Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2017 Issue

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

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30 MAY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL N otre Dame is coming off what is arguably its worst three- year stretch of defense in program history. If the Irish are to have any hope at making a legitimate run to the College Foot- ball Playoff, their defense must put together an epic turnaround. It has already gone through a signif- icant overhaul, but now new coordi- nator Mike Elko and the rest of the de- fensive staff need standouts to emerge. Senior linebacker Nyles Morgan built on a quality junior campaign with a strong spring. Senior Drue Tranquill has settled well into the rover posi- tion and junior Jerry Tillery has been improved inside this spring. Much more help is needed, though. Notre Dame seems to possess the talent to make such a turnaround happen. In fact, Notre Dame will have one more Rivals four-star recruit on its 2017 roster than Clemson, the defending national champions. What the Irish need is for their veterans to continue improving and for others to emerge as difference makers. Several players showed the prom- ise to provide that kind of impact on defense. DAELIN HAYES SOPHOMORE DROP END Hayes is the lone five-star recruit on Notre Dame's defensive roster. His lofty ranking has created even higher expectations for a player the Irish need to help solve their pass-rushing woes. He played very little as a fresh- man, but this spring he has developed as the clear-cut starter at drop end. It is a new position for Hayes, and it also happens to be one of the harder ones in Elko's defense to learn. The drop end has to set the edge in the run game, handle himself in coverage and rush the quarterback when called upon to do so. No other spot has as much complexity in this system. Hayes' youth and the difficulty of the position resulted in some growing pains and inconsistent play during the spring. He would flash some bril- liant plays, but often found himself out of position. But the further Notre Dame advanced into the spring, his good plays started to increase and his mistakes began to diminish. When he was on, Hayes showed elite athleticism for a player that TOP SPRING BREAKOUT PLAYERS: DEFENSE Notre Dame received much-needed performances from a number of its defenders in March and April Sophomore safety Jalen Elliott capped off a strong spring with seven tackles and an interception in the Blue-Gold Game. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN

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