USC commit Daelin Hayes 'loved everything' on Notre Dame visit
Daelin Hayes kept his eyes fixated on Jaylon Smith.
When Notre Dame’s star linebacker was on the field, Hayes was watching. It was an opportunity for the outside linebacker recruit to examine a potential future for himself at Notre Dame, while watching his favorite college football player.
“I dissected his whole game yesterday,” Hayes said Sunday following his unofficial visit to Notre Dame. “I watched every snap when he was on the field. It was a treat to watch because he's an animal."
Hayes returned to Notre Dame’s campus for the first time since drawing comparisons to Smith at the Irish Invasion camp in 2014. Hayes received an offer from Notre Dame that day, but committed his USC later that summer.
Despite maintaining his commitment to USC, Hayes made a visit to Notre Dame as a result of the recruiting efforts of head coach Brian Kelly and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.
“I went down and I loved everything about it. I loved what I saw,” Hayes said. “Notre Dame has always been high on my list of schools. Yesterday, that just solidified that for sure. It's really coming down to USC and Notre Dame right now. Obviously with USC, I'm committed there and I love the school, but Notre Dame is close to home. “
The 6-foot-3, 239-pound prospect has settled into his senior season at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline, with plans to enroll at his college choice in January. After Notre Dame made Hayes feel like a priority on Saturday, he may have a lot of thinking to do between now and then.
“With coach Kelly's recruitment and seeing how they're planning to develop me and how they would use me in their scheme, it's really great for me,” Hayes said.
Hayes made the visit with his mother, who he said encouraged him to make the trip. When the two spent 15-20 minutes speaking with Kelly before the game, she had plenty of questions about academic support and her son’s development off the field. The answers were well-received.
“Mom loved it. Mom left the meeting feeling great,” Hayes said. “We're just taking it one day at a time."
The commitment to USC makes Hayes’ recruitment delicate. The Irish would love to take him away from their rivals. At this point, no other teams seem to present an obvious threat to do so. Hayes has scheduled an official visit to USC for the UCLA game Nov. 28.
“My commitment is still my commitment,” Hayes said. “I'm just exploring my options and keeping doors open. The possibility of me playing close to home is huge for my mom and my family. That was really the whole thing."
Hayes has added defensive end to his repertoire in his senior season at Skyline. An elite linebacker recruit, Hayes could become a pass-rush option in college as well. He said the Irish are recruiting him as a rush linebacker, with the possibility of putting his hand in the ground.
“Right now, it's really just setting the edge and go make a play,” Hayes said of his role at Skyline. “A lot of the teams have been running to the boundary because I'm playing the field. Everybody is running a lot of formations away from me. I'm able to showcase the motor and run plays down."
Rivals rates Hayes as a five-star recruit, the No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 13 player overall regardless of position in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and No. 8 at outside linebacker.
Before Saturday’s game started, Hayes shared a special moment with Smith. The star linebacker made sure to stop and show Hayes some love. Smith yelled, “What up, baby?” as the two shared a quick hug. Smith’s reaction made it hard to identify which player was doing the idolizing.
“That felt great, man,” Hayes said. “I was really fired up when Jaylon came through.”
Notre Dame’s defense played with plenty of fire of its own. In shutting down the Texas offense, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder made a strong impression on Hayes.
“They looked like a dominant defense,” Hayes said. “They looked like they were confusing the heck out of the offense. With that complex system and me being an early enrollee, it would definitely be beneficial for me to learn the system.”
Hayes plans to get another look at the Irish in person when he makes an official visit for Notre Dame’s home game against USC.
“As far as their development and where I fit into that scheme, I feel very comfortable with where they want me to play. I'm looking forward to their recruitment down the road and my official visit on Oct. 17.”
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