Notre Dame fifth-year defensive end Jay Hayes announced he will finish his college career elsewhere Friday evening via Twitter. With one year of eligibility remaining, Hayes will be immediately eligible wherever he ends up thanks to his graduation in May.
“I just want to thank the University of Notre Dame for the love and support they’ve poured into me,” Hayes wrote. “I will [sic] like to thank the coaching staff for granting me my release as a graduate transfer. ND is a special place to grow as 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.”
Hayes’ transfer comes as a bit of a surprise to a defense that was returning 10 starters, now nine. Some foreshadowing may have been offered just before Easter when he was absent from a practice, explained by Irish head coach Brian Kelly as “academics” with no further elaboration.
Without Hayes, rising-junior Khalid Kareem will become a pivotal piece of the defensive line, likely splitting snaps with either Ade Ogundeji or Julian Okwara, while Daelin Hayes remains the starter at the other end spot. Between the quartet of rising-juniors, the two positions are not short of experience or talent, while rising-sophomore Kofi Wardlow, incoming freshman Justin Ademilola and linebacker-turned-end rising-junior Jamir Jones offer needed depth.
Hayes finishes his Notre Dame career with 39 tackles, including 27 last season with one sack. He played in 26 games across three seasons, preserving a year of eligibility his sophomore year after injuries to veterans like Sheldon Day forced Hayes into action as a freshman in 2014.
Playing those three games did not necessarily sit well with Hayes at the time.
The Irish roster still projects to have 88 players, three more than the maximum allowed by the NCAA.