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Notre Dame 99-to-2: No. 93 Jay Hayes, defensive end

Notre Dame v Syracuse

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01: Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange passes under pressure from Jay Hayes #93 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Listed Measurements: 6-foot-3 ½, 281 pounds
2017-18 year, eligibility: Senior with two remaining seasons of eligibility including 2017
Depth chart: Hayes and classmate Andrew Trumbetti split first-team reps at the strongside defensive end position throughout spring. By the end, it seemed Hayes had the edge with sophomore Khalid Kareem behind the two. For thoroughness’s sake, it should be noted Trumbetti is entering his final season of eligibility.
Recruiting: A consensus four-star, ranked Hayes as the No. 14 defensive tackle in his class.

Hayes was set to preserve a year of eligibility in 2014 before injuries sidelined former Notre Dame defensive linemen Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day late in the season. With no other viable options along the defensive front, the Irish coaches plugged in Hayes for the final three contests. He collected two tackles and a sprained ankle.

To compensate for that action, Hayes spent his sophomore season on the sideline, setting him back on a prototypical five-year schedule.

Last season, he managed 10 tackles in 10 games with half a tackle for loss.

One has to think part of the lack of hype around Hayes this spring was because so much was spent on sophomore weakside defensive end Daelin Hayes (no relation). Subconsciously, Jay Hayes fell down the list of those to discuss. Nonetheless, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly did offer one pertinent and revealing quote regarding Hayes, even if it was also quite short.

“[We] would like to see him on the edge,” Kelly said after just one practice.

Even at 281 pounds, the Irish coaches do not consider Hayes a candidate for defensive tackle because they see such value from him on the outside. Why the positive spin rather than a pessimistic view? Simply put, that is what Kelly said. He did not say, “We would rather not move him inside.”

“When Notre Dame lines up on defense against Texas, expect to see Hayes opposite Isaac Rochell at defensive end. Notre Dame’s front four will be among the largest in the country if that happens—two 290-pound defensive ends and two 300-plus pounders in the trenches.

“That said, if Hayes is going to stick at end, he might spend the summer slimming down. Shedding 10 pounds and playing closer to 275 might give him an extra half-step, something that could come in handy when coming off the edge.

“But even without a weight loss, Hayes is going to have a productive season. If healthy, I’ve got him penciled in for double-digit starts, approaching 10 TFLs, and the second most tackles on the defensive line.

Hayes competing with Trumbetti throughout spring bodes well for the former. At the worst, the two split reps and each held his own in the chase for the starting strongside spot. At the best, Hayes outdid Trumbetti a bit more than was seen in open practices.

Hayes has always had a size advantage over Trumbetti, but Trumbetti’s quickness has been a bigger difference. In 2017, the question will be how Hayes makes up for that.

Last season, he missed Keith’s starting projection by double digits and the tackles mark by 35. With that in mind, expecting anything close to those figures a year later seems a big leap. Keith was discussing a relatively-complete unknown. At this point, what is known is something of a letdown.

But by no means has Hayes reached his ceiling. That is part of the frustration. One cannot know where Hayes’ ceiling might be based on what he showed his junior year.

If Hayes can give an idea of his potential this season, then the Irish coaches will have good reason to invite him back for a fifth year. His size alone makes that a possibility, and notable productivity would certainly increase those odds.

Obviously, Hayes could transfer elsewhere if he does not receive that invite for the 2018 season. Presuming he graduates, Hayes could play immediately thanks to the NCAA’s stance on graduate transfers.

If he wants to play at the next level, Hayes might need to triple his career tackles this year. (12 x 3 = 36) Otherwise, he will be considered another product of New York high school football falling well short of expectations.

2017’s Notre Dame 99-to-2
Friday at 4: Goodbye A-to-Z, hello 99-to-2
No. 99: Jerry Tillery, defensive tackle
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti, defensive end
No. 97: Micah Dew-Treadway, defensive tackle
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah, defensive tackle
No. 95 (theoretically): Darnell Ewell, defensive tackle
No. 94 (theoretically): Kurt Hinish, defensive tackle