Notre Dame got some bad injury news on Sunday. Head coach Brian Kelly announced that senior defensive end Daelin Hayes is out for the year with a torn labrum. Hayes sat out yesterday’s win over Virginia with what seemed like at the time a mysterious injury. The mystery was solved on Sunday unfortunately when Kelly announced the senior was lost for the year.
The news is a big blow for the Notre Dame defensive line. Before the injury, Hayes was playing like the best defensive end for Notre Dame. He was disruptive in the first three games while Julian Okwara struggled to start the year. A lot can change in a week through. Hayes is now out for the year while Okwara is the reigning national defensive player of the week after his 3 sack, 2 forced fumble outburst yesterday.
Could Daelin Hayes Return in 2020?
The first question that comes to mind regarding Hayes is whether or not he will return in 2020. Because he has only played in three games this year, he is eligible for a redshirt and could return in 2020. There is a chance that Hayes could still be drafted in April even with the injury, but it would be pretty low in the draft at this point.
If Hayes were to return in 2020, he could be a 5th year-senior captain on a defense that figures to once again be among the nation’s elite. He would return along with Ade Ogundeji to give Notre Dame two 5th-year senior defensive ends as part of another deep rotation. We saw yesterday just how deep that rotation is this year. With Hayes back next year, the rotation would be just as deep in 2020.
Brian Kelly described the chances of Hayes coming back in 2020 as “highly possible.” Hopefully, he is right.
For Hayes, the setback is disappointing. Shoulder injuries in high school delayed his development initially after he earned 5-star status with some recruiting services. It took until his junior year for Hayes to start to come into his own, but he was playing by far the best football of his career before the injury.
Will Redshirt Come Off of Jamir Jones?
Notre Dame was trying to redshirt Jamir Jones in 2019 strategically. The plan was to use him in the big games like Georgia, but keep him under the four-game limit to keep a redshirt on. That doesn’t look possible anymore. Jones played significant snaps against Virginia and was a force in the second half as the Irish pass rush came alive
It would have been a luxury to have Jones back in 2020. We saw how good he is now yesterday. The good news is Jones looks like he is going to be a force for the Irish defense for the final eight games of the year. The bad news is it would have really nice to have that playmaking ability on the depth chart in 2020 when Notre Dame has to replace both Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara.
Expect to see a lot of Jones on the field the rest of the season.
Who Else Needs to Step Up?
We got first-hand evidence on Saturday how deep the Notre Dame defensive rotation is against Virginia. Jones wasn’t the only one who saw more time than usual. Ovie Oghoufo saw the first meaningful action of his career and spent a good bit of time in the Cavalier backfield. He figures to get some more work at DROP throughout the rest of the season as well.
Another name to look for is Justin Ademilola. The sophomore was impressive last year – especially in the Cotton Bowl – but hasn’t played much so far in 2019. That could change as Notre Dame has to expand its rotation more in the wake of the Hayes injury.
In most other years, losing an edge rusher like Hayes would have been devastating for Notre Dame. In 2019, Notre Dame is so deep at the position that they should be able to sustain the injury and continue to thrive. Even without Hayes on Saturday, Notre Dame totaled 8.0 sacks of Bryce Perkins.
Notre Dame might not get 8.0 sacks in a single game again this year, but it does appear as though they will be able to get by without Hayes this year. And, they could end up benefiting from having Hayes back in 2020 should he choose to come back for a 5th year.