Notre Dame sets pace on Daelin Hayes recruitment

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Daelin Hayes was overcome by the atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium.

The electricity of a night filled with highlights in a 41-31 Notre Dame win over the rivals from USC spilled from the student section into the seating area designated for recruits. The 6-foot-3, 239-pound linebacker recruit wanted to be part of it all.

Six days after withdrawing his verbal commitment to USC, Hayes was being hoisted in the air for crowd-surfing pushups to celebrate a Notre Dame score.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” Hayes said Sunday night following his official visit. “That was the most fun I’ve had at a game ever. That was hype. A blocked punt. Interceptions. It was crazy. It was an electric atmosphere. I was blessed to be a part of it.”

Hayes helped coax fellow linebacker recruit Jeffrey McCulloch to do the same. Then it was Tommy Kraemer’s turn.

“I was actually gassed after doing it,” Hayes said of helping lift the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Irish commit. “I was right in the middle. I had Tommy’s chest so I had the majority of the weight.”

My dudes @jmcculloch17@TonnJoness@DaelinHayes_24 and @Jae_Uno_ took care of me last night. 38 push-ups. pic.twitter.com/yb4jvyO8ia

— Tommy Kraemer (@Big_TK75) October 18, 2015

The entire official visit swept away Hayes. With four more official visits scheduled, the senior at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline has something to use as a comparison.

“I had an amazing time,” Hayes said. “It was great start to finish. They definitely set the bar.”

If the goal for Notre Dame’s coaching staff was to get Hayes to imagine a future with the Irish, consider it a mission accomplished.

“It’s great to be around guys that share the same mindset as you. Those guys are great guys – Tony Jones, Tommy Kraemer, Jalen Elliott,” Hayes said of the Notre Dame commits who joined him at the game. “Those are all great guys. I enjoyed being around them and being in an atmosphere that could potentially be my college home.”

Rather than stepping away from the recruiting process after ditching USC, Hayes decided to dive back in head first. Watching the Irish beat the Trojans in Notre Dame Stadium made for an interesting night.

“It definitely brought a different dynamic to the game,” Hayes said. “It was cool seeing those guys going at it. Notre Dame came out on top. I wish the USC staff nothing but the best.”

Hayes already has scheduled official visits to Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon and LSU for consecutive weekends in November. He said he heard from roughly 15 schools during the week after news of his broken relationship with USC spread.

The outreach shouldn’t come as a surprise for a player of his caliber. Rivals rates Hayes as a five-star recruit, the No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 13 overall in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 8 outside linebacker.

Notre Dame never backed off in recruiting Hayes. He visited the Irish for their season opener when many assumed he was locked in with USC.

“Notre Dame’s been recruiting me the hardest out of any school even when I was committed,” Hayes said. “They were recruiting me as if I was an uncommitted prospect. Notre Dame has always stayed on me.”

With plans to enroll at a school in January, Hayes doesn’t have long to consider his options. He’s trying to hit the reset button on his recruitment, but he knows he doesn’t have time to waste.

“It’s like starting over but with an expiration date on it because I’m an early graduate,” Hayes said. “With these five schools, you narrow it down and you let those be your guide.”

Notre Dame continues to sell Hayes on the possibility of following linebacker Jaylon Smith’s track to stardom in South Bend. Hayes spent more time talking with Smith this weekend.

Now Hayes will let the other four schools try to surpass the impression Notre Dame made. He’s currently committed to making all four visits.

“That’s the plan for now,” Hayes said. “I’ll have to speak with my parents. It’s a decision that we made to take my visits and really get a chance to give every school a fair shot. My family thinks it’s important for me to take my time.”

The clock is ticking on his recruitment. Notre Dame set the pace Saturday night.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Linebacker recruit Daelin Hayes stands on the sideline before Notre Dame's 41-31 win over USC on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (SBT Photo/JARED HAMSHER)