Ann Arbor, Michigan
Measurables: 6’3″, 254 lbs.
Accolades: U.S. Army All-American, 5-star ranking (Rivals), No. 4 in The Detroit News Blue Chip list.
Impressive Offers: Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC
Projected Position: Outside Linebacker / Defensive End
Quick Take: Maybe the biggest upside of any recruit signing with the Irish. Hayes looks the part of an NFL specimen right now, capable of coming off the edge, playing linebacker or doing anything on the field—if he can stay healthy.
He may be a 5-star talent, but Hayes hasn’t played a lot of football. He suffered a shoulder injury as a sophomore in the season opener. A custody battle between parents yo-yo’d him between California and Michigan as a junior, his season cut short after just three games. His senior season at Ann Arbor Skyline ended with another shoulder injury and surgery in November.
Getting Hayes on campus early is huge, but getting him healthy is even more important. He told the Detroit News that he’ll be ready for spring ball though that remains to be seen. There’s a great football player here—or people seem to believe. But he’ll also deal with the burden of great expectations. That’s often times tougher than it sounds, especially when he’s had limited opportunities to play the game.
What he means to the Irish: A possible solution for a missing pass rush, Hayes could be the perfect situational weapon as a freshman. While there’s a need to be patient with both injuries and development, there’s no question that landing Hayes is a huge “get,” with Rivals Josh Helmholdt saying the following about his potential:
“I think he can be the best linebacker in college football. He has that ability,” Helmholdt said. “He unquestionably has a five-star skill set — No. 1, he’s on the plus side from a size standpoint. No. 2, he’s on the plus side from an athleticism standpoint, and No. 3 he’s on the plus side from a work ethic. All three of those factors come at a premium when projecting talent, and he checks all the boxes.”
Obligatory YouTube clip: