Blue and Gold Illustrated

June-July 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 28 of 63 JUNE/JULY 2017 29 BY LOU SOMOGYI I n 2016, Notre Dame finished dead last among the 65 Power Five teams in sacks by defensive linemen. The Fighting Irish to- taled three, two by Jarron Jones and one by Isaac Rochell, both of whom will vie to make an NFL roster this year. Minus a game-changing pass rusher, Notre Dame's defense was often vulnerable because it gener- ally couldn't get sack production or quarterback disruption from its line. If there is one player on the 2017 roster with the best chance to make a difference in that area, it is sopho- more drop end Daelin Hayes. A ris- ing figure throughout the spring, Hayes was a standout in the Blue- Gold Game while finishing with a game-high seven solo tackles, which included three sacks among four stops behind the line of scrimmage. "I think it's pretty clear that Daelin Hayes is going to be around the foot- ball and be a disruptive player for us," summarized Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly after the game. "Daelin is a man that is blessed with a lot of size and athletic ability that presents a lot of problems for people," said fifth-year senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey, who of- ten went against Hayes this spring. "He's so young and he has so much still to work on, but it's pretty cool to see what he is capable of and what he's going to be down the road. "He's going to be a phenomenal player for us, and he's going to have a big role this fall. We need to see more of the same improvement that we've seen all spring from Daelin." In Notre Dame's past four recruit- ing cycles, the Fighting Irish have signed only two five-star prospects: senior guard Quenton Nelson — a third-team Associated Press All- American (like McGlinchey) as a ju- nior — and the sculpted, explosive 6-3¾, 255-pound Hayes. Ravaged by shoulder injuries (he's had three such surgeries) and other setbacks in high school, Hayes made his first goal as a 2016 freshman at Notre Dame showing he could stay healthy for a full season while as- similating with teammates. He ac- complished both, finishing with 155 defensive snaps (13 per game), 11 tackles, a pass deflection (which resulted in an interception) and a forced fumble. "I didn't think that was possible," Hayes said with a grin after finishing a full football season. "I'm grateful for the experience." It was in football camps where Hayes' physical skills were so con- spicuous that analysts couldn't help but give him a fifth star. Since 2004, Hayes is the sixth five-star player on de- fense to sign with Notre Dame. Two won the Butkus Award — Manti Te'o (2012) and Jaylon Smith (2015) while a third, lineman Stephon Tu- itt, earned first-team All-America accolades as a 2012 sophomore on the 12-1 team when he recorded 12 sacks. Two others did not pan out (end Ishaq Williams and safety Max Redfield). On a defense in need of game- changing talent, the Irish are count- ing on Hayes to fulfill his immense potential. His ascent this spring came from myriad factors. One, although his weight remains in the 250-255 range, his body fat dropped from 18 percent to 10 per- cent under new strength and condi- tioning coordinator Matt Balis. "I'm not the same athlete that I was when I first came in by any means," Hayes said with excitement. Two, he has embraced the changes and simplification in new coordina- tor Mike Elko's defense after last year's miserable 4-8 campaign. "There was definitely a yearning for change," Hayes said. "We've had basically a reboot as a program, and the guys are hungry, and they don't want to experience the same season from last year." Three, he has cleared the mental hurdle of his past shoulder problems. "There's always a little apprehen- sion when you come off an injury, but that's just part of the game," Hayes said. "… I'm at a place right now where I feel pretty good." Four, he lives by the mantra, "how you do anything is how you do every- thing," aiding his efforts in the class- room and beyond. He also has become a better student of the game by watch- ing film in which he's detected a dis- cernible difference on how he now has "more twitch" when he plays. Five is having what he refers to as "a coachable mindset," so he can "profes- sionalize my work." He downplays his five-star ranking, noting that high school publicity no longer is relevant and resting on one's laurels is toxic. Finally, going up daily against someone like McGlinchey can be humbling, but also rewarding in the long run. "I've always been a competitor. … It makes me better every day," Hayes said of facing McGlinchey. "You go and do that with a guy like that in practice every day, when the game scenario comes it's like second na- ture. If you can do this in practice, then you can definitely do this when- ever." All those factors are helping Hayes actualize his potential. One of the common threads with most of Notre Dame's national champions or title contenders the past half century has been a domi- nant pass-rushing force in the 4-3 or 3-4, be it Alan Page (1966), Ross Browner (1973 and 1977), Frank Stams (1988), Bryant Young (1993) or Tuitt (2012). No one on the current Irish team is better equipped for such a role than Hayes, but his primary goals are not about his own data. "I want to be a great teammate and do everything in my power to help my team win a national champion- ship," he said. ✦ A DISRUPTIVE FORCE Sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes is a crucial cog in improving Notre Dame's pass rush After getting through a full football season last year, Hayes is looking to make a bigger impact in 2017. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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