this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The Sandwich War. SI's Andy Staples was in town recently to cover something or another and took the opportunity to cast a vote in the ongoing blood war over the best deli sandwich in Ann Arbor. The contenders are Zingerman's and Maize 'n' Blue Deli:
Staples goes for Maize 'n' Blue, citing price and having to unhinge his jaw as major considerations. Message board duly blows up in a way that makes me think I should put conversations about Zingerman's in the verboten category with politics and religion. Clearly sandwiches are both.
I'm hoping to flag Staples down the next time he's in town so I can take him to Frita Baditos in the hope his mind will be blown and Satchel's in the hope he gives Northern barbecue at least a C-.
No. Stop asking. Kudos to the Big Ten for reassuring everyone that they're not going to pick off half the Big East for no reason. Via a press release:
"In response to a number of recent media inquiries received by several Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors regarding the likelihood of further expansion by the Big Ten, the COP/C would like to reiterate that it will not be actively engaged in conference expansion at this time, or at any time in the foreseeable future."
"We said that we will continue to monitor the landscape, but we have closed down active expansion and have no plans to seek new members."
Twelve and done and good.
Locks. In case this wasn't made explicitly clear by Tim's recap, Brady Hoke directly asserted three guys would be defensive starters. There are no real surprises in that group:
Hoke said he's filled "about two or three" starting spots on defense. When asked who they were, he responded:
"(Cornerback Troy) Woolfolk's had a nice camp, I think (nose tackle Mike) Martin's had a nice camp, (safety Jordan) Kovacs has had a nice camp."
If you were hoping Kovacs was overtaken by someone more athletic you can shelve that. I'm hoping he enters his Englemon phase where he doesn't do much that im- or de-presses anyone. Woolfolk shooting to the top of the cornerback depth chart isn't a surprise but there was a chance the lingering effects of his injury prevented him from being as effective; that apparently hasn't happened. Good news—in the secondary and everything.
I'm a little surprised Demens isn't on that list given the practice buzz. Bad sign? Overreaction? It can be both.
I'm getting the impression they might actually run more read option this year than they did last year.
You are feeling very sleepy. You are Desmond Howard. Jeff Hecklinski could have been a hypnotist if he wasn't a football coach. He also accuses Roy Roundtree of "prancing" and stands next to a short dreaded guy who's injured:
Unless I'm mistaken, that's Martavious Odoms getting his Bob Marley on. First the cast, now a shoulder injury—Junior Hemingway must have pressed a mysterious button that someone told him would make him resilient but turn someone else on the team into Glass Joe.
BIG TEN: STOP MAKING AND NAMING THINGS. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING US ALL. This is the new Cy-Hawk Trophy:
This is what "Iowa Corn" came up with instead of, like, a Hawk in an F16 launching a missile at a tornado that was reaching out a airy appendage of doom. That's a rivalry trophy. That thing above belongs at Art Fair. Adam Jacobi would like "a lot less of this effort to turn the conference into a bad Norman Rockwell painting." Co-sign.
It's not like they didn't know that was going to happen. Iowa Corn also came up with this:
Oh, no. Dave Brandon: do not slap a winged helmet on that thing and put it on the sideline. Please.
The Big Ten Network stopped by a Michigan practice and did their usual suite of impressions that may or may not mean anything. They totally could mean something and it's the preseason so you'll jump on the barest morsel of information, so here they are.
This year the quantity and quality of the observations are significantly reduced, FWIW. Last year there was a fourth guy (Griffith, I think) tweeting stuff and it seemed like they got more information out of it. UPDATE: Okay, Griffith was there. He updated later than everyone else; I've added them in.
Players Of Note
Robinson is the one guy who can beat you. D Gardner is also really impressive. D Morgan, Q Washington stood out among young defenders.
Hurrah positive Quinton Washington mention. Also, leave Desmond Morgan alone: he is not a fullback yet.
UM Prac - Good day today Smith,Gallon,Cox,Countess,Grady,Shaw,Wilkins,Ash,Black,Schofield , Washington,Lewan,Watson,Koger,Eddins
Okay, that's like half the team, including Steve Watson—who is never going to play—doghouse member Kenny Wilkins, and walk-on (and not even the hyped walk-on) Chris Eddins. At least you see Washington there too.
@BTN_Michigan Other freshman that will see playing time CB Blake Countess, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Desmond Morgan, DE Brennen Beyer
There Is No Running Back
Borges said he hasn't had a clear stand-out at RB. Wants to try to find one - but he hasn't emerged. Lots of options there, though.
UM Practice - No veteran running back has really separated himself from the pack. Rawls has had a great camp and may be in the mix.
Mattison talked about decision to leave Ravens - said he loves developing kids - taking them from freshman yr to making the NFL.
Just leaving Michigan practice. The staff is really impressive - a lot of teaching and a lot of feedback in the practice.
Pro Style Transition Promises And Fear
Borges made it clear he is going to try to utilize all of D Robinson's skills - even if it means running stuff that he doesn't typically run
UM Prac -Integrating two different off may be much more difficult than I first thought. It's will be a challenge and interesting to watch
That's ominous. Grab-baggin' it?
UM Prac - Regardless of what the Michigan O will look like Denard looks like a vet and has great body language. He was a lot of fun on set
Gerry DiNardo Doesn't Actually Watch Football Games
UM Prac-Teams in the B1G that run the ball the best do a certain blocking drill. UM did it today - entire team playing with better leverage
This isn't entirely clear but his previous tweet is about how practice is very different so the implication is that Michigan did not do this blocking drill a year ago. Michigan led the league in YPC one year ago even though they played with turrible leverage and ran like 70% of the time.
UPDATE: there's a story that makes this clear, with Griffith talking about this same mysterious drill:
"One of the things I hadn’t seen in a (Michigan) practice recently is when you see one of the best running teams in the league and the drills they do; I saw those drills at Michigan. That’s an indication they’re going in the right direction.”
This quote will be fun when Michigan's YPC drops by a yard this year. I mean, no one thinks Rodriguez didn't need to go but the least you can give the guy is he knows how to put together a rushing offense.
Gerry DiNardo Puts Together Lists Of Words
UM Prac - Defense will improve significantly - because of offense scheme, coaching emphasis, simplicity, different packages, and pressure.
So, that's everything. Including "offensive scheme." Also including both "simplicity" and "different packages." I wouldn't be surprised if DiNardo believes that few possessions == good defense. He is very old and a terrible football coach. It seems like DiNardo hated Rodriguez; before he even got to practice he was talking about how you have to run the I-form to play defense.
UM Prac- No surprise prac was much different than recent past.More emphasis on Kick Game (Brady coached it),emphasis on D (Brady coached it)
Our defensive head coach coached the defense. Last year our offensive head coach coached the offense. This year Brady Hoke, who knows jack about kicking, is looking at the people kicking the ball.
WTF, Gerry DiNardo?
UM Prac-defending I form w/o a dynamic TB & no designed QB run plays is a problem.OSU has done it the last 3 yrs. & struggled vs the best D.
Either DiNardo meant "O" at the end or he meant "running" at the beginning. It seems like the former from the context, which means he thinks Michigan running the I-Form is dumb, except it makes the defense better… except it makes the offense worse… this is how you have a losing record at LSU.
Avery Horn, Sam McGuffie
So I got this email and I was going to put it in a mailbag and then I realized the world needed a stand-alone dossier of the things Fred Jackson has said about his running backs. This is it. This is the email:
You frequently make a jab at Fred Jackson and his son for jointly comparing freshman running back Thomas Rawls to Mark Ingram, saying that this comparison is part of Jackson hyperbole. It sounds like your point is that the Jacksons have a history of comparing mediocre running backs to great ones. However, in the "Fred Jackson Hyperbole Tracker" tab, when I click on it, the only posts it brings up are two, and both involve Rawls. Could you provide more instances where Jackson erroneously jumped the gun with a whacked-out comparison of a running back that only resulted in mediocrity?
The only additional comparison I can think of that Jackson (Sr.) made recently was that Stephen Hopkins reminds him a lot of Chris Perry. … Are there other times when Jackson did made comparisons and was wrong?
If there are, then Jackson certainly has a history of hyperbole, and your point stands. If not, then perhaps you're just being a little too cynical about the potential that Rawls has. Yes, it's probably always safer to be skeptical when someone says "this guy will be awesome," but it could be that Jackson hasn't been able to get excited about running backs in recent years. He did, after all, coach some decent running backs over the years, who did some good things for Michigan. Though I shouldn't need to tell you that.
Let me know what you find. I'd be curious to see if Jackson has done this before.
You defy the memes. I accept your challenge.
FRED JACKSON ON…
Jackson called Allison "unbelievable," adding the Lake Orion native has a chance to be "the best fullback we've ever had here." High praise indeed given he's only been hitting for a week.
"Everybody used to say Anthony [Thomas] couldn't run, but nobody could catch him either. Underwood is like that. He can break out in the secondary and they'll say, 'He doesn't look like he's running,' but you won't find anybody catching him."
Running backs coach Fred Jackson called Horn the fastest tailback he has ever coached.
Luckily for Michigan, it has what running backs coach Fred Jackson calls the best two running backs in the same class in his 17 years with the Wolverines — freshmen Michael Shaw and Sam McGuffie.
“Sam is the quickest I’ve seen,” Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson said.
"Michael Hart ability with speed," Jackson said, comparing Toussaint to U-M's all-time leading rusher. "The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was."
More Fitzgerald Toussaint:
"He's as talented as anyone who walked in the door," said Jackson, who has coached Michigan career leading rusher Michael Hart, Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas and Tyrone Wheatley, to name a few.
Jackson said he had never before heard of a player breaking his shoulder blade. But before the injury, Jackson saw budding talent.
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
I got guys now that got me very excited. I'm talking about a couple years like '94, when we had Wheatley, Biakabutuka, Jesse Johnson, Eddie Davis, those kind of guys.
Brandon Minor (and the rest of the 2008 group):
Jackson said he never has had a speedier group of tailbacks while at Michigan, and he never has had a more physical back than senior Brandon Minor. … "I've coached a lot of tough guys, but I'm going to say right now, (Minor's) probably the toughest back I've ever coached physically," Jackson said.
"Thomas Rawls, to me, is a combination of Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry, but he's faster than both of them," Jackson said. "He's got their feet, their power, and he's got a running style more like Chris', because he really sinks before he hits you."
"No doubt," Jackson said. "I saw him play enough. The kid's got the right stuff. He's just like [Alabama's Mark Ingram], but he's faster than Ingram. He ran 10.65 in the 100 meters, at 220 pounds. Just think about that."
"Before he's done here, he'll be another Chris Perry. But I don't know if Chris was ever 230 pounds."
Michigan RB Coach Fred Jackson didn’t hold back when talking about Shoelace’s speed, “I promise you this, there ain’t nobody in the country who can catch him,” Jackson said. In my 18 years here, I’ve never seen a kid that fast. Nowhere. And I’ve seen some fast kids on other teams, (but) I’ve never seen anybody that fast. “I mean, it’s scary. Every time you miss him in practice, strike the band up, it’s a touchdown. He’s going to shock a lot of people.”
Okay, that last one is right.
UPDATE 8/13/2012: On Thomas Rawls:
"He's got Mike Hart kind of feet, but a lot faster than Mike."
UPDATE 8/14/2012: Comparing Rawls to Mark Ingram:
"They were almost identical high school backs," said Jackson. "Obviously, Mark Ingram had a great (offensive) line at Alabama that helped him along, but Thomas is a lot faster than Mark, (and) has the same type of ability. I'm not trying to compare them in any way but when you watched them in high school, they were very similar running backs."
On Dennis Norfleet:
"Norfleet is as quick as any kid at Michigan since I've been here," said Jackson, in his 21st season. "I've not seen a guy that quick." ...
"...I don't think (anybody) is faster than Denard," Jackson said. "(Norfleet's) got the quickness that will put him in the same positions Denard gets in quicker than Denard will get in them. Now, Denard once he gets side by side will pull (away) from him probably."
photo from file
Today was the fourteenth practice of fall camp. There has been improvement on both sides of the ball, but it's important to continue improving consistency.
Freshmen - Almost completely done with academic stuff for summer. "They're hit and miss a little bit with meetings, hit and miss with the period of practice times and all that." A couple of those guys will be able to help the team.
Academics - "I don't think we've had too many guys slide backwards, or not do what they're supposed to do." The guys are taking care of business, and the coaching/support staff is helping them understand their responsibilities. Got some grades back today that were all pretty good. He doesn't anticipate any issues academically.
Scrimmage on Saturday - "I want to see us #1 go out there and we're treating it like a gameday... I want to see how they prepare for that scrimmage, from a mental standpoint." Saturday is only two weeks away from the first game, so they need to be prepared and ready to perform.
Miami violations - only worried about making sure everything is handled right at Michigan. "Educating everybody. Our kids, first and foremost, on being a student athlete, what that's all about."
Corwin Brown - "Our thoughts are with him and his family. We think about him every day. He's a Michigan Man."
Taking care of the football pretty well offensively. "That's one we need to be always on guard. Last three years we're minus-32 in turnover margin, and that's not winning football."
Borges - "I think he's really hands-on [with QBs]. I think because of Al's knowledge of the quarterback position... I just think I like how he teaches and like how he coaches, with the demeanor he does that with."
Denard - completing 70% of passes right now. That includes any drill that has a competitive aspect. "We may not be tackling and doing all that, but we chart every throw." He's at the point they'd want him to be a couple weeks out from the first game. "I think he's done a good job." Denard has hit the timing routes well, and the ball is coming off quicker. "You've gotta give the guys catching the ball credit, because I think their route-running is better."
Denard - "He wants to be one of the great Michigan quarterbacks. And so does Devin Gardner." They're learning and understanding what a Michigan QB is. It's helpful to have a second QB get a few reps early in the year in case you need him later. Gardner - "I like his maturity, and just his body language and everything else." He's not at the 70% number that Denard is - between 59-62%.
RB - still an open competition. "I don't think we've seen any separation by anybody yet." Nobody in particular has the advantage. "At times Vince looks good, Hop looks good at times, Shaw looks good, Cox does some things in there. And I'm probably forgetting a guy." Disappointed that nobody has separated? "I'd probably not be truthful if I said no." All the guys are working hard, but nobody has separated as the #1 yet.
"I would say probably 2 or 3" starting positions on defense are set by now. Woolfolk and Martin have had nice camps, and Kovacs has had a nice camp. The other positions aren't quite settled.
Do they have defensive playmakers - "You've gotta understand, I'm real hard on a defense now. I'd say no."
On D, there are a lot of packages, trying to focus on the ones they're most comfortable with. "From a defensive standpoint, I think we were tighter on the coverage part, I think we were faster in hitting from point A to point B, whatever that point might be, and that's a plus."
We'll get to the quarterback. "I think we've made a really good stride from let's say practice 7 to 14, whether it be a 3-man rush and pushing it, or whether it be bringing 5 on a zone blitz, or bringing all of them on a zero blitz." They have lot of different looks to give the QB.
"Brink has really had a good camp. He's a kid that really I think is a tough kid and plays with good technique." His emergence since spring was a welcome surprise. "I think it's real healthy for us" to have a walk-on like Brink to push for playing time. That's a credit to Brink. Will Campbell - "He's competin', he'll compete, and then we'll go from there." Brink can play multiple positions, so he's not necessarily taking a spot from Campbell.
Martin - "We've just gotta stay fundamentally sound with him. That's his biggest obstacle at times. He's not following through on the basic fundamentals once in a while." He's working hard and showing good endurance, however.
Secondary play - We have to play tighter.
Kicking - "we did some things up at the stadium the other day, and I thought Gibbons kicked very well. I think it's still a great competition, and I wouldn't say we have who it is. I think Wile's doing a nice job in both, well all three of them really. I imagine he'll be our kickoff guy for sure. I think he's punting pretty daggone well." Field goals still a competition.
"I feel like, as of right now, we aren't where we want to be. We want to be perfect." All the coaches preach toughness, and going the extra mile. The players have to focus on the details, and everybody has to put in the work.
Hoke's attention to the defense makes practices challenging. "We need that challenge. We have to play under that pressure."
"It doesn't mean too much" that he's not one of the players Hoke listed as starters. Missing spring ball meant he had to catch up physically, though it did give him some extra time with the playbook this spring.
The coaching staff is great at breaking down the scheme so players understand their roles. "It's all just one big piece to the puzzle."
Some young players are stepping up: "We have Desmond, we have Jake Ryan stepping up, we have Jordan Paskorz, who's competing."
The team hasn't watched any film of last year's defense. They have watched a few clips of the Baltimore Ravens from last year, to demonstrate certain techniques.
Defensive identity? "I want it to be like how it used to be... We're just gonna be tough. A tough defense this year."
There hasn't been too much change for the offensive line. They ran zone schemes last year, they ran power last year. "We just block the plays that are called." They're putting a bigger emphasis on the downhill running plays this year. Time of possession will be an important part of this year's game plan. "Staying on the field as an offense."
Mark has game experience at both guard and tackle, so whichever he's called upon to play won't affect his game.
Denard is getting more comfortable in the offense, and sitting in the pocket. It'll be nice for the offensive line to have a returning starter. "It helps a lot for consistency, because you've got the same guy back there. You know how he plays, you know what he's capable of."
David Molk is a great leader. He works really hard in the weight room, which inspires his teammates. He's a vocal leader as well, and he's proven his leadership on the field. "It's always good to have at least one guy who'll do all that stuff."
Nathan Brink is a very hard worker, and he has good technique on the field. "He comes off the real hard. And he uses his hands well, too."
"I'm doing better [than spring] but I've always got time for improvement. I'm not there yet." He's used to the plays now, because he practiced them with his wideouts all summer. "Every time I had a chance to get in, I got in."
Greg Mattison always has some crazy blitz schemes in practice. "He's making me a better quarterback... and I'm quick on my toes." Despite Mattison's blitzes, they're able to pick up protections. "I know I've got the best offensive line in the country, and I can sit back there for a while." There's good chemistry between Denard and the line now.
"I am running less, and I'm enjoying it. I love seeing Vincent and Shaw and Mike Cox and Stephen Hopkins make plays off the run." Last year, the coaches were drilling him on trusting the line to give him time before he needed to take off.
Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon, Junior Hemingway, Je'Ron Stokes, and Terrence Robinson are some of the receivers who can go get the ball.
"Michael Vick and Peyton Manning. You've gotta say those two. I love watching those guys play, and Tom Brady." Even though they have different playing styles, they can stand in the pocket and make the throws, and are willing to take off if the checkdown isn't available.
There's a friendly QB competition between Denard and Devin Gardner. "Devin's probably one of the best quarterbacks I've seen."
The footwork "is one of the biggest things I had to work on. You know, that's what we had to do the whole offseason. Just work on timing and footwork." Coach Borges worked with him on taking his step up in the pocket forward, instead of taking a hop-step in place.
Power. Strength. Toughness. Big Ten Football.
This is the new (old) Michigan football. What this actually looks like remains to be seen, but I wanted to test out some of the core tenants and clichés of the Manball philosophy to see if there power still rings true today.
Bring on the charts!
Check here for a run down of the background behind the methods.
Myth 1: Passing too much on offense makes your defense ill-prepared for the rigors of Big Ten play.
I tested this myth for both all college football and the Big Ten exclusively. If it’s going to be true anywhere, it’s going to be true in the Big Ten.
To judge how much a team passed, I looked only at first half plays where teams haven’t made half-time adjustments and should be executing their intended game plan and not reacting much to score and time considerations. I then compared the quantity of first half passes against the defensive success. First I looked at all of the FBS:
That’s a whole lot of buck shot and not a lot of trend. There is a slight trend toward more passing = better defense but the effect is not statistically significant.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Big Ten is different than the rest of FBS, it is the nativeland of Manball. So if you look at Big Ten teams in Big Ten games over the last eight years, does the picture look different?
Here at the least the slope is going in the “right” direction but the effect is still small and insignificant. Even if it was statistically significant, the difference between the low (10 passes per first half) and the high (25 passes per first half) is worth one game a season, an advantage sure, but nothing monumental.
Myth 2: Long Scoring Drives Rest a Defense
Unfortunately I don’t have any good tools to tell how rested a defense gets, but I can look at the outcomes of subsequent drives following a scoring drive of various lengths. Does a defense have better outcomes after a long or short scoring drive, does any of it matter at all?
Looks like the rest is more beneficial to the offense than the defense. Defenses give up 20% more points after a 15 play scoring drive by their offense than a 1 play scoring drive.
The usual correlation does not equal causation applies. Worse teams could be more likely to score on longer drives than good teams. Other issues could be at play but I felt comfortable that this overall myth does not hold true.
Myth 3: Running Teams Do Better in the Red Zone Than Passing Teams
I had two ways to look at this one. Is it about running the ball in general, or is it about running the ball once you are in the red zone? They are usually the same thing but I wanted to test out both to see if one rang more true than the other.
First, comparing how much teams run between the 20’s to red zone effectiveness, measured in [points on red zone trips]/[7*red zone trips]:
This looks a lot like Myth 1. Some slope but no significance. Even at a significant r sqaured, the difference between 30% rushing and 60% rushing is worth less than a touchdown in red zone production over the course of an entire season.
Here is what it looks like when you change the x-axis to reflect playing calling within the red zone:
Slope increases, as does r squared although there is still a ton of noise.
The case is not strong, and there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat in the red zone but I would leave the door open on this one:
Finding: Plausible, but evidence weak
Myth 4: Offenses With Running Quarterbacks Break Down As The Season Progresses
This one is probably not a manball myth, necessarily, but a good one to look at. Let's go straight to the you-know-what.
Did not see this one coming. Sure last year clouded my mind a little bit but I did not expect QB running offenses to be this dominant. That’s a very real gap between QB running offenses and non-QB running offenses.
The weekly data here is a bit noisy but it looks as though offenses built around running QBs peak in early November but are still pretty strong come bowl season. The overall trend roughly mirrors statue QB offenses although the statues do have a bigger uptick come bowl season than other offenses.
Myth 5: Offenses With Running QBs Have Worse Defenses
Not a lot of fancy numbers or charts on this one. Only real numbers of note are that the 100+ carry group from Myth 4 have an average defense of that is 0.2 points per game worse than then 0-99 group, that’s worth less than a game a decade.
Myth 6: Run Oriented Offenses Do Better In The Fourth Quarter
This is one of the key tenants of a run-based offense. The ability to hold the ball with a lead late. Unfortunately the NCAA doesn’t provide time stamps for plays and so I don’t have them in my database, making a good estimation of clock killing impossible to determine from my data. All I can provide analysis on is the ability of different combinations of run and pass to score points, not run out the clock.
Partially because objectives change in the fourth quarter, but the likelihood of scoring is the lowest in the fourth of any given quarter. That means all situations will tilt toward the negative in my analysis. What I can look at is how much teams run in the first three quarters and compare that with their overall performance in the fourth quarter when the game is within two touchdowns.
I hope I didn’t just give away the ending, but if you are going to be a running team you better come into the fourth quarter with a lead. One of the strongest correlations of the day points to strongly diminished returns in the fourth quarter for teams heavily invested in the run.
Finding: Busted without a lead, inconclusive running out the clock
What Does This Mean For The Future of Michigan Manball?
Right now the evidence still points to Manball being more of a philosophical theme than a practice of playcalling but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen either. Nothing I have seen indicates that it can’t win a lot of games but it is definitely far from a Decided Schematic Advantage. As all good Michigan fans know, Manball can be effective in most games as long as you have better talent and you aren’t playing from behind.
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, OL Chris Bryant and RB Thomas Rawls.
|Grand Blanc, MI - 5'10" 176|
|Scout||4*, #14 RB, #131 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #3 AP back, #4 MI, #85 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #22 RB|
|Others||247: 4*, #6 APB, #3 MI, #149 overall|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Tennessee, Wisconsin|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Has a twitter.|
He got injured early this year so no senior film. He did McGuffie some dude as a sophomore:
When Justice Hayes suddenly dropped Notre Dame($) for Michigan in November he was switching one spread for another. While the offenses of Rich Rodriguez and Brian Kelly have significant differences they both have room for a cat-quick tailback who looks like "a big cornerback" and can change direction on a dime. They have yet more room for a guy like that who can double as a slot receiver. So that made sense.
A couple months later Rich Rodriguez was panhandling, Brady Hoke was the new coach at Michigan, and Justice Hayes was proclaiming his undying loyalty to the Wolverines. That makes… well, less sense. Hayes is Michigan's consensus top recruit of the 2011 class, but the question remains: can Michigan use him effectively?
Don't take it from me. Ask his high school coach:
"He's okay in between the tackles, but I see him more as a slot," said Delaney. "But he's so versatile you can line him back up with the quarterback and have a dual threat back there that way. You could put him back there and motion him, bring him across and sweep… a lot of things."
Allen Trieu's assessment upon Hayes's switch($) is ironic, declaring him a "good fit" because Hayes "would have had to grow into an I-Back type role at a power running school." Boilerplate about Borges's creativity and experience with wide-open passing attacks goes here; doubt about his role in an I-form, TE-heavy power-running offense is not erased by it.
Still, Hayes seems like the kind of kid you might have to build some offense around. The scouting reports portray him as one of those proverbial Weapons. His Rivals profile praises him as a "very, very quick back": before getting into some intangibles:
His body structure is reminiscent of Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick.
… will need to add some more strength and size in order to make yards after contact at the next level. He could work on his balance. …. Hayes is very versatile and could player defensive back, wide receiver or running back at the next level. He is a high-character kid that possesses serious leadership skills. ... He adds instant speed and will be hard to keep off the field.
Rivals rates his size and strength as average, his elusiveness and speed "blue chip," and his agility "as good as it gets." ESPN($):
Flashes great elusiveness and suddenness through the hole and second level. Sees the field well and redirects through the small creases sharply. Can stop-start and make tight cuts showing great balance and body control. A great jump-cutter who consistently makes the first guy miss but will also stick his foot in the ground and get north; elusive but a decisive runner as well. … Feet and body never stop on contact allowing him to spin out of a lot of arm tackles. Very slippery and does not give defenders a clean shot. … projects to be more of a change-of-pace, multi-purpose type of back at the major college level; at least until he fills out his frame and gains more downhill power. … has big-play potential with his initial burst and ability to reach top-speed extremely quick. Would make an ideal space-player in a spread offense at the next level; could develop into a great weapon [ed: see?] if used creatively.
The copious scouting reports from his camp appearances follow much in the same vein. A Rivals eval from the Army Combine praises his excellent change of direction and soft hands while claiming he'll need to gain "at least 20 more pounds" if he's going to be a feature back. As a result of that and his killer shuttle (4.09, third at the event) he was named to the All-Combine team($) at the Army Game ("excelled as a pass receiver … could play three different positions").
He hit up the Columbus Nike Camp, where he was "the best route-runner" at RB and "caught everything smoothly," looked like "the perfect physical cornerback" and displayed "superb" ball skills. He made that All-Combine team, too. At the Michigan Showcase he was "unstoppable" because of "ability to get in and out of his cuts and explode past defenders."
His catches are often spectacular. One from the Army Camp($):
"He ran a wheel route down the sideline. He caught the ball at its highest point - he had to have been 35 inches off the ground - like he has been doing it all his life. He is just a natural athlete."
One from his high school season—the play he broke his wrist on:
Hayes broke his wrist on what Delaney called one of the better catches he's ever seen. "We had the football right at the end of the half and our quarterback threw a bullet with no time remaining to the back of the end zone, 25 yards or so, and he split the defenders but came down on his wrist," he recalled.
You get the idea. Hayes is a 7-on-7 god.
Meanwhile, being a feature back isn't totally out of the question. Multiple analysts praise his decisive cuts and ability to run through traffic. Scout:
Very conscious of clearing his feet from the arm tacklers going low. Runs bigger than his listed size. Makes people miss with subtle moves rather than exaggerated lateral movement. Very good runner in traffic helps him eat up chunks of yardage quickly despite not having blazing top end speed. Very little wasted motion in his running style. Vision in traffic makes him valuable between the tackles despite his size - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com
ESPN's Billy Tucker says the usual stuff about 7-on-7 godliness but also mentions some ability to hit it upfield:
"Now this guy is not just an extremely quick and sudden east-west cutting runner. Hayes runs hard for 180-pounds and will stick his foot in the ground and get North when he sees a crease. That decisive cutting style and fluid change-of-direction skill should allow for good production in Ann Arbor."
oh, no reason
This guy is a Weapon. Michigan will use him.
Hayes will be a test for Borges's ability and Hoke's flexibility. The evidence suggests Hoke is going to be flexible enough to allow Borges to play with his toy. If so, Hayes has the ability to be a guy people pine for whenever a screen goes for four yards. "Justice Hayes would have gotten eight yards," they'll sigh, "and returned that kickoff to midfield." His size and a logjam in front of him will prevent that from happening right away, but his exciting combination of hands, quickness, and vision promise spectacular plays. It'll be up to Michigan's offensive brain trust to mine his assets with sufficient frequency.
Etc.: Chooses Notre Dame, temporarily. Name found worthy of "CALL HIM JUSTICE HAYES AND THEN SEE DEATH" EDSBS headline. Jim Stefani says he actually changed his name to Justice from "Will McDaniel," which good call. This massive, free breakdown from Vol Nation says all of the above and more. If you want to get irrationally excited about Hayes, read it.
May return kicks:
“Kickoff return,” Hayes said. “We’ve got a great amount of running backs and they’ve been peaking lately. So probably not this year, but I’m definitely going to compete to try and get a spot in the kickoff return.
“It doesn’t matter (what I do), just coming in to compete.”
Why Steve Breaston? Michigan hasn't had an all-purpose Weapon like Breaston since his departure and hadn't really had one before. While Breaston is a couple inches taller and was therefore strictly a wide receiver, his out-of-this-world quicks made him a guy to get the ball to any way you can—as long as it's not between the tackles.
Breaston, like Hayes, entered Michigan a rail-thin consensus four star who needed to gain weight. Hayes would have to scrape the very top of his potential be as elusive as Breaston but he does have one major advantage: hands. Breaston's hands were underrated by a pack of perfectionists who saw every dropped slant as a hanging offense but they weren't much better than okay. Hayes sounds like he's got Jason Avant's hands in a tailback's body.
Guru Reliability: Very high. While the injury robbed him of much of his senior season he'd already attended every camp he could; rankings and scouting reports are near-unanimous, with the only disagreement about whether or not he can be an effective runner between the tackles. The injury is a wrist injury and should not impact his speed.
General Excitement Level: High. Would be "very high"—the only ranking short of "eeee"—except for nagging concerns about his role in what projects to be a very pro-style offense. At worst he'll be a third down back and slot, but that role is something less than he might have become in the spread.
Projection: His versatility will allow him to see the field quickly on special teams and spotting various players on offense. With no slots in the class—no receivers at all—and the pending departures of three of the top for WRs he could find himself being groomed for a significant role as a sophomore. If that doesn't happen he's a heavy favorite to become the third down back when Smith graduates; at that point he'd also be in the WR rotation. Nonzero chance he puts on enough weight to be a feature back but that's not particularly likely.
If everything goes pear-shaped and he just does not fit in the offense it sounds like he'll have a shot at corner, too. Seems like that would be a waste, but not as much of one as not finding a role for him at all.