via Twitter

Irish A-to-Z: Jay Hayes

12 Comments

The emergency removal of Jay Hayes‘ redshirt gives you an idea that Notre Dame’s coaching staff believes in the young defensive lineman. But burning Hayes’ redshirt was also immediately followed by a significant ankle injury against USC, making it difficult to get a season’s worth of work in the year’s final three games and bowl practices.

Nonetheless, Hayes moves forward better for the experience, even if he’s started his eligibility clock sooner than expected. And with Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day back, not to mention the emergence of Jerry Tillery this spring, Hayes is fighting for his spot in the interior rotation, suddenly a position of strength after being gutted last November.

For Hayes, it’s time to play like a sophomore, even if he’s essentially a first-year player. But the New York native has never been short on confidence, and we’ll see if that helps him make his move in 2015.

 

JAY HAYES
6’3″, 285 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 93, DL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

A four-star prospect that was a Top 250 type recruit, Hayes had the offers of an elite defensive lineman out of Brooklyn’s Poly Prep, with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and USC all offering scholarships.

Hayes looked like a tweener between defensive tackle and end, but that works just fine as a three-technique in Brian VanGorder’s system, allowing Hayes to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2014): Saw action in the season’s three final games, playing against Louisville, USC and LSU. Suffered an ankle sprain early against the Trojans, though fought back to play against LSU. Made one tackle against Louisville.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Well, it’s pretty clear that neither Tony Springmann nor Chase Hounshell did much along the defensive line. And then—as mentioned—questionable depth behind Day and Jones all but led Hayes onto the field.

Hayes’ 2014 season is likely going to be dictated by the health and productivity of guys like Chase Hounshell and Tony Springmann, veterans who will get the first crack at supplying depth on the interior of the defensive line. In a perfect world, Hayes can spend the season learning the system and getting bigger and stronger.

But with depth a question mark behind Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, Hayes could be called into action sooner than later. And while it’s hard to learn too much from a YouTube highlight reel, Hayes does some things on the football field that are freakishly good. Watch him block an extra point, steam-rolling his blocker. Get upfield and deflect a pass that turns into a defensive touchdown. He’s a blocker on punt return and an offensive lineman collecting pancakes. All signs that the Irish inked a very productive athlete in a really big body.

The transition from New York high school football to Notre Dame is a pretty rude awakening. But Hayes has a good head on his shoulders — not to mention the boulder-sized chip needed to be a great football player — and it’ll be fun to see him evolve. He could be the type of profile prospect that does a serviceable job throughout his career. Or he’s an early target that the Irish coaching staff unearthed early.

If Hayes is the latter, he’s a much needed building block in the future.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Brian Kelly said it best when he noted that Notre Dame has had a tough time keeping talented defensive linemen on campus for more than four seasons. That’s the type of compliment you want to hear about a young player, and the only shame is that we really didn’t get to see if Hayes was capable of holding his own because he went down against USC with an ankle injury.

Yet with Sheldon Day taking it easy this spring and Jarron Jones out with a healing foot, Hayes took starter reps next to Jerry Tillery, a role both likely relished. That’s a combo that could be in the starting lineup as soon as 2016, with Hayes needing to be the smaller, more disruptive player while Tillery anchors and destroys the line of scrimmage.

Right now, the best thing Hayes has going for him is a coaching staff that believes in him. And we’ll see how prepared he is to make an impact come September.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Hayes will be one of Keith Gilmore’s test cases. The veteran defensive line coach was brought in to get the next wave of players ready along the defensive line, and Hayes certainly fits in that first tier.

At this point, you can’t feel 100-percent positive about Day or Jones until you see them running and fully healthy in fall camp. (That’s the pessimist that doesn’t naturally come out in me.) So if there’s any issue with either of those two, you’ve got to assume that Hayes is going to be the beneficiary—ready or not.

Notre Dame could use a disruptive force along the defensive line, especially with a pass rush all but missing in action last season. Is Hayes that player? I don’t get the feeling he is, though it’s certainly not a prerequisite for a defensive tackle.

Either way, Hayes has the makings of a good one. We’ll find out how good come September.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR
Mark Harrell, OL

Irish A-to-Z: Jalen Guyton

Dallas Morning News
3 Comments

(Editor’s note: Our first five-yard penalty for alphabetizing mistake. Carry on.) 

 

Notre Dame’s wide receiving depth chart is fast becoming one of the toughest two-deeps to crack. And that was before the freshman class stepped on campus. Among that new group is Jalen Guyton, the most electric playmaker on the top team in the state of Texas.

Guyton comes to South Bend from Allen, Texas, where he put up video game numbers as a high school senior. So while the road to the field might be backed up with guys like Will Fuller, Corey Robinson and Chris Brown, Guyton will be given every opportunity to fight for his chance.

Let’s take a look at the native Texan.

 

JALEN GUYTON
6’0″, 180 lbs.
Freshman, No. 83, WR

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Three-star recruit who was No. 39 on the Dallas Morning News’ Top 100. USA Football U-18 participant. State Champion at Allen.

Guyton had offers from Arizona State, Baylor, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford and Texas A&M.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Without getting a look at him with the Irish, Guyton reminds me of a prep-version of Will Fuller, the type of high school player who just explodes off the highlight reel. Sure, Guyton was buoyed by playing with 5-star QB prospect Kyler Murray. But Guyton made Murray look good, too.

Guyton won’t jump off the screen by his sheer physicality, but if he can run—and it sure looks like he can—he’ll be able to get behind defenses and make them pay vertically. Brian Kelly praised his versatility on Signing Day, talking about the ability to move Guyton around to all three positions, just like Allen did during a senior season where Guyton scored a ridiculous 22 touchdowns and had 1,700 receiving yards.

A statistically dominant incoming freshman who just did so at the highest level of high school football in the country? Not a bad place to start.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

While I think Guyton might be one of Notre Dame’s most under-the-radar recruits, I also wonder how he’s going to find his way onto the field. On the outside, Guyton needs to find snaps behind Will Fuller, Chris Brown and Corey Robinson. In the slot, there’s Amir Carlisle, C.J. Prosise (he’s still going to play some receiver) and guys like Torii Hunter, Corey Holmes and Justin Brent that’ll likely be in front of him.

That said, if Guyton is good enough to see the field, he’ll likely do so. Possibly in a “designated deep threat” role that we saw from Fuller and Brown as freshmen, if only to get his feet wet. He also could be a candidate for a late-start redshirt, seeing the field in the first few weeks before shutting it down for the season, just for a taste.

There’s no obvious fit for Guyton, who has nice size but hardly is a human mismatch. But that doesn’t mean the future’s not bright for a well-developed high school player who enters Notre Dame with probably the most impressive senior season of any recruit.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB

Mailbag: Hard Knocks, Navy hangover and OSU envy

150608_MalikZaire
27 Comments

 

Thanks for a nice batch of mailbag questions. Other than the usual trolling (new usernames and IP addresses, clever!), it’s fun to see what’s on everybody’s mind in the final weeks before camp gets started.

(I am not ready for that. Are you guys?)

Anyway, we’ll split these up with a few answers coming over the weekend.

 

@qsvdoan: If there was a “Hard Knocks: Notre Dame”, what player/coach is the breakout star?

I love this question. And I’d love to see a Hard Knocks: ND, because I’ve seen enough team-building rope swing exercises from Culver Academy to last me a lifetime.

I can’t go with just one person, so here’s how I’d be producing Hard Knocks, and these are the three breakout stars that I’d focus my attention on.

MALIK ZAIRE: This is a no-brainer. There’s charisma and then there’s Zaire’s charisma. This kid just oozes confidence and just about any Hard Knocks deserves to have an episode or two focused on the quarterback that’s ascending to the top of the depth chart. (Wasn’t this like two entire seasons of Friday Night Lights and the entire plot of Varsity Blues and The Program?)

Can’t you just picture the episode where the camera crew goes in tight on Zaire, with new QB coach Mike Sanford watching closely, hands on his knees, behind him, as Zaire rips off a perfect spiral — sweat flying off his forehead in slo-mo — as the ball splashes into the catching net?

JERRY TILLERY: This kid had me when he talked about starting Yoga and Yogurt in his dorm. Talk about moxie from an early-enrollee freshman, who likely was surrounded by co-eds wearing Lululemon while his buddies were all scoffing at the idea, only to be secretly jealous and unfortunately unable to touch their toes. (If I had a Delorean, you can bet that Stanford Hall circa 1999 would have Yoga and Yogurt…not just Keystone Light and Nintendo games.)

And as interesting as Tillery is off the field, his place on the field is even more intriguing. I fully expect him to be the biggest impact freshman on the team, crazy when you consider he’ll be playing behind Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day.

AUTRY DENSON: I toyed with picking Todd Lyght, but Denson was “my running back” while I was a student at Notre Dame, and I always appreciated the work he put in off the field and the style of runner that he was on it.

Denson might not be the operator on the recruiting trail that Tony Alford is, but for as vital as Alford was on the Irish coaching staff, I think there’s an argument to be made that the new blood with be helpful to the running back depth chart.

With Greg Bryant’s reported suspension, two new young running backs, C.J. Prosise transitioning between two positions and Tarean Folston ready to launch, keeping the focus on Denson and his work with the backs would be fascinating.

 

@drewbrennan: 2007-2014, ND’s record week after NAVY is 2-6. This yr we play USC. Why do we do this to ourselves? Will this yr be different?

I get it. And I actually think there’s something to the “Navy Hangover effect,” a phenomenon I believe coined by buddy Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports. Sure, the game is physically taxing and the cut-blocks tend to probably do more damage to your defensive line than a standard blocking scheme. But I think the mental energy that comes with facing off against the Midshipmen is just as big of an issue — and the let down comes after the toughest mental challenge of the season.

That said, you really can’t complain much about Notre Dame’s scheduling for 2016. Consider that they had to take a stick of dynamite to plans that had been laid for close to a decade and figure a way out of some seriously sticky situations when Jack Swarbrick and Father Jenkins decided to join the ACC in all sports but football. (It was easily the best move for the university and Notre Dame sports, all while preserving independence in football.)

The first seven weeks of the season are tough ones, and they’ll likely power training camp and summer workouts, as getting out of the gate quickly will be vital. But stopping the option game this season will be the difference between a great year and a good one, considering Navy, Georgia Tech and Boston College all have power running attacks.

 

goirish0112: Can you give further insight/analysis to your comment in the last mailbag that ND’s offense has been too QB reliant in the recent past, perhaps in comparison to the Ohio State offense which you mentioned is not so much.

I’m not sure this will give you exactly what you want, but my point was a fairly simple one. Ohio State managed to win a national title playing their third quarterback. They did so relying on a very strong running game and a defense that held firm against some of the country’s top competition in the CFB Playoffs.

There’s been a lot of Ohio State envy among Notre Dame fans these past two seasons. That comes with the still-lingering lust for Urban Meyer from a certain part of the Irish fanbase, but also from the results—Meyer gets more out of less than any coach in college football.

That’s not to say that Brian Kelly is an underachiever. This is a head coach who won at a very good clip at every stop he’s been. And he’s slowly rebuilt Notre Dame’s program depth to match-up with other elite programs, not the easiest after following the trio of Davie-Willingham-Weis.

But there’s a frustration after watching the Irish last year. Notre Dame’s offense was feast or famine, reliant on the performance of Everett Golson. Of course, the offense was fully leveraged after the defense lost some key contributors from a unit with zero margin for error. And once the defense failed to stop anybody for the final six games of the season after injuries took hold, it only put more pressure on Golson to perform. And he couldn’t do it.

In 2012, Notre Dame pulled off a near perfect mix/match of offense and defense, utilizing a stout defense and a conservative ground game to make sure that the Irish won football games, in any manner necessary. In 2014, the calculus of an offense that was Kelly’s most explosive–but also one of its most mistake-prone—and a defense that started strong and aggressive but failed to hold its own in either the red zone (or any zone after injuries took hold), made the formula to winning games very quarterback reliant. And as the turnovers on offense took hold and the floodgates opened on defense, Golson just couldn’t shake the mistakes.

Brian Kelly and his staff aren’t idiots. They ham-and-egged their way to a national title appearance just two seasons ago with a first-year starter at quarterback. So with the addition of Mike Sanford and new blood on Brian VanGorder’s defensive staff, expect a different recipe for victory in 2015. And it’ll likely be less about putting the game on Malik Zaire’s throwing arm and more about utilizing the best parts of the offense, some very strong playmaking personnel and a veteran and powerful offensive line.

 

 

 

 

Irish A-to-Z: Mark Harrell

Mark Harrell
6 Comments

As a versatile senior along the offensive line, senior Mark Harrell is something we haven’t seen around Notre Dame in quite some time: Veteran Depth. No, we haven’t seen much from Harrell in his three seasons in South Bend. But he’s among the elder statesmen in Harry Hiestand’s position group, and a piece of the puzzle that can shift inside and out.

Harrell’s only seen action in two games, but has moved around the depth chart—spending some time as a backup center last spring, and now seemingly working at both tackle and guard to provide depth. While it’ll take some injuries to move Harrell into the starting lineup, the senior from Charlotte enters his fourth year looking to make an impact both on and off the field.

 

MARK HARRELL
6’4″, 306 lbs.
Senior, No. 75, OL

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

The first-team All-State performer had offers from Michigan, Auburn, Clemson, North Carolina, South Carolina, Stanford and Tennessee. He also was a four-star prospect according to some services.

Harrell also got an “RKG” blast during Brian Kelly’s Signing Day press conference, giving you a look at the student-athlete off the field as well.

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2012): Did not see action, saving a year of eligibility.

Sophomore Season (2013): Did not see action.

Junior Season (2014): Played in two games, seeing action against Rice and Michigan. Served as a backup at center, with the ability to also play guard and tackle.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Pretty much nailed it:

If we end up seeing Harrell in regular duty, it’s likely because something went wrong with injuries. If Harrell’s at center, it means Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty are down. If he’s in at guard, it’ll be because of an injury to Christian Lombard, Steve Elmer or Conor Hanratty.

Playing on special teams seems to be the most likely scenario for Harrell this season. It’ll give him an opportunity to provide depth, see live action after two seasons of practicing and add experienced depth to the roster. In years past, Harrell was the type of guy who would be starting by his junior season. It says quite a bit about the depth that he’s just fighting to stay relevant.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

Put frankly, not everybody can be a starter. And that’s the path Harrell is on—a reserve along one of the better offensive lines we’ve seen at Notre Dame in a long, long time.

From the looks of it, Harrell is making the most of his college experience. He was one of Notre Dame’s student-athletes that took advantage of the study abroad opportunities that took place this summer, touring South Africa with a group of Irish athletes.

Harrell will also likely have an opportunity to pursue opportunities after this season if he wants to, with the potential to graduate and transfer to a lower-tier program to play as a fifth-year graduate transfer.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

Harrell has the type of positional versatility you want in a backup. He served as a reserve center last year during the Blue-Gold game, and while he’s no longer on the depth chart behind Nick Martin, he’d likely be called upon in a pinch rather than burning Tristen Hoge’s redshirt. What happens if Ronnie Stanley or Mike McGlinchey go down at tackle is largely a mystery as well, so there’s likely playing opportunities, but again, only if things start to go awry.

Harrell will likely spend some time on special teams in 2015, capable of taking some snaps on field goal and punt teams. But the depth chart is packed and one of the toughest spots to get on the field, and Harrell’s lack of opportunity is largely because of the talent in front of him.

 

THE 2015 IRISH A-to-Z
Josh Adams, RB
Josh Barajas, OLB
Nicky Baratti, S
Alex Bars, OL
Asmar Bilal, OLB
Hunter Bivin, OL
Grant Blankenship, DE
Jonathan Bonner, DE
Miles Boykin, WR
Justin Brent, WR
Greg Bryant, RB
Devin Butler, CB
Jimmy Byrne, OL
Daniel Cage, DL
Amir Carlisle, RB
Nick Coleman, DB
Te’von Coney, LB
Shaun Crawford, DB
Scott Daly, LS
Sheldon Day, DL
Michael Deeb, LB
Micah Dew-Treadway, DL
Steve Elmer, RG
Matthias Farley, DB
Nicco Fertitta, DB
Tarean Folston, RB
Will Fuller, WR
Jarrett Grace, LB
Jalen Guyton, WR

DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji commits to Notre Dame

Adetokunbo Ogundeji
38 Comments

In their search for a pass rusher, Notre Dame added an intriguing piece to the puzzle in Michigan defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder picked the Irish over offers from Rutgers, Oregon, Cal and Toledo in a ceremony on Thursday evening. Ogundeji was an early commitment to Western Michigan until he reopened his recruitment as his game tape spread across college football.

While his name will likely force some spelling lessons across ND Nation, Ogundeji is everything you want in a developmental prospect at defensive end. He camped at Notre Dame in late June, earning strong reviews from the Irish staff and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore. Less than a month later, Ogundeji decided to shut down his recruitment, all but sold on Notre Dame.

While space is limited in the 2016 recruiting class, the Irish staff is out to a quick start recruiting the edge of the defense. Ogundeji joins Julian Okwara as a pass rushing defensive end recruit. Jamir Jones also could slide to defensive end as well, though he’s currently an outside linebacker. None of the three are considered elite prospects, but they were early targets and lands for the coaching staff.

Ogundeji makes recruit No. 13 in a class that’s quickly doubled in size over the past month. With some big names hitting campus in the next few weeks, a usually quiet time is turning into premium recruiting season for the Irish staff, before the focus turns to training camp.