Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame turns to 2 juniors with Hayes’ transfer; New indoor field announced

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Even if he had not decided to transfer this spring, fifth-year defensive end Jay Hayes (pictured above) would not likely have started for Notre Dame in the fall. Irish head coach Brian Kelly said the improved play from rising-junior Khalid Kareem was forcing Hayes, a 13-game starter in 2017, into a backup role.

“We felt like [Kareem] had earned the starting position here based upon his work both in the weight room and on the football field,” Kelly said Saturday. “He was going to be the starter at that position. We believe that based upon his production.”

Hayes announced his intentions to transfer Friday evening via Twitter. Once he receives his Notre Dame degree next month, Hayes will be immediately eligible wherever he goes with one season of eligibility remaining. The Irish had thought that year would be spent providing depth and experience on the defensive front.

“Jay understands the standards that we have here, and he felt like a change would be better for him,” Kelly said. “… We gave him the opportunity to come back if he could meet the standards that we set here.”

In his first collegiate action, Kareem made 21 tackles last season, including 5.5 for loss with three sacks. He split time at end with both Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti, so even as Kareem surprised with his play, he did not play much more than two dozen snaps per game. With Trumbetti out of eligibility and pursuing his NFL dreams, and Hayes now departing, Kareem will need to triple that workload. If there is a Notre Dame concern with the defensive line, that uptick suddenly becomes the worry.

“He has real good length, and he has a knack for pass rushing,” Kelly said. “Just has a knack of being there and getting to the quarterback.

“… How do we get him up to 60 [snaps]? Fatigue, strength, all those things coming together. But he has some real innate ability to find the quarterback.”

Roughly speaking, a defense has to face 80-100 snaps per game. The difference will be primarily handled by rising-junior Ade Ogundeji, who saw action in only five games last season, all within the first seven games. When Ogundeji first arrived at Irish practices two years ago, it was as a raw playmaker, far from being physically developed such that he could hold his own against Power Five competition. Along with that, his football IQ also needed to progress some, as it usually does with freshmen.

Kelly and Notre Dame have seen both of those aspects grow, and that may have also played a part in Hayes’ decision.

“[Ogundeji] was pushing and earning those reps,” Kelly said. “This isn’t to beat up on Jay Hayes while he’s not here, but there was great competition at that position. Ade was coming on. He’s a young man that the football end of things … it’s coming.

“His strength is outstanding in the weight room. His work ethic is outstanding. This is a guy that is ascending for us.”

Rising-junior linebacker-turned-end Jamir Jones will likely fill out the depth chart at end with Hayes’ departure.

Notre Dame confirms new indoor facility
It has been long-known the University had plans for another indoor practice area for the football team. The Loftus Sports Complex is a solid space, albeit slightly undersized with ceilings far too low, but as the only space it creates myriad scheduling conflicts between various varsity sports. Throughout the early spring, two soccer teams, two lacrosse teams and the football program compete for time on the field while the track team uses the cinder surrounding the artificial grass.

Hence, the confirmation of the 111,4000-square-foot Irish Indoor Athletics Center. It will be built on one of the outdoor practice fields the Irish would be using this month if it were not a bothersomely-cold April.

“Reducing that overload was crucial to our development as a program,” Kelly said. “We’ll be good custodians for other sports, as well. … From a football perspective, it’s our lab. We didn’t really have a lab for us to go in there and do the work we needed.”

Throughout the winter, Kelly explained, the football team has to begin its weight program at 5:30 “every morning” in order to also get its running work done immediately after strength training. With the added space, the running could theoretically be handled in the afternoon, now not stepping on the toes of a soccer practice.

The new building is scheduled to be completed in July of 2019.

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