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Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

March 26, 2020

Shaun Crawford will be the old man on Notre Dame’s team in 2020, but Daelin Hayes feels like he should be mentioned there with him. Even though he’s been around for four years, he’d be one of those players who fits the “8th-year senior” label.

Long before Hayes flipped from USC to Notre Dame in December in 2015, he visited for a game in 2013. The next year he earned an offer at Notre Dame’s camp and was a priority target from that point on despite his commitment to USC that summer. He’s essentially been on the radar of Irish fans for seven years.

When he enrolled early in January of 2016 he was the highest rated defensive end recruit of the four they landed in that cycle. Two of the others, Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, are off to the NFL. Both had very productive careers.

Okwara finished with 17.5 career sacks and 30.5 Havoc plays (tackles for loss, forced fumbles, interceptions, and pass breakups). Kareem finished with 12.5 sacks and 38 Havoc plays. That doesn’t account for all of the pressures they had in the last two seasons either.

Hayes has played 41 career games and played a lot more than those two in his first two seasons. He was on the field for 699 snaps. Okwara played 340 and Kareem played 302. In total, even with Hayes’ season ending injury in 2019, he’s played only 38 plays less than Okwara and 209 plays less than Kareem.

Hayes has six career sacks and 18.5 Havoc plays.

That’s a lot less production for a guy who was the more hyped prospect. The other end in that class, Ade Ogundeji, has played less than half the number of snaps that Hayes has at Notre Dame. Ogundeji has 16 Havoc plays and is tied with Hayes in career sacks.

No one has ever questioned Hayes’ athletic talent. It’s just a fact that despite plenty of opportunities and consistently playing in sub-packages over the last three years, he hasn’t made a lot of plays.

I knew that because he had not played a lot of football in high school due to injuries and transfer restrictions that he’d take some time to develop, but it has been surprising that he hasn’t come close being the player that many projected him to be. I seriously doubt anyone would have predicted that there would be greater expectations for Ogundeji than him heading into their respective fifth years.

Hayes is going to get one last shot to become the disruptive pass rusher Notre Dame fans hoped he would be. He’ll also be pushed by some talented young players behind him on the depth chart. There’s reason to be excited about the potential of Ovie Oghoufo, Isaiah Foskey, and Jordan Botelho and if they prove to be more productive, they may just steal away snaps from Hayes like Okwara did in 2018.

With no spring ball, fall camp is going to be huge for Hayes to show he is ready to be a difference-maker for the 2020 defense. There’s still time for him to put it all together, but not much if he wants to hear his name called in the 2021 NFL Draft.

2. Notre Dame’s Pro Day was supposed to be an opportunity for Okwara and Kareem to make a splash after missing the NFL Combine workouts with injuries. Now that Pro Days are out of the question, I do wonder how much it will impact where they get drafted.

It’s unfortunate because these guys have worked hard to get to this point and only had one shot at an audition testing out for NFL scouts. Hopefully some of the previous testing Okwara did at Notre Dame the year before is still taken into account.

He was 10th on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List before the 2019 season ($). It’s mentioned that he was clocked at 21 mph at his top speed, which is a number many defensive backs and wide receivers don’t touch.

3. No one is being hurt more by having no Pro Day than Asmar Bilal. He didn’t get a combine invite and might have been someone who could sneak into the late-rounds if he had a big day testing. Without it, he’s pretty much destined to be an undrafted free agent.

It would have been a great story for Bilal to get drafted. He surpassed all expectations last season and finally played as fast he has looked in spurts. I hope he can get into a camp and continue to show growth as a player. A year ago I would have said he was a long shot when it came to having an NFL career, but he showed enough in his final season to earn a shot.

4. Mike reported that Deion Colzie‍ is still in contact with Notre Dame, so maybe this one’s not over with him yet. He wouldn’t be the first guy to de-commit and then come back into the fold if that’s how it ends up. Stephon Tuitt and Braden Lenzy did the same. It worked out well with Tuitt and it’s trending in a good direction with Lenzy.

Having said that, it would be a mistake for the coaching staff to not prioritize Donte Thornton Jr.‍ as one of the most important prospects on the board. He’s an elite receiver who has a similar game to Colzie in many ways, but I think he’s the slightly superior prospect with what he can do after the catch. He’s a little bit smoother as an athlete in my opinion.

I have Thornton ranked just outside of the ISD Fab 50 at 54. Newly offered J Michael Sturdivant‍ is ranked right behind Thornton for me at 55. He has number one receiver traits and like Thornton (6’4”) is another big target (6’3”). I am higher on him than any of the other sites.

If Notre Dame were to land either of them, then no one should be upset about Colzie not being in the class.

It’s weird how Notre Dame went from having several giants on the outside to throw to when they had Equanimeous St. Brown (6’5”), Miles Boykin (6’4”, 43.5 inch vertical), and Chase Claypool (6’4”, 40.5) on the same team to only having one returning receiver above 6’3” in 2021. That receiver is Micah Jones and what we have seen from him so far suggests he is a long way from being a guy who will play a big role for Notre Dame.

5. It’s very tough to even think about looking ahead to games right now when there is so much we don’t know about how the next few months will go down, but I’m going to do it anyway with a stat about Navy. The last two years Navy only managed 7 of 28 (25%) on 3rd down against Clark Lea’s defense. Navy finished 18th in 3rd down conversion percentage in 2019 and has been in the top-20 in seven of the last 10 seasons.

Just an early thought, but I don’t think Navy is going to have a ton of success on 3rd down while breaking in a new quarterback against Notre Dame on August 29th.

6. With no evaluation period on the horizon, the time to offer defensive backs is now. There have been some cases where Notre Dame has been a bit slow to recognize when they need to be proactive with offers, but this time they have done exactly what they needed to do with five potential new defensive back offers, four of them yesterday.

I say potential because a few of them are in the Athlete category, who I wrote about last week in 6 Thoughts as prospects who are undervalued. I don’t know if Notre Dame will land any of these new offers, but I would be surprised if a couple of the athletes didn’t end up developing into great players at the college level.

I hope the staff stays aggressive and does the same thing at linebacker going forward. Lea is going to have some extra time to dive into film now and I think we’ll see some offers go out at that position soon based on the current board.

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