Notebook: Back in the Notre Dame lineup, Daelin Hayes ready to tackle expectations

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The healing process for Daelin Hayes has put the Notre Dame defensive end back in the mix for significant playing time Saturday against Pittsburgh (3-3).

It’s his psyche that still needs attention.

“I don’t think Khalid Kareem was looking to set the sack record,” Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly said Thursday after practice, speaking of Hayes’ bookend defensive end.

“I think Daelin feels he should. and we have to remind him that he’s making great progress. He’s a little too hard on himself at times.”

At least the 6-foot-4, 265-pound junior was finally able to put the stinger injury — which kept him out of Saturday night’s 45-23 rocking of Virginia Tech — behind him. Now he must again deal with high expectations, from himself and from others.

Hayes is the only Rivals.com five-star prospect on the Notre Dame roster, with offensive guard Quenton Nelson having moved on to the NFL. Hayes was branded with that elite recruiting status, though, at outside linebacker, not at defensive end.

And he played fewer than 10 games at any position in his final three high school seasons combined because of injuries and a custody battle that resulted in a couple of cross country moves.

Patience was going to have to be part of the plan at Notre Dame for Hayes. That, he accepted as a freshman and sophomore, but he’s anxious now to be more productive.

Heading into the final game before the bye for the fifth-ranked Irish (6-0), Hayes is on pace to finish statistically right about where he did last season — 30 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and 4.0 QB hurries. He has 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 QB hurries and zero sacks this season.

“We’re constantly making sure he’s OK, because it’s important that you don’t get beat up too much with good days and bad days,” Kelly said.

“Daelin, as a young man, has definitely matured, but he’s such a high-energy, high-spirit guy that sometimes we’ve just got to remind him that it’s not all going to happen today.”

Pride still on mend

Kelly said Thursday night starting cornerback Troy Pride Jr., is listed as probable to play against Pittsburgh after suffering an ankle sprain in the Virginia Tech game, but when asked how well the junior was moving in practice, Kelly grimaced.

“Eh, I’d say he’s OK,” the coach said. “We think we’ve got to use Donte (Vaughn), but (Pride) is probably better (off) than I thought.”

Pride had seven tackles and a pass breakup against the Hokies, despite the injury. He has 33 tackles on the year, 1.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and two interceptions, tying him with safety Jalen Elliott for the team lead in the latter category.

True freshman TaRiq Bracy could see spot duty at cornerback as well, opposite standout junior Julian Love. Bracy has played in all six games for the Irish, but mostly on special teams, and has four tackles.

“I trust him,” Kelly said of the 5-10, 170-pounder. “It’s just the physicality piece more than anything else. He’s got great makeup speed. He plays the ball pretty good. I probably wouldn’t want to extend him too much, but he’s a guy we’d put on the field.”

Still in the running

Six games and 18 carries into the Avery Davis experiment at running back, the Irish coaches seemed determined to keep investing in the 5-11, 204-pound sophomore at that position.

“The transition is a difficult one,” Kelly said of the former quarterback. “Just from a physicality (standpoint) — getting banged and holding onto the football, all the things that are required. Running between the tackles is probably the biggest adjustment for him.

“You get him in space, he’s really good. and I think what we’re trying to do is develop him into a running back that can play on all downs. That’s where we are.

“He can play in limited roles for us, but we’d like to see him to continue to develop in all facets. So that’s why it’s taking the time.”

Davis has 60 yards on those 18 carries, with a long of 12.

Eyes on Kelly

Kelly was one of 17 FBS coaches named to the Dodd Trophy’s midseason watch list on Thursday. Academic excellence and character are criteria, beyond a standout season, that figure into this national Coach of the Year award.

Among those joining Kelly are former winners Mike MacIntyre (2016), Chris Petersen (2010), Nick Saban (2014) and Dabo Swinney (2011).

Stanford’s David Shaw won last season.

Squibs

• Six weeks after suffering a broken foot in ND’s Sept. 1 season opener with Michigan, sophomore defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa remains on track to rejoin the Irish roster as a contributor in November, per Kelly.

“He had an X-ray, and the healing has begun,” Kelly said. “I’d say he’s probably a month away.”

Tagovailoa-Amosa could play up to three additional games this season and still take 2018 as a redshirt year.

• Grad senior Alex Bars underwent surgery Tuesday to repair torn ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee. Kelly said the surgery went well.

• NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN released his new big board of the top 25 draft-eligible prospects on Thursday, and ND junior cornerback Julian Love debuted at No. 17 after a strong first half of the season.

• Nine of the past 11 games between Pitt and Notre Dame have been decided by single digits, including the most recent encounter at Notre Dame Stadium — a 29-26 Irish victory in triple-overtime in 2012.

• Irish quarterback Ian Book is believed to be the first Notre Dame QB since at least 1950 to record a completion percentage of more than 70 percent in three straight games.

Defensive end Daelin Hayes is expected to rejoin the Notre Dame lineup Saturday after missing a game with a stinger injury.
Notre Dame junior-to-be Avery Davis will have a new position (cornerback) and new uniform number (4) when Irish spring practice starts Saturday morning.