• Class: Senior (Eligibility: 2)
• On The Depth Chart: Moved past Andrew Trumbetti into the starting left (strongside) end spot this spring.
• Post-Spring Status: Ascending
Ranked by Scout as the No. 233 player in the country, Jay Hayes arrived at Notre Dame in 2014 out of Brooklyn, N.Y. as a highly-touted four-star prospect who would, in time, be a building block in the formation of a more consistent defensive front.
With the Irish off to a 6-0 start in 2014, there appeared little reason to steer from the plan to preserve a year of eligibility in Hayes’ first year in a Notre Dame uniform. But when injuries hit the defensive line hard in November, the coaching staff took the red shirt off Hayes. He played the final three games of his freshman season, finishing with one tackle against Louisville and one tackle versus LSU in the Music City Bowl.
Due to the premature use of Hayes in ’14, the staff followed through on preserving a year in ’15, which was a point of contention for Hayes via Twitter during the season.
With a clean slate as a red-shirt sophomore in ’16, Hayes settled in for a battle with Andrew Trumbetti for playing time at right (weakside) end. Hayes played in 10 games, finishing with 10 tackles, but Trumbetti logged the bulk of the time, even after Brian VanGorder’s firing.
Competing with Trumbetti at left (strongside) end in the spring, Hayes emerged as the projected starter heading into 2017.
HAYES AT HIS BEST
After logging time in just two of the first four games, Hayes participated in all eight of the remaining games in ’16. He recorded three tackles in back-to-back games against Syracuse and Stanford, including a half-tackle-for-loss against the Orange.
“I’m open to doing whatever the team needs me to do, but I’m comfortable where I’m at now. If the team needs me to move inside, I’m comfortable with that as well.
“But I feel like it’s a mismatch with my power and strength going into games (at end). My hand usage is something that is a weapon that I now use for passing situations.” -- Jay Hayes
BEST CASE SCENARIO
If he holds the point of attack, shows the ability to re-establish the line of scrimmage and stop the run, and can give the Irish some pressure on the quarterback from the strongside end position, Hayes will be a 13-game starter in 2017 and again in 2018.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Hayes believes he has made great strides in his game as a pass rusher. Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame’s mainstay at strongside from 2014-16 with spot duty at tackle, also thought he had improved his pass-rush skills heading into his final season with the Irish. Rochell finished with just one sack in ’16.
But as a strong, intelligent veteran of defensive line play, Rochell seldom came off the field, and a similar scenario is likely for Hayes in 2017-18. He, too, could bump inside in situations and/or if the Irish find a better pass rusher at strongside end.
Justin Brown, a 6-foot-3, 277-pounder out of Maryland, arrived at Notre Dame in the fall of 2004. After preserving a year of eligibility, he started one game and played in 12 games in ‘05, finishing with 12 tackles. He played just four games with six tackles in ’06.
Over his final two years with the Irish in 2007-08, Brown played in 23 games, starting 13. He had 54 tackles, eight tackles for loss and a sack in his final two seasons with the Irish. Like Hayes, he was part-end, part-tackle -- solid against the run and sack-challenged.