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Notre Dame Football

Daelin Hayes Excited To Help Lead Young Notre Dame Defense

March 27, 2019

Senior defensive end Daelin Hayes has been a key contributor to Notre Dame’s talented defensive line for the past two years. Now, he looks to take the next step towards making his mark on the Notre Dame defense. Hayes believes attention to detail and focusing on making smaller plays can help him elevate his game to an elite level.

“Attention to detail and every finite detail of the game is important,” Hayes said. “This spring especially has been focused on the details, everything being perfect, and not having to worry about the entire defense necessarily but just doing your job and doing it as best as you can with the most attention to detail that you possibly could give.”

After an explosive sophomore season where he recorded 6.5 tackles for loss, Hayes’ stats stagnated in his junior year, which resulted in slightly less playing time. When asked what he needed to focus on to get back into a rhythm, Hayes emphasized a more fundamental approach to his playing style.

“Settling down and freeing myself of the burden of trying to be the big play guy and just playing football and letting the game come to me is something I’ve been focusing on,” stated Hayes.

As an experienced senior in Clark Lea’s defense, Hayes has the responsibility to lead the younger players on the team. He seems very excited about his new leadership role and expressed excitement about the talented but developing players.

“Our defense is young,” Hayes said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys coming in and taking things in stride, but we’re starting to see guys making some plays and feeling more comfortable.”

Daelin Hayes recognized how important it is to have strong leadership on the team, and what he needs to do to step into that role.

“Just doing what you’re supposed to do all the time because guys are looking,” the Michigan native said. “If you see a young guy looking at you doing something you’re not supposed to be doing they probably think it’s okay. So you’ve got to be accountable to yourself, and once you’re confident in holding yourself accountable, then you can expand and start to reach out to the younger guys.”

That leadership role starts with accountability, and Hayes understands the impact he can have on the team.

“Coach always talks about ownership,” explained Hayes. “Whether it’s 30 plays, 15 plays, 50 plays or 5 plays, you know you’re accountable to your teammates for the plays you make while you’re on the field.”

As an early enrollee in 2016, Hayes has played under multiple defensive coordinators in his time at Notre Dame, most notably switching from Brian Vangorder’s 4-3 base defense to the 4-2-5 preferred by Mike Elko and his successor Clark Lea. He expressed the importance of having continuity at the coaching position and how Brian Kelly’s consistent coaching staff is helping the team grow.

“It gives you confidence and you can play fast,” Hayes said. “When you get a new coordinator or a new defense, it’s like you’re starting over from day one, but when you’re going into year three, you have three years of building. From camp to season to bowl prep to spring ball, we’re continuing to grow as a defense.”

That added confidence is shown in a defensive line that believes it can be the starting point of attack for a talented Irish defense. 

“We’re the tip of the spear, that’s how we view ourselves,” said Hayes. “Anytime we go out and have to perform, like during third downs and 2-minute drills, it lives and dies with us.”

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