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Irish Pick Up Commitment From Elite Defender

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Will he? Won't he? We finally have our answer on Daelin Hayes, and that answer is an emphatic YES.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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Hybrid linebacker/defensive end prospect Daelin Hayes became the 19th commitment in the 2016 Notre Dame football class today when he announced for the Irish at his school and via Bleacher Report. Hayes is listed at 6'3" and 254 pounds; the 247 Composite has him as the #121 overall player, #9 outside linebacker, and #3 player in Michigan. He's our highest-rated recruit by Rivals (#21) since Jaylon Smith (#2). He's also an excellent student and an early enrollee.

Hayes's recruitment was an up and down affair. Summing up, in chronological order:

  • He reportedly very nearly committed to Notre Dame last year, after attending the 2014 Irish Invasion camp, but seemed to gradually cool on the Irish over the next few months.
  • He committed to USC.
  • He took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame for the Texas game and was rumored to be an imminent flip.
  • He visited USC again and signed a financial aid agreement with the Trojans (non-binding for him, binding for USC).
  • He decommitted from USC in the Steve Sarkisian fallout and again was rumored to be leaning towards Notre Dame after an official visit for the USC game.
  • He considered official visits to LSU, Oregon, and Ole Miss, but ultimately didn't take any of them.
  • He was courted very heavily by Urban Meyer before ultimately rebuffing him recently. Michigan State also had been around his recruitment for a long time and made a late push.
In the end, Notre Dame was just too good of a fit all around for Hayes to end up anywhere else. He idolizes Jaylon Smith, who has promised Hayes his #9; Daelin is probably going to get the chance to wear that number in 2016.

Recruiting Service Rankings

Rivals - 5 star (6.1 rating), #21 overall, #7 position (LB), #1 in Michigan

247 - 4 star (95 rating), #104 overall, #10 position (OLB), #3 in Michigan

ESPN - 4 star (81 rating), #230 overall, #12 position (ATH), #5 in Michigan

Scout - 4 star, #207 overall, #12 position (OLB), #8 in Michigan

247 Composite - 4 star (0.9440 rating), #121 overall, #9 position (OLB), #3 in Michigan

#121 overall player, #9 outside linebacker, and #3 player in Michigan

Cohort

In addition to Notre Dame, Hayes holds offers from... well, everybody basically. Alabama, Arizona State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, and Wisconsin, among others, have offered Hayes.

Highlights

You can see on this highlight reel why Kelly, Meyer, Dantonio, and Sarkisian all wanted this kid - he's an absolute beast. My favorite play is not even a tackle - it's around the 0:30 mark, when in quick succession he throws a lineman to the ground and then a running back. He moves really smoothly and shows tremendous power at the point of contact. There's a reason why Rivals has him as the #21 overall recruit in this class.

However, there's also a reason why Scout has him as the #207 recruit in this class, which certainly is not bad but is a far cry from #21. Daelin is a fantastic athlete but relies pretty heavily on that athleticism right now; he moves easily and instinctively, but his tackling and pass rushing technique are, shall we say, unrefined. There's a bigger concern than that, though, and that's health. Hayes missed most of his sophomore year due to a shoulder injury, sat out his junior year after transferring to a high school in California near his mother, and then missed most of his senior year back in Michigan with another shoulder injury. He has played six games of varsity football. The upside is enormous, but the question marks are significant.

Instant Impact

I wouldn't rule out Hayes making a contribution in 2016, primarily because he's physically ready for the college game. I think he'll need to polish his skills before he can make a serious contribution; even as an early enrollee, I'm not sure he'll be able to move along that quickly. I would not at all be surprised to see him consistently on special teams units next year, though. Just run in the right direction and hit somebody, kid.

Long Term / Career

Assuming he can stay healthy, Hayes projects as a multi-year starter at either outside linebacker or defensive end. He has the frame to add good weight but he can be very effective where he is too, so he'll give the staff a lot of flexibility as they address future roster situations. Wherever he ends up, his ceiling is very high and he has the potential to be a dominant player and worthy successor to Jaylon's #9.

Welcome to the family, Daelin!