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USC football recruiting: the curious case of Daelin Hayes

A top 100 recruit who has barely played any football the past couple of years? Why Daelin Hayes is one of the most intriguing recruits in the nation

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Daelin Hayes is composite top 100 recruit in the nation. He's rated as a 5 star on Rivals.com. He has scholarship offers from football programs like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, and committed to USC before he even started his junior year of high school.

None of that makes him unique when compared with other top 100 recruits. It's a similar story for all of them. What makes Hayes unique is the fact that he has played less than five actual football games the last two seasons and still has a lofty ranking and is being pursued by so many schools.

The outside linebacker prospect, who is currently attending Ann Arbor Skyline in Michigan, played in one game during his sophomore season at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Michigan). Even without the film to back it up, schools still knew about him and he tore up the camp circuit after recovering from his injury. Fast. Fluid. Explosive. Pick a complimentary adjective and it probably describes what kind of athlete Hayes looked like. When he competed against elite players at the Rivals Underclassmen challenge last summer, he dominated in coverage situations($) and was named the linebacker MVP at the event. So when he transferred to St. Bonaventure (California) for his junior year, big things were expected of him.

The problem was, he barely got a chance to play there. He didn't get halfway through the season before he was forced to move back to Michigan because of a custody battle with his parents. Even with such a small sample size, I was excited to watch Hayes' junior film. Based on what I saw from him as an athlete in camp settings, his numerous scholarship offers, and his high ranking nationally, I expected to see a dominant player.

That's not what I saw though. I saw a prospect that looked like a beast physically, but didn't play like one. I had seen him run. I know he is fast. But he didn't play fast. To be honest, he looked exactly who he is. A guy who hasn't really played that much football in the last couple of years and was just getting his feet wet and wanting to jump back in the pool.

I talk about it more in my scouting report on Hayes, but the gist of it is that he did not look like an instinctive player and of course that's the case. How can anyone develop instincts and recognition skills on the football field if they don't get to play football?

This is also an example why there should never be too much stock put into performances at camps without pads on and how players perform during 7 on 7. Yes, there are football skills on display when at camps and during passing tournaments, but it is drastically different than actually playing real football. There is so much unknown about Hayes because he just hasn't competed enough in the last couple of years for anyone to give a proper evaluation of him as a football player right now.

So, what do we know about Hayes?

We know that his senior season is going to be his first full season of football since he was a freshman in high school. We know he is impressively built and looks like he could be playing college football right now. We know that athletically he is a talent that fits in with other top football players across the nation. All of that stuff combined puts Hayes' ceiling as a football player through the roof.

When college coaches are recruiting a player, they are looking at much more than what the player is now. They are thinking about what the player could be once they get the chance to coach him. That's why Daelin Hayes is the most intriguing recruit in this recruiting class. We aren't even sure what he is now and because of that, it's even more of a mystery of what he can be on the football field once he starts playing football for USC.