Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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Page 18 of 55 OCT. 30, 2017 19 BY LOU SOMOGYI N othing in college football re- cruiting exhilarates a fan base more than the signing of a rare five-star prospect. Maybe 30 to 40 are given such distinctions across the country each season to divide amongst 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. On Notre Dame's 111-man 2017 roster (including walk-ons), there are two such figures from Rivals, which was at the forefront of populariz- ing such rankings: senior left guard Quenton Nelson, who is on pace to be a consensus All-American and possibly the top player selected at his position in the 2018 NFL Draft, and sophomore drop end Daelin Hayes. The drawback to such an accolade is that in a world that continues to accelerate — instant food, instant travel, instant information — that prospect is often projected to make instant impact, otherwise risk being labeled a "bust" in a culture that de- mands instant gratification. Hayes is only a 19-year-old college sophomore, but is already develop- ing an old-soul mentality. "You want to make the big plays, you want to be dominant, you want to be this or that all right now," Hayes said. "But there is a process to it. You have to work that process each and every day. "Being a completely dominant player takes time. I'm in a season of working my process and just doing what I can do to help my team." Through the first six games, Hayes has done that while taking the sec- ond most snaps (257, 42.8 per game) among all the defensive linemen. Only junior Jerry Tillery — who underwent his own developmental process his first two seasons before blossoming this year as a junior — has had more. Especially conspicuous about the 6-4, 258-pound Hayes is his emer- gence as more of an every-down player who has the strength to hold the edge versus the run, the agility and footwork to drop into pass cov- erage, and the explosiveness off the perimeter to propel a more effective pass rush. The expectations for Hayes might have reached unrealistic levels after a dominant performance in the spring game when he recorded seven solo stops, including three sacks among four tackles for loss. Through six games, his numbers were a more modest 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks with three quar- terback hurries, but his presence has made those around him more effec- tive and the defensive line perhaps the top surprise on the team. "His ability to play fast has im- pacted the entire defense, because you've got to pay attention to him," head coach Brian Kelly said. "If the offense is paying attention to him, and you're sliding a back over there, there's some other one-on-one matchups. "His impact in our defense has cre- ated a trickle-down for our entire de- fensive structure." When the coaching staff has graded out Hayes' performance on each play — effort, gap integrity, ful- filling his responsibility, etc. — "he's been really good," according to Kelly. Originally committed to USC, Hayes is the crown jewel of a sopho- more defensive end class with Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem (who origi- nally committed to Alabama) and Adetokunbo Ogundeji that has the makings of developing into one of the better ones in the country in the coming years. Defensive line coach Mike Elston has regularly conversed with Hayes about how the path toward dominance is more incremental than immediate. "The end goal is to be a dominant, first-round defensive end," Hayes said of what Elston imparts to him. "Are you that now? No — you don't have to be. "But you have to work that pro- cess. You have to be intentional each day coming in with an attitude to get better." Hayes' five-star rating was based far more on potential than produc- tion because several shoulder sur- geries and a move across the coun- try that made him ineligible limited him to barely more than a half-dozen high school games played from his sophomore season through his senior year. "I'm grateful to be able to go out and play," Hayes said. "With these types of reps — my body is sore on Sundays, and Monday is kind of a progressive day to get back to feeling good. … It's definitely an adjustment." Since 2004, Hayes is only the fifth Rivals five-star defensive player to sign with Notre Dame. Two of them won the Butkus Award — lineback- ers Manti Te'o (2012) and Jaylon Smith (2015) — and a third, defen- sive lineman Stephon Tuitt, earned All-America honors as a sophomore before becoming a second-round se- lection in the NFL Draft after his ju- nior campaign. The fourth, end Ishaq Williams, was ineligible his last two seasons but is currently with the New York Giants. Where Hayes' football career even- tually travels is still in the works, but his dedication and commitment are never in question. "He's very intentional in everything he does," Kelly said. "When he walks into [the football] building, he counts the footsteps to the training room." Opposing offenses are beginning to hear his footsteps as well. ✦ WORKING THE PROCESS Sophomore defensive end Daelin Hayes is taking promising steps toward a future destination Through the first half of the 2017 season, Hayes' 257 snaps were the second most among the Notre Dame defensive linemen. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL "Being a completely dominant player takes time. I'm in a season of working my process and just doing what I can do to help my team." HAYES

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