and holding the point of attack on the right side of Notre Dame’s defensive line. The learning curve also has been extensive.
Few of Notre Dame’s most promising young players, however, are assured of extensive playing time quite like Hayes as the Irish exit spring drills. He is Notre Dame’s right defensive end of the present and future.
• The Quote: ““He’s an athlete. He’s on the edge in a two-point stance. He’s not a trained, put-your-hand-on-the-ground defensive end. He played running back in high school. He can see things better in a two-point and can diagnose quicker.” -- DL coach Mike Elston
“Playing defense, he doesn’t have a big resume, so this was really a great spring for him with Coach (Elko) to really lay down a great base of learning, He did a terrific job as a player of really buying into that and not getting too far ahead of himself.
“Taking on blocks, dropping into coverage, paying attention to those details that go with the position so when he gets to that first game, I think you’ll see a player that has improved dramatically.”