2022 RB Hayden Adds Big Ten Program to Top Schools
John Garcia, Jr.
Mr. Football in Tennessee still has another year of high school football before he plays on Saturdays, but Dallan Hayden will be committed to a program by the time he suits up for Memphis (Tenn.) Christian Brothers High School.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder, whose father Aaron and brother Chase each played in the SEC at running back, has collected north of 30 scholarship offers before the conclusion of his junior high school year.
One program will pick up his pledge relatively soon.
"Just sometimes towards the spring," Hayden told SI All-American of his decision timetable. "Hopefully things open back up, I take a couple of officials and then make a decision."
On January 1, the Volunteer State talent dropped a top four, signaling the final phase of the evaluation process. Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee made the cut, but Illinois has been added to the mix since that release.
Selecting between the five programs, Hayden touched on each at this stage of the process.
Ohio State: "Football history, draft picks they've had, the championships -- all of that speaks for itself. Ohio State is a premiere program and I'm developing some great relationships with the running back coach (Tony Alford) the head coach (Ryan Day) and they're making me feel like a priority. I saw no shame in putting the Buckeyes in my top five. I'll definitely be visiting Ohio State, no question."
Notre Dame: "Football history, the great players they've had. All-Americans. They win and they're making me feel like a priority. I talk to their offensive coordinator (Tommy Rees) and running backs coach (Lance Taylor) through texts and getting on the phone almost every day. They're recruiting me hard. Ever since they offered, the communication hasn't stopped."
Illinois: "My brother's old coach, Bret Bielema, took the job after I released my top four. Once he got settled in, he offered me a scholarship and told me he's going to be recruiting me really hard. My family and I have a really good relationship with Coach Bielema because he recruited my older brother back at Arkansas. Now he's back and that's why Illinois is in there. My brother loves Coach Bielema, he has nothing but great things to say about him. He's a player's coach, a great man off the field and he cares about each and every one of his players."
Tennessee: "I'm an in-state kid, both of my parents are UT grads and my dad played there. I've been watching UT play almost my whole life so no shame in putting them in there. Even with the new staff in place, they're still recruiting me and seem like pretty good guys. Pretty straight-forward guys. Coach (Josh) Heupel always has a great offense, so I think he's going to do great things. Curious to see how they do."
Oregon: "They started recruiting me, and when they offered, I haven't stopped hearing from Coach Rod Chance, Coach (Jim) Mastro. Then I recently did a Zoom with Coach (Mario) Cristobal, Coach Mastro and Coach Chance and they were just telling me they really want me. They always dominate the Pac-12, always the best team out West, so they're in there."
Ties to each of the Power 5 conferences outside of the Big 12 signal how national the pursuit of Hayden's commitment and eventual signature has become.
The region or conference won't play a large factor in the final analysis, either.
"To me that really doesn't matter," he said. "Location doesn't matter, it's about great academic schools and opportunities that are going to hopefully help me get to the next level if I'm lucky enough. Whether it's academically or athletically, that's really the major factor. The weather or none of that really doesn't factor in.
"I feel like I can fit in anybody's offense and give them my all."
As for what one of the finalists will add to the 2022 roster with Hayden on board, comparisons to the other running backs in the family feel inevitable.
"I'm going to always bet on myself so I feel like I'm the best," Hayden said. "People always have their opinions. I feel like I run more like my dad, where I'm power and speed. My brother is more of a scat back, shifty back, he makes more moves than me. I feel like our running styles are totally different."
Coming off of a 2,000-yard season in just nine games played, there is reason for the youngest to play most confident at this stage.
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