Jay Hayes’ transfer opens up opportunities for others to make an impact on what should still be a solid defensive line for Notre Dame football in 2018.
Late last week, starting strong side defensive end Jay Hayes announced via Twitter that he was leaving the Notre Dame football team to explore his options as a graduate transfer. His decision came as somewhat as a shock to Irish fans. Hayes figured to be a major contributor for an Irish defensive line. The good news, though, is that group is as deep as it has been in quite some time.
Perhaps providing little insight into Hayes’ transfer is the rising stock of Khalid Kareem. Just before Hayes decided on his change, Kareem had reportedly surpassed Hayes on the depth chart, according to Brian Kelly. Kelly was quick to cite progress in the weight room and on the field as the reason for Kareem’s promotion.
Kareem emerged as a major contributor for the Irish defense in 2017. He appeared in all 13 games, registering 21 total tackles and 3 sacks. As a junior, he’ll step into an even bigger role.
Kareem provides a different style of defensive end than that of the style of Hayes. At the beginning of last season, Hayes was listed at 289 pounds, while the slimmer Kareem was listed at 270. Kareem’s speed is his major advantage over Hayes. Kareem has the innate ability to get to the quarterback. That ability continues to be a major point of emphasis for the Irish defense that registered only 24 sacks in 2017. That number ranked them 84th among FBS schools.
Even with the departure of Hayes and the promotion of Kareem, the Irish defensive line has some serious depth. Daelin Hayes figures to be Clark Lea’s weak side defensive end again in 2018. Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner also return for the Irish, while sophomores and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa had a stellar freshman season in South Bend.
Rounding out the list of contributors for the Irish at defensive line are Kurt Hinish, Romeo Okwara, and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, who slides to a backup position with Jay Hayes’ departure.
Notre Dame’s defensive line was a servicable one last year. If Tillery can prove to be an anchor inside, the younger guys (Tagovailoa-Amosa, Okwara, and Hinish) should be able to blossom into their respective roles. The Irish defensive line should have a great deal of depth in 2018.