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Football

Kelly addresses Hayes transfer, race for playing time

| Monday, April 9, 2018

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly addressed the transfer of graduate student defensive end Jay Hayes as well, as his team’s situation at safety and along the offensive line after the team’s practice Saturday.

Kelly said Hayes felt a change of pace would suit him in his fifth year of eligibility.

“Jay understands the standards that we have here and he felt like a change would be better for him,” Kelly said. “We granted him a release for anywhere he wants to play.”

“We gave him the opportunity to come back if he could meet the standards that we set here,” he said. “I don’t know what his thoughts were, I can’t read into his mind. He decided to transfer. He’ll finish his degree this semester so he’ll be immediately eligible. We love Jay, we wish him the best.”

Chris Collins | The Observer

Irish graduate student defensive end Jay Hayes, center, attempts to block a field goal Jan. 1 at the Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium against LSU. Hayes will not return to the team next year.

With Hayes out of the picture, junior defensive end Khalid Kareem looks set to start at left end for the Irish. Kelly said Kareem’s improvement over the offseason so far had him on course to win the starting job either way.

“We felt like he had earned the starting position there based upon his work both in the weight room and on the practice field,” Kelly said. “He was going to be the starter at that position. We believe that based upon his production.

“ … He’s got a real good length. He has a knack for pass rushing. Just has a knack for being there and getting to the quarterback. I think for him the next step becomes how do we get him up to 60 plays. He was a 20-play guy for us. How do we get him up to 60? Fatigue, strength … but he has some really innate ability to find the quarterback.”

Behind Kareem will be junior defensive end Ade Ogundeji. Ogundeji has seen action in only five games so far in his career and has yet to record a tackle, but Kelly said he looks set to make an impact in 2018.

“He was pushing and earning those reps,” Kelly said. “There’s no question. And 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 — where it comes easy to Khalid, we have to keep repping Ade. It’s coming. His strength is outstanding. His work ethic is outstanding. This is a guy that is ascending for us.”

“We expected the physical development and we knew that the football end of things was the area that was going to require the most work but he’s putting in the time and I’m pretty excited about where he’s going to be,” Kelly said.

Safeties

Although the Irish return both starting safeties from 2017, the eligibility of junior Alohi Gilman, the arrival of freshman Houston Griffith and the performances of other defensive backs gives Kelly plenty of options at the position.

“It just made sense we wanted to push the competition back there because everyone that talks about our defense knows we need more production from the safety position,” Kelly said. “Whether it’s [senior] Nick Coleman, [junior] Jalen Elliott, [junior Devin] Studstill or [senior Nicco] Fertitta, Houston Griffith, [sophomore Jordan] Genmark-Heath. We have a lot of guys out there that can push for competition.”

Offensive Line

On the offensive line, with the Irish needing to replace first-team All-American Quenton Nelson and second-team selection Mike McGlinchey, the Irish have another position group up in the air. Kelly said the only certain places along the line right now belong to the two returning full-time starters.

“We’re settled with Sam [Mustipher] and we’re settled with Alex Bars,” Kelly said. “We know we’ve got two guys in [Tommy] Kraemer and [Robert] Hainsey that can play right tackle. I think we’re still fluid as to what the combinations are going to be right now. Josh Lugg has been impressive, it’s hard to keep him off the field. Trevor Ruhland didn’t practice today. He has a pec injury on the other side from the one he had last spring and he’s been really consistent for us. I don’t know that we’ll leave the spring knowing exactly what we got but we do know who those guys are that are going to compete for us on Saturdays.”

Quarterback

Yet the position battle earning the most attention is between senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and junior Ian Book. However, Kelly said his goal right now is to find consistent play rather than a clear-cut starter.

“I don’t know if we’re looking for an answer as much as consistency in play,” Kelly said. “Like today, we missed a boundary up-read when we threw the ball outside to Miles Boykin when we had somebody wide open up the seam. We want to get better at that, then worrying about who’s the starter. Because then that will take care of itself. Our focus, my focus, Tommy Rees’ focus, Chip Long’s focus is really about how we get our passing game where it needs to be, and we can’t miss those reads like we did today.”

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel