Notebook: Hayes grows into expectations; Wimbush to redshirt
SOUTH BEND — The info collated just weeks ago to form Daelin Hayes’ National Signing Day profile was already out of date by Wednesday.
So apparently is any lingering trepidation that the Notre Dame coaches will have to take baby steps with the latest Irish defensive prodigy, who between injuries and geographical moves prompted by a custody battle, never played a complete varsity football season in high school.
The only restriction on the early enrollee, and perhaps the most immediately impacting player in the 2016 Irish recruiting class, is that he won’t be subject to contact during spring practice, as he continues to recover from a right shoulder injury that limited his senior season at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline High to three games last fall.
“We expect him to be ready to go by the summer, when it counts,” Irish defensive line coach Keith Gilmore said. “I’ve had very few freshmen in my career that truly could help, other than being forced into action. He can help us.”
If and when he does, it won’t be as the 6-foot-3, 239-pound linebacker Hayes was listed as Wednesday. Gilmore said Hayes recently measured in at 6-3 ½, 256 pounds after working with Notre Dame director of football strength and conditioning Paul Longo and is targeted for rush end — ND’s most glaring position of need in this class.
The Irish added seven prospects in an almost equally dire area in need of an upgrade, the defensive backfield, with two early enrollees in that group — safeties Devin Studstill and Spencer Perry.
“I’d be disappointed if more than two of them redshirted this year,” second-year DBs coach Todd Lyght said of the collection of three cornerbacks and four safeties.
Unless Hayes suffers a setback to his shoulder, the five-star prospect plucked out of USC’s recruiting class won’t be redshirting either. And his lack of game experience isn’t muting the expectations of what he might be able to contribute this fall.
“First of all we’ve got to get him healthy,” Gilmore said. “But I think he’s such an exceptional athlete that once he gets healthy, he’ll be able to pick up and play at a pace that most young people are not able to. He’s just a rare talent, where I think he has those intangibles that he could do it.”
Added ND head coach Brian Kelly: “We're really excited about him. He's a bright, articulate kid. He knows what he wants. The thing I like about Daelin more than anything else is if you give him something that is really definitive and tangible, he's going to go after it. And it's an approach that I love about a kid at that age, and he'll work toward that.
“Whatever it's been — ‘I want to be a mid-year enrollee, I want to go to Notre Dame.’ Once he had settled on that, there was nothing that was going to get in the way of it. And that's why we're going to really enjoy coaching him and his experience.”
Listen to Eric talk more about Hayes' position dilemma below:
Wimbush to redshirt
The plan before Everett Golson transferred last May and Malik Zaire broke an ankle in September was to redshirt quarterback Brandon Wimbush as a freshman and put a year of separation from an eligibility standpoint between DeShone Kizer and him.
Take two on that plan will happen in 2016, Kelly revealed on WSBT’s Weekday SportsBeat radio show on Wednesday.
“We brought Ian Book in to be our No. 3,” Kelly said of the 6-0, 190-pound incoming freshman from El Dorado, Hills, Calif. “We think Ian can step in and be our No. 3, and (then we can) redshirt Brandon.
“We feel like he sacrificed a year for the team. We want to be able to give him the year back. Unless something catastrophic happens, we want to preserve the year for Brandon, moving forward.”
Sophomore DeShone Kizer, who started ND’s final 11 games in 2015, and junior Malik Zaire, who started the first two before suffering the season-ending injury, will compete for the starting job in the spring.
“He’ll get plenty of reps in the spring,” Kelly said of Wimbush, “but the real opportunities in the spring are going to be for the two guys that need it, because we have to find out who our starting quarterback’s going to be. We’ve got two champions there, two guys who can help us win a championship.
“So Brandon knows he’s got to take back seat. Ian Book can come in, and we love Ian. Smart, will know our playbook. He’s Tommy Rees mentally, with really good athletic skills, if I could use a guy that we all know about.”
More personnel matters
Kelly touched on a variety of non-recruiting topics on SportsBeat. Here’s a sampling:
• Sophomore Tyler Luatua’s impending transfer to BYU leaves three tight ends on the roster, a number Kelly feels is one too few.
Sixth-year grad senior Chase Hounshell apparently is not an option and could end up playing elsewhere in 2016. Kelly instead said he plans to move a player from another position to join the corps of junior Durham Smythe, redshirt freshman Nic Weishar and freshman Alizé Jones.
The coach wasn’t ready to reveal his choice, but a viable option could be reserve defensive lineman Jacob Matuska, who was recruited out of high school by many schools as a tight end.
• On the injury front, Kelly said linebackers Te’von Coney and Greer Martini, each of whom underwent surgery in January, will be in non-contact drills only in the spring, and that among ND’s returnees those appear the only two to be in that situation.
“Devin Butler is making progress with the fracture,” Kelly said of the junior cornerback, who suffered a broken foot in practice in the days leading up to ND’s Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State in Glendale, Ariz.
“He should be good to go for the spring.”
Freshman wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, whose season was cut short by a shoulder injury, is back at 100 percent, per Kelly.
• Corey Robinson’s full plate this offseason — rebounding from an injury-pocked football season and running for Notre Dame student body president almost didn’t happen.
Kelly acknowledged the junior wide receiver contemplated pursuing a Fulbright scholarship, which would have changed his 2016 plans.
“The Fulbright scholarship would preclude him from playing in the fall,” Kelly said. “He’d have to study abroad in the fall. So he had to make some hard decisions relative to where football fit.
“And he’s decided to postpone his pursuit of the Fulbright for a year, but he will pursue it next year, because he wanted to play football one more year. He just didn’t know how to balance all of the things he had in front of him.
“He’s an extraordinary kid who has great talents, and he just needed to be confirmed in his own mind that I would allow him to do all these things. We’re excited and proud of the fact that he’s going to run for student body president.”
Kelly noted teammate Jerry Tillery is the manager for a rival campaign.
“He’s got some underhanded tactics, I’m told,” Kelly joked of Tillery. “(Robinson) is going to have to be very careful.”
• Kelly said Tillery and junior safety Max Redfield are both back in good standing following their suspensions from the Fiesta Bowl for violating team rules.
“Max understood the mistake that he made,” Kelly said. “In terms of the discipline that was handed out, it was pretty firm. He recognizes the mistake, and we’ve moved on from that.
“Jerry’s situation is a little more technical, but certainly one that he recognizes the mistake he made as well. … We expect that nothing of that kind will happen again.”
• Three sophomores ended up redshirting in 2015 — wide receiver Corey Holmes, defensive lineman Jay Hayes and running back Justin Brent — and Kelly has high hopes for each of them for 2016.
“We don’t think we should have played him as a freshman,” Kelly said of Holmes. “So I felt like I owed him the opportunity to not play him this year. He improved dramatically. We think he’s going to be a great player for us.
“Jay Hayes will stay (on the defensive line). He’ll probably play more outside than inside.
“Justin Brent is still a work in progress. We’re going to find a position for him. I don’t know if it’s running back. Our guys on the defensive side of the ball love him at running back. We just think it’s a crowded group there right now.
“We’ve got to find a spot for him. That’s part of our job. You’ve got 85 scholarships. You just can’t stockpile guys. It’s not like when you had 120 of them. So he’s the only guy right now, honestly, that we’re still searching for (a spot).”