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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame, Daelin Hayes Focused on Physicality Over Narratives

December 17, 2020

No. 2 Notre Dame is in uncharted territory this week as the Irish will play for an ACC Championship against No. 3 Clemson. 

The Irish won the first round in November, but Clemson was without starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Much has been made about Lawrence's return for Saturday's game in Charlotte and Daelin Hayes knows firsthand how dangerous the junior quarterback can be. 

"Experience," Hayes said of what Lawrence brings to the table. "He's a proven winner. He's played in a lot of big games. That calm, cool and even though DJ (Uiagalelei) exhibited a lot of that, Trevor has been in a lot of big games. You can't really put a price on that experience. 

"Trevor can run the ball. He's deceptively fast. I remember back in 2018, we left that game thinking he was faster than we had anticipated. His running ability and experience and decision making is going to be the biggest difference."

Notre Dame isn't without its own veteran experience as the Irish front seven is loaded with seasoned players who have played in big games as well. 

Hayes and the Irish defense have also dug into the November game against Clemson to see where he can better himself. 

"You can't put a price on experience," explained Hayes. "Going back and rewatching the moves that worked and things that didn't work. Having a full game study of reps having gone against these guys about six weeks ago. That's awesome being able to have that and kind of bringing in new things that you think will give you an upper hand." 

Hayes, a graduate student, knows there are small details he and his teammates can clean up to be more efficient against an explosive Tigers offense. 

"You want to double down on the things you did well, but you really want to go back and clean up the things that you might have missed," Hayes said. "Maybe a missed fit or anything like that. 

"As a defense as a whole, we just have to bring that physicality that we had the last game. I think that was the difference for us - winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball." 

Now, one can talk about film study, players returning, or fixing mistakes, but Hayes firmly believes the ACC Championship will be won just like the first game. 

Physical play and conditioning. 

Notre Dame will bring both to the table as the Irish defensive line is one of the deepest in the nation.

"Our box is as physical as any box in the country," said Hayes. "Our defensive line is also rallying - being able to throw fresh guys at an offensive line—new drive, rally halfway through the drive - those fresh legs. Our defensive line and our box, in general, is super physical. 

"Over the course of a game, it really takes its toll. Having fresh legs coming after an offensive line and then our mentality to be one of the most, if not the most, physical box in the country." 

And yes, Notre Dame still hears the talk about how another big win can firmly put the program at the top of the totem pole.

But that doesn't mean Hayes has embraced that this game is about the national narrative. 

"You know, when we talk about these narratives, guys - at the end of the day, it's not real," said Hayes. "All these speculations about this, that - none of that is real. At the end of the day, you have to go play ball. Your ball is going to speak for itself. Playing ball the right way, the brand of football we like to play - that's going to put us where we need to be. 

"As long as we stay focused on that - we go out and play hard and the standard of the brotherhood, then the narrative, the stories, this and that will all take care of itself." 

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