Notebook: Notre Dame DE Daelin Hayes sacks and swipes in increased role

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Even the way Daelin Hayes celebrated had a purpose to it Saturday.

And the sophomore defensive end, making his first college start, provided plenty of reasons to do just that in Notre Dame’s season-opening 49-16 waxing of Temple at revised/refurbished Notre Dame Stadium.

Included in those feats was the first career sack by the 6-foot-4, 258-pounder. Immediately after, he did the familiar “swipe” motion to mark the moment, something popularized by former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith.

“Talked to him before the game,” said Hayes, who wears Smith’s old No. 9 jersey as a tribute. “He told me after every big play, go ahead and knock it down, so it was fun. It was exciting.

“It was kind of a way to show homage for those who paved the way for you. I paid homage to big bro.”

Hayes did so with four tackles and a pass breakup in addition to his sack.

Like Smith, Hayes out of Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline High, was a five-star prospect in recruiting. Unlike Smith, Hayes built that rep during the summer camp circuit, having missed all but 10 games his last three years in high school because of injuries or issues related to parental custody.

He’s one of the key pieces ND is counting on to bolster a pass rush that produced just 14 sacks in 2016 and a Power-Five low three from its defensive linemen. Ends Hayes and fellow sophomore Julian Okwara got almost that many on Saturday (one each), with linebacker Te’von Coney contributing a third.

“I think it’s just a continuing to get better each and every day.” Hayes said. “There is no ceiling for this team and for that position group (D-Line). I just know they’re hungry and they come to practice each and every day ready to work.”

They’ll get a step up in competition next week, especially when it comes to defending the run. Nick Chubb rushed for 96 yards on 15 carries with 2 TDs and Sony Michel added 87 yards on 16 attempts with a TD as Georgia smothered Appalachian State, 31-10, Saturday night.

The 15th-ranked Bulldogs visit Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday night.

Hayes was emotional after the game, given the hardships he went through leading up to Saturday.

“I think the biggest emotion that I feel right now is gratitude,” Hayes said. “You guys know the story of my high school career and what-hot, and obviously being a freshman last year and being a role player.

“But just being able to play the game and play it at a high level, play it for a long time, just being able to be out there is a blessing.

“I just thank God for the opportunity and I attack each and every day with a heart of gratitude. I’m willing and eager to get better.”

Personnel matters

Eight true freshmen saw action for the Irish on Saturday, with the most surprising role perhaps Robert Hainsey fairly equally sharing reps with sophomore Tommy Kraemer at right offensive tackle.

The others who saw action included wide receiver Michael Young and tight ends Brock Wright and Cole Kmet on offense. Defensively, lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Kurt Hinish made the rotation. Safeties Isaiah Robertson and Jordan Genmark Heath also played.

• Backup defensive tackle Micah Dew-Treadway, a junior, did not play in the game and was on the sideline in street clothes.

• Grad senior tight end Durham Smythe came out of the game for a stretch after taking a hit to the head. Coach Brian Kelly said Smythe went through the concussion protocol and was cleared.

Special or ordinary?

Special teams got an overhaul in the offseason, and while there weren’t any game-breaking plays from those units Saturday, there weren’t any disasters either.

The punt coverage and kickoff coverage units, in fact, drew praise from Irish coach Brian Kelly. And he wasn’t too put off by two long missed field goals by junior Justin Yoon (44 and 47 yards).

“I'm not really concerned,” Kelly said. “(Yoon) is hitting the ball really well. It leaked twice on him to the right and he was trying to make the adjustment. It just got away from him and leaked a little bit.

“We'll have to tighten that up in close games. Obviously, we have to make them, but my hair's not on fire about that stuff. He's hitting the ball pretty good. As you saw on kickoffs, he's driving the ball pretty good.”

Notre Dame’s Daelin Hayes (9) celebrates making a tackle during the Temple at Notre Dame NCAA football game at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA