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Notre Dame Football

Scouting the Roster: Jay Hayes

June 13, 2017
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Player name: Jay Hayes

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 281

Player position: Defensive end (strong side)

Years of eligibility left: 2

Projected rank on the depth chart: Starter

Player productivity so far:

2016: 10 tackles 0.5 TFL 1 QB hurry

2014: 2 tackles

What player does best: It’s been a process for Hayes, but the steps have been taken to get him in the position he is in now heading into his fourth season. He is strong at the point of attack and physically one of the most impressive specimens on the team. He has transformed himself as much as anyone over his time in South Bend and he has made a big jump in terms of his strength.

Athletically he checks all the boxes you’d like too. He has an above average first step and shows very good lateral quickness. I thought he really improved as a pass rusher this spring and has improved his hands a great deal. His club-rip is now an actual weapon he can use to get after the quarterback and he came up with two sacks in the most recent Blue-Gold game.

He has a good motor and hustles to the football pretty consistently. Hayes shows the kind of attitude on the field that makes you think he wants to be a great player.

What player needs to work on: That attitude hasn’t translated into him becoming a great player yet, though. He plays hard, but can be undisciplined with his technique at times. That includes pad level and his ability to recognize blocks. He would sometimes go looking for the ball instead of letting the block tell him where the ball is going. That seems greatly improved from where he was. We just need to see it on Saturdays and not just in practice.

He’s never played a full-time role and we’ve yet to see down to down consistency from him. That’s probably a big reason why he didn’t start last season and was relegated to a backup after running with the ones for much of fall camp. Talent has to equal production this season and Notre Dame needs him to not just flash, but finish and do that while still doing his job each and every snap.

I see the things in practice that make me think he can be a quality player and now it needs to translate to games.

Productivity of former ND players and top players in the nation at his position:

Isaac Rochell 2016: 56 tackles 7 TFL 1 sack 1 PBU 10 QB hurries

Kapron Lewis-Moore 2012: 40 tackles 8.5 TFL 6 sacks 2 PBU 9 QB hurries 2 forced fumbles

Solomon Thomas Stanford: 62 tackles 15 TFL 8 sacks 7 Qb hurries 1 forced fumbles

Hunter Dimick Utah: 54 tackles 21 TFL 14.5 sacks 7 PBU 1 QB hurry 1 forced fumble

Christian Wilkins Clemson: 48 tackles 13 TFL 3.5 sacks 10 PBU 5 QB hurries

Bradley Chubb NC State: 57 tackles 21.5 TFL 10 sacks 1 PBU 7 QB hurries 3 forced fumbles

Duke Ejiofor Wake Forest: 50 tackles 17 TFL 10.5 sacks 1 INT 4 PBU 4 QB hurries 2 forced fumbles

What can we hope for? The main thing with Hayes is that this needs to be the year it all clicks together. It looked like it may have been last year, but it just never happened. In truth, that could have been partly due to him playing out of position. He always should have been playing the position that Isaac Rochell played in the previous defense, but ended up trying to make his mark in the position that Romeo Okwara played because of a lack of options there.

We saw enough in practices prior to last season to give us hope, but an ankle injury landed him out of the mix as the record came tumbling down. He at least found his way into the rotation, but again we didn’t see any real production on the field.

I’d like to think we can hope some of what we saw from him this spring and in the spring game. He has a long way to go to prove he can be as good as Rochell was, but he has more athletic upside as Rochell.

We may see more tackles for loss and sacks out of him because of that. The defense he’ll be playing in this year won’t hurt with that either. Close to double digit tackles for loss and strong play versus the run may seem like a pipe dream given he has half a tackle for loss beside his name for his career, but opportunity and the steps he has made to make himself ready for this opportunity could meet in the right spot to see him hold down his spot all season as an above average starter at end.

What is a realistic expectation? Realistically, it’s tough to say that I or anyone else should be sold that Hayes is not going to regress at some points with some previous bad habits. Looking at how he is built suggests he is close to an NFL future, but it seems almost far-fetched given that Notre Dame needs a lot more from him to get to the point where it’s a real conversation.

Some games Hayes might show dominance in spurts and some he might have a tough time not getting reach blocked to set the edge. That’s typical of most first year starters, especially those that are entering their fourth year and haven’t lived up to the hype they came in with. What is most likely to happen is that we’ll see growing pains from Hayes in his expanded role and that may mean some struggles early in the year against a program like Georgia.

The rough patches should smooth out as the season progresses and his play should be more steady with the more experience he gains.

What about the future? For Hayes, the future is now. He needs to have a year where the arrow is pointing up for him to ensure he is going to have a fifth year at Notre Dame. That seems probable, but it’s not a sure thing.

It would be ideal if how he looked in the spring translates to the fall and it could set up very well for the Irish defensive line going forward. There is only one player on the line whose eligibility runs out after this season (Daniel Cage) and it should be loaded with juniors and seniors in 2018. Hayes could end up being a leader in that group provided he takes care of business and has a productive 2017.
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