Notre Dame wrapped up its first huge recruiting event of the summer this past weekend, and by all accounts it was a big hit. One of the most important recruits on campus this past weekend was Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers running back Dallan Hayden.
Hayden, the No. 1 player on the Irish Breakdown Running Back Big Board, is a huge target for running backs coach Lance Taylor and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, and they are hoping to knock it out of the park with him when he arrives.
Currently, the Irish have one committed running back in Denison (Texas) High School Jadarian Price, who also grades out high on the IB Board. Hayden and Price would would pair very nicely with Hayden as a one two punch. Hayden's head coach - Thomas McDaniel, is keen on who Hayden is and what he will ultimately bring to the table for whatever college he picks.
“He’s been a three-year starter here for us at Christian Brothers, which is rare for a school our size,” McDaniel said of Hayden. “He also played corner as a freshman and sophomore … He’s got an older brother that’s been very successful at both the high school and collegiate level, has a dad that’s played in the NFL. Man, he’s just got the pedigree, everything is very positive for him.
“Quite honestly, when he was being recruited in the spring of 2020, people were recruiting him as an athlete," continued McDaniels. "Notre Dame, when Clark [Lea] was still there, he was recruiting him as an athlete, probably a hybrid safety kind of kid. Nobody, including myself, really knew how good he was going to be at tailback going into last fall.”
The Tennessee native played primarily cornerback as a freshman and sophomore as the school featured a back who was an upperclassman that now plays at Mercer University. Hayden slowly transitioned to running back during his sophomore season.
He exploded onto the scene as a ball carrier during his junior season, rushing for 2,010 yards and 24 touchdowns, putting elite running back traits on full display.
“He’s got great vision and what I would call a ‘wide lens’,” stated McDaniel. “He can see the field very well and can find creases on the backside of plays when necessary. He’s 205 pounds, he has elite power and above average speed. The biggest thing is his toughness. He’s durable, he can run in between the tackles, circle the defense when he needs to and again cut the ball back and expose people.”
The scary thing is Hayden is still getting better, and his game isn't done growing.
“He’s got to get better at his ball skills [in the pass game," McDaniel noted. "He doesn’t catch the ball out of the backfield a whole lot for us, not to say that he can’t. Obviously, he will have to continue to mature with his pass protections. He’s got things to work on and he knows that. But, he is going to end up being a 215-pound to 225-pound tailback that’s going to be able to play inside and outside the box. Fits into all schemes in any offensive run game.
“He’s always working on his speed, agility, and power," continued the Christian Brothers head coach. "He’s a naturally strong kid in the weight room, works hard in the weight room. He spends a lot of time just running and conditioning. But again, as he gets older he’s just going to continue to get bigger and stronger. It just happens naturally for him. He’s always done a nice job with ball security … been really good at protecting the football. I think he would tell you the same thing and that’s that he wants to continue to build his football IQ.”
Hayden is continuously putting in the work to improve the necessary skills he’ll need to have at the next level, while also staying active in track as a two-sport high school athlete. McDaniel attributed his involvement in track as a part of his off season growth. Aside from tireless training and effort, the Christian Brothers head coach was keen on explaining Hayden’s leadership qualities and the reputation he holds to his peers and others.
“To this point right now, he’s a lovable personality," praised McDaniel. "I think one of the best compliments I can give to Dallan in school is that he hangs out with a variety of different people. You can see him walking down the hall with athletes, guys in the band, guys in theatre. He has a very unique friend group.
“As far as his leadership qualities, he’s a good leader by example but is also developing into a more vocal leader," continued McDaniel. “He’s very upbeat, very open minded and coachable. I think he’s got a good combination of vocal leadership and by example.”
Being recruited by the University of Notre Dame, he has a strong academic discipline that compliments his football skills and leadership.
“I don’t know how he balances it out, but I know how his mom balances it out, there is no football without academics,” stated McDaniel. “Dad stays on top of him athletically, mom stays on top of him academically. He doesn’t have any room to wiggle in the schoolwork. He takes care of his business.”
Hayden is being pushed for by the likes of institutions like Illinois, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Ohio State. If you have been paying attention to the Irish Breakdown podcasts, McDaniel confirms information that listeners have known for some time.
“I can only speak for myself, I’m not Dallan, but at the end of the day it’s going to come down to Notre Dame or Ohio State in my opinion,” noted McDaniel. “Both of them are obviously great football schools, great institutions, and great history. I know that Notre Dame has put a lot of time and effort into him. Notre Dame excites him.”
Hayden sees himself fitting into the offensive scheme and Notre Dame seems like a great fit for a kid like him who’s looking for a home the next four years. Ohio State is coming up this weekend, and I expect things to become more tense and ramped up in his recruitment after this coming visit to Columbus.
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