Notre Dame DE Jay Hayes announces intention to make graduate transfer

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Jay Hayes has tweeted his fair share of false alarms.

In the winter of 2014, the 6-foot-4, 289-pound defensive end tweeted jokingly that fellow Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones would forego his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

Jones stuck around South Bend for two more seasons.

In Sept. 2015, in the early stages of a frustrating redshirt season, Hayes eluded to his own impending transfer, tweeting, “Gotta get this natty (national championship) and I’m out.”

Two and a half years later, Hayes is still here.

But not for long.

On Friday, the senior announced via Twitter his intention to graduate in May and then complete a graduate transfer for his final season of eligibility.

"I just want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the love and support they've poured into me," Hayes tweeted. "ND is a special place to grow as a man on and off the field. I've learned so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I'm going to miss the relationships I've established along with all the guys on the team. It's nothing but love for y'all."

In 26 career games, Hayes — a former four-star defensive line prospect from Brooklyn, NY — made 39 tackles with one sack and four tackles for loss. After playing sparingly in his first three seasons, he finished with 27 tackles and a sack in 2017, starting all 13 games at the strong side defensive end position.

On National Signing Day in February, Irish associate head coach and defensive line coach Mike Elston noted that Hayes' decision to return for a fifth season had been far from a slam dunk. And now, it's a sudden turnover.

But even without Hayes, Notre Dame remains stocked with talent at his position. Junior Khalid Kareem — who produced 21 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season — will likely move into a starting role, while junior Adetokunbo Ogundeji figures to also receive a much more prominent standing.

“At the end of last year I met with him and I said, ‘Listen, whatever we’ve got to do, I’ve got to find a role for you to get you on the field.' He needs to play," Elston said last month of Ogundeji, who has yet to make a tackle in his Irish career.

"He’s behind Jay (Hayes), who played his best year (in 2017); and Khalid, who’s incredibly talented, coming on. So he’s kind of stuck behind those two guys. So we’re going to try to put him in a role.”

Hayes' departure should alleviate that defensive traffic jam ... to an extent. Freshman Justin Ademilola will be added to the competition when he arrives on campus this summer.

"For as long as I’ve been here, and this is my ninth season, we haven’t had this kind of depth and what I could foresee as production out of those two (defensive end) positions," Elston said last month.

That depth was damaged on Friday. But was it necessary damage for Notre Dame?

Counting Hayes' departure, the Irish currently offer 88 scholarship players. The program must whittle its way down to 85 scholarships by the beginning of fall camp in August.

They now have one fewer, as of Friday afternoon. Instead of another false alarm, Hayes opted for a fresh start in his final collegiate season.

Thank You! It’s been real! pic.twitter.com/pZSEAgBaQy

— Jay Hayes (@JayHayesNY) April 6, 2018

Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (93) waves to the crowd after the University of Southern California at Notre Dame NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA