Notre Dame Football: Jay Hayes

The four-loss football power dressed just 48 scholarship players for a showdown with a rival -- attrition that bubbled to the surface in an embarrassing blowout defeat.

Then USC came back a week later and beat its other rival 49-14 Saturday in a game that even head coach Brian Kelly would admit was not nearly as close as the score indicated.

Notre Dame is hurt, especially on defense. We get it. The Fighting Irish are not exactly alone, though, as we can see from USC. And they are not all that hurt when compared to last season.

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
The defense entered last year's New Era Pinstripe Bowl with nine regular contributors having missed a combined 44 games due to injury.

They will enter a similarly-underwhelming postseason destination this winter with 11 regular contributors having missed a combined 44 games due to injury.

No, that does not include the lost seasons, and lost half-season, of four defensive starters implicated in the school's summer internal academic probe. And that does not include the casualties of this weekend's nightmare in Hollywood: Max Redfield (broken rib), Austin Collinsworth (separated shoulder), Greer Martini (quad), Jay Hayes (high ankle sprain) and Jacob Matuska (shoulder).

But it is unlikely that any of those wounded at the Coliseum would have made much of a difference against a Trojans team that actually showed mercy on the battered Irish after racing to a 35-0 start in the first 25 minutes.

The 2013 edition of Notre Dame entered last fall as somewhat of a deflated group, having endured an offseason of questions following the Alabama beatdown, Kelly's NFL flirtations, the Lennay Kekua saga and the season-long dismissal of starting quarterback Everett Golson.

It made do with what it had. It handed eventual Rose Bowl champ Michigan State its only loss, it withstood a never-ending run of defensive depletion and it finished the regular season 8-4, a game better than this year's 7-5 team.

Asked 13 months ago if he ever coached a unit so decimated by injuries, Kelly said at the time: "I think this is probably close to the pinnacle."

He added then: "They don't give you any points for complaining about it. If they did, I'd complain every minute. So we just take care of it internally and get the next guy ready."

Problem this season is there were not all that many next guys ready. The 2013 unit returned eight starters from a 2012 unit that finished second nationally in scoring average. The 2014 unit returned three starters and was breaking in a new scheme under new coordinator Brian VanGorder.

Everything changed when the quarterback of that group, linebacker Joe Schmidt, had a season-ending ankle injury in a Nov. 1 win at Navy. Anyone around the program will tell you how he was the MVP of that unit, how he got those green guys ready, how he helped simplify things for his overloaded teammates.

Save for the Northwestern game, it is no surprise that Notre Dame is now 0-4 without Schmidt, a former walk-on. That Schmidt finished the regular season as the Irish's second-leading tackler (65) despite missing so much time speaks to just how little there was to work with after losing plenty of pro talent from last year, and especially after losing two preseason starters to academic matters.

None of this is breaking news. Notre Dame raced to a 6-0 start this season and was a play away from knocking off Florida State because that defense had played above its head, because it had some great injury luck, because, frankly, the competition it had played was nothing special.

Everything for these Irish hinged on Golson's arm to begin with, and his unraveling has been too much for that now-banged up defense -- and a special teams unit that remains M.I.A. -- to overcome against better competition. A Kelly offense hinges on quarterback play, and how that position shakes out with Golson and Malik Zaire will dictate everything about a 2015 Notre Dame outfit that will be more experienced than this year's, and even more seasoned than anyone had initially anticipated.

The same can be said of the rivals out west who just left these Irish beaten in a manner foreign to this regime.

"They got punched in the nose today," Kelly said Saturday. "You want to see a response too, right? They're young, but I want to see some bite, too. I want to see some bite. The bowl preparation, we're going to have to see a response. All jobs are available and we're going to have to see something from this group."

Example A may just come from, of all places, the Trojans who left them like this.
Brian Kelly spoke with reporters on national signing day for more than an hour. Here's a quick look at his thoughts on each of the 23 additions to the Irish roster:

Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway): "When I got a chance to see him work out this morning, the first thing that stood out to me is that he does not look like a freshman. He had his shirt off this morning and he was running around, and he looks like a senior."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame defensive end commit Andrew Trumbetti, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the state of New Jersey, shows off his Under Armour gear.
Courtesy of IntersportDE Andrew Trumbetti's athleticism -- he returned kicks in high school -- is just one of the things that impressed the Irish.
Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest, N.J./Northern Valley Region): "The thing that really put him over the top for us is when we were watching his film, he was returning kickoffs in high school, and not many times do you see a defensive lineman returning kickoffs."

Alex Bars (Nashville/Montgomery Bell Academy): "Dad played here, it's an easy leap; not so much. Sometimes you've got to work harder to get that young man to come to Notre Dame because he wants to go off on his own sometimes."

Grant Blankenship (The Colony, Texas/The Colony): "We got three players from Texas, all of them offered by the University of Texas. I don't know if that happens very often."

Jonathan Bonner (Chesterfield, Mo./Parkway Central): "When you talk about the right fit to Notre Dame, Jonathan possessed all of the right characteristics, academics, socially, and then as a football player."

Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius): "Physical, moves his feet well, and again, I think what you'll see with all of our offensive linemen, they all can get out and move their feet. They all have the ability to run block, pass pro."

Daniel Cage (Cincinnati/Winton Woods):
"This guy is a ferocious player. He's an inside player, and we love the way he got off the ball. His strength, lower body strength, he's a guy that's going to play the shade, he can play the nose."

Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day): "One of his quotes when I was with him was, ‘Coach, some of these guys don't get it. They don't really understand why you would come to Notre Dame.’ And he's such a thoughtful kid at his age that he understands why he would come to Notre Dame for all the right reasons, getting a degree and opening up doors for him for the rest of his life."

Kolin Hill (Schertz, Texas/Samuel Clemens): "A right fit for Notre Dame, character, high energy, yes, sir, no, sir, had all those things that we really liked. He was engaging. Really impressed our admissions people."

Corey Holmes (Fort Lauderdale, Fl./Saint Thomas Aquinas): "He has a lot of the same feelings in terms of where TJ Jones developed, but he's 6-2. This kid is longer. He's a bigger kid than TJ. But he's got a lot of those mannerisms and characteristics. "

DeShone Kizer (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic): "He's going to be able to do the multidimensional things that we love. Now we've got three quarterbacks on campus that all do the same things."

[+] EnlargeTyler Luatua
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTE Tyler Luatua made an impression on and off the field with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.
Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada): "People said, ‘Well, he didn't talk enough. He wasn't engaging enough. I didn't hear enough from him.’ I said, ‘Well, you just don't know him well enough because when you get to know Tyler Luatua, he's just like Justin Utupo; you can't shut him up.’"

Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest School): "His leadership skills, his ability to recognize and really -- you have to have leaders. He's a really good player, and he's a really good leader, and he'll be a very good linebacker for us here at Notre Dame and will also be a guy that makes others around him better."

Peter Mokwuah (Staten Island, N.Y./St. Joseph-By-The-Sea): "We've had a great Nigerian connection here, Romeo Okwara, Prince Shembo, just to name a few, and then Pete was able to connect Catholic institution, goes to a Catholic school. That profile fit very well for us."

Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee): "Every time I'm with him, he just wants to talk about football, and he's a good student, and his mom and dad want him to just talk about academics, and he's a good student and he recognizes the value of getting a degree at Notre Dame."

Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel): "All these guys can be big and strong and physical, but if they can't move their feet, if they can't bend, if they can't get out of their stance and do a good job and moving and bending, then we're moving on, and I think -- I sound like a broken record with the offensive line, but those are the characteristics."

Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, N.J./Red Bank Catholic): "He's going to come after you play after play after play. And again, his desire to want to be great is what always stood out about Quenton is that he's always pushing himself. Every time we talk to him he's coming back from something."

Tyler Newsome (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton): "He was such an intriguing young man in all the kids that we saw that when we saw him punting, there was nobody that was even close to with the potential upside that he has. "

Nile Sykes (Lombard, Ill./Montini Catholic): "We want people that want to be part of Notre Dame and be part of our family, and to bring Nile and his family in, he's a versatile player. He can play inside, he can play outside."

Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll): "People have asked does he play safety, does he play running back? I don't know where he plays, but he's going to play somewhere here at Notre Dame because he's a darned good football player."

Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne): "This is draft day, you're getting a No. 1 draft pick. This kid is an exceptional football player. We think we got one of the best corners around. Long, athletic, can really do a lot of things for us."

Nic Weishar (Chicago, Ill./Marist): "He's the finest pass catching tight end that we saw. You could argue about who it is, but we think he is. We love his ball skills, we love his ability to use his body to control defenders, has a knack of catching the football in the air and taking it away from people. "

Jhonny Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs): "There's no ceiling on Jhonny Williams' future. He's an engaging young man. He just recognizes that he's got a great opportunity at Notre Dame, and we're excited to provide him that opportunity."

Recruiting: So far, so good for Irish

February, 5, 2014
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The biggest surprise of the day was an early one, and a considerably positive one for Notre Dame, as Winton Woods (Ohio) High four-star defensive lineman Daniel Cage faxed in his national letter of intent to the Irish. Cage adds to a rather large haul across the defensive line for the Irish, who have announced 22 signatures so far, including nine ESPN 300 prospects (and including both of their January enrollees, Andrew Trumbetti and Justin Brent).

The other verbal commit? Probably not worth getting stressed over, as the biggest recruit of them all, Nyles Morgan, tweeted that he signed.

Coach Brian Kelly meets the media at noon ET, so we will have more then.

(* denotes ESPN 300 prospect)
Still waiting on …
  • Four-star ILB Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete Monee)*

Diaco departure doesn't faze ND commits 

December, 12, 2013
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Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco became the head coach at Connecticut, something that came as a surprise to most of the commitments and even current players.

Two commits highlight big weekend

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A quiet two weeks gave way to two busy days this past weekend, as Notre Dame hauled in a pair of four-star defensive prospects from different pockets of the country.

Outside linebacker Richard Yeargin III (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) and defensive tackle Matt Dickerson (San Mateo, Calif./Junipero Serra) committed to the Irish on Friday and Saturday, respectively, giving the program seven defensive pledges in the class of 2014.

Our Jared Shanker has a good breakdown of what these pick-ups mean for the Irish and their national reach, saying that their front-seven in this class could be as good as any in the country and that it is always a big get for Notre Dame when it can scoop up a premier player not far from USC's backyard.

"I just knew it was the school when I walked on campus," Dickerson, who visited Notre Dame on Friday, told Shanker. "I felt it in my heart."

Here's a look at Notre Dame's 17-man recruiting class from the class of 2014, which includes seven ESPN300 prospects (*).

Blankenship is No. 14 for ND

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Everett Golson made most of the headlines during another holiday weekend by telling a local television station that he plans on returning to Notre Dame. He could have some company, then, in three-star defensive end Grant Blankenship (The Colony, Texas/The Colony).

Blankenship committed to the Irish on Friday, according to multiple reports, Insider giving the program its 14th recruit from the Class of 2014.

As the South Bend Tribune's Tyler James notes, news of the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder's commitment comes nearly one year to the day of the Irish's first commitment from this class.

Here is a list of all 14 Irish commitments from this class. ESPN150 members are designated with one asterisk (*), while ESPN300 members are designated with two (**).
Notre Dame continued its building of an even deeper offensive line Wednesday night, as the Irish secured a verbal pledge from four-star offensive guard Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, N.J./Red Bank Catholic).


Nelson is the Irish's ninth commitment from the Class of 2014, and the fourth offensive lineman among that group, giving the program nine offensive line commitments during the past two recruiting cycles.

The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder is the No. 11 prospect in the state of New Jersey and the 19th-ranked guard in the nation.

Brian Kelly secured the pledge from Nelson during the head coach's one allotted phone call Insider to the prospect during the spring evaluation period, our Jared Shanker writes.

"He's really thrilled," Nelson's mother, Maryellen, said. "We're so happy that he committed to a great school like Notre Dame. He's wearing his Notre Dame hat and shirt right now."

Here is a list of all nine Irish commitments from this class. ESPN150 members are designated with an asterisk (*).

" Four-star RB Elijah Hood (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Catholic)
" Four-star DE Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest, N.J./Demarest)*
" Four-star ILB Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest)
" Four-star OG Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel)
" Four-star WR Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway)
" Four-star OT Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep)
" Four-star OG Quenton Nelson (Red Bank, N.J./Red Bank Catholic)
" Three-star TE Nic Weishar (Chicago/Marist)
" Three-star OT Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius)
Notre Dame added its sixth commitment for the Class of 2014, as ESPN Watch List guard Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) committed Monday to the Irish.

Kevin McFadden, an assistant at Mustipher's high school, told our Jared Shanker that the match is "a perfect fit."

“Sam is a different guy, smart kid and intuitive,” McFadden said. “He really, really did a put in a lot of work into the research. He’s a Notre Dame-type kid. When he leaves here, he’s going to another good college. It’s another tier -- the academic component, the structure, it’s Catholic.”

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Mustipher is an Under Armour All-American.

Here is a list of all six Irish commitments from this class. All six are ESPN Watch List prospects.

Irish lunch links

April, 3, 2013
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Braxston Cave, weighing in on Tuesday's national news.
Notre Dame picked up commitment No. 5 from the Class of 2014, as ESPN Watch List defensive end Andrew Trumbetti (Demarest, N.J./Demarest) pledged to the school he grew up loving during a visit this weekend to South Bend, Ind.

“It felt like he was really listing other schools and he had gone down to Florida and loved it,” Demarest coach Tony Mottola told our Jared Shanker, “but I felt his heart has always been at Notre Dame. When he was there this weekend and he sat down with Coach [Brian] Kelly and Coach [Bob] Diaco and met the guys, it was going to be tough for him to get out of there this weekend without some type of decision.”

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Trumbetti had offers from programs such as Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Stanford as well.

You can read more about the commitment from Shanker here.

Here is a list of Notre Dame's current commitments from the Class of 2014. All are Watch List prospects.
Durham Smythe was once committed to Texas. He was considered a Stanford lean. He had a trip to Michigan scheduled for next weekend.

On Sunday, he committed to Notre Dame.

Smythe, a four-star prospect, becomes the Irish's 23rd commitment for the class of 2013 and their third tight end prospect of this class.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder gave his word to head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin near the end of his official visit this weekend, our Max Olson reports , and he will look to become the next in line at Tight End U following the departure of record-setter Tyler Eifert. (Eifert's predecessor, Kyle Rudolph, was voted Pro Bowl MVP on Sunday night.)

“I talked to the staff and they’re stacked with three junior tight ends and then I know they have me and Mike,” Smythe told Olson. “They use a lot of tight ends in a way I’m familiar with, so hopefully we can continue that tradition.”

Notre Dame remains No. 3 in ESPN's class of 2013 recruiting rankings , trailing No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama.

Below, we break down the Irish's 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. The 2013 class features nine ESPN 150 prospects (*), three ESPN300 prospects (**), one five-star commit, 18 four-stars and four three-stars. The class of 2014 consists of four players, all of whom are ESPN Watch List members.

Class of 2013
Class of 2014
  • Watch List OLB Greer Martini (Woodberry Forest, Va./Woodberry Forest)
  • Watch List OT Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep)
  • Watch List OT Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/Saint Ignatius)
  • Watch List WR Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind./Speedway)

Bryant addition another boost

December, 10, 2012
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Notre Dame has gotten quite the lift off the field following a 12-0 regular season on it.

Look no further than this past weekend, when four-star running back Greg Bryant pledged to the Irish, one day after the school beat out Ohio State for Class of 2014 Watch List offensive lineman Jimmy Byrne. Insider

Bryant, Notre Dame's 22nd 2013 commit, immediately becomes the Irish's second-highest rated prospect, beyond Jaylon Smith. And he will likely have the chance to step in immediately, with the Irish losing Theo Riddick and possibly Cierre Wood after this season.

With Bryant, George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel, the yet-to-be-seen Amir Carlisle and freshman William Mahone, the Irish should have no shortage of backs to turn to next season, and the different styles each brings will create an interesting dynamic.

The addition of Bryant moved Notre Dame up one spot, to No. 3, in ESPN's class of 2013 recruiting rankings, behind USC and Florida. Insider You can read scouts' take on Bryant here. Insider

Below, we break down the Irish's 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. The 2013 class features eight ESPN150 prospects (*), four ESPN300 prospects (**), 17 four-star commits and one five-star. The Class of 2014 consists of four players, three of whom are ESPN Watch List members.

Class of 2013
Class of 2014

Irish recruiting roundup

November, 7, 2012
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Busy week.

Irish gain pledge from 2014 DL Jay Hayes 

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The last week has been quite kind to the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame picked up another commitment Wednesday, this one coming in the 2014 class.

Two-way lineman Jay Hayes (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep) committed to the Fighting Irish Wednesday morning.

"Just the academic opportunity and the best program in the nation for now and years to come,” Hayes wrote in a text message explaining why he committed. “Go Fighting Irish."

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