2011 Recruiting: Justice Hayes

Submitted by Brian on August 18th, 2011 at 3:26 PM

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
YMRMFSPA Steve Breaston
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Has a twitter.


Junior film:

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.



August 18th, 2011 at 3:36 PM ^

Huge fan of Hayes. Also love the Breaston comparison. Hayes seems to be one of those guys that you have to find 10-15 "touches" per game for, whether they came on end arounds, carries, screens, or returns. Looking forward to watching Borges find ways to utilize him.


August 18th, 2011 at 3:39 PM ^

With that description, he reminds me a lot of Desmond Howard.  Howard was also a high school running back with off the charts agility and not a lot of size, if I remember right.  Given our needs at kick returner, punt returner, and running back, it wouldn't surprise me if Hayes gets immediate playing time despite his size. Size is an overrated requirement for running backs anyways.  There's more than one way to make a living carrying the football.


August 18th, 2011 at 4:36 PM ^

Although he didn't go to Michigan, Justice reminds me of Percy Harvin

Percy didn't really have a set position at Florida right away, but was a "weapon" who was shifty and quick and someone you needed to get "touches"

Harvin's listed at 5'11'' 184# on ESPN right now, and that's as the Vikings #1(ish) reciever. http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/_/id/12569/percy-harvin

I'm not familiar enough with recruiting to know the specifics on Harvin as a recruit (nor do I remember much of him at Florida) but I know he lined up in the slot, out wide, in the backfield, took reverses, and was just a general offensive "weapon" Hopefully our staff uses him well

STW P. Brabbs

August 18th, 2011 at 6:41 PM ^

He just doesn't look as fast or as explosive as Harvin, or as Breaston for that matter.  I think he's got the agility and the vision, but he doesn't have that mind-blowing gear that those two gentlemen had.

He kinda looks like Junior-Senior Breaston, when nagging injuries and Gittelson Pizza had turned him into someone who could make the first 1-3 guys miss but had trouble housing it.  Not the HOLYSHIT Breaston that you saw when he was fully healthy.


August 18th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

He's out of my home town High school, loved watching him play. If Our new system can utilize both he and Rawls. You are looking at one mean I formation. You will either get a glimpse of #16, get crushed by Rawls or get tied in knots by Hayes. He WILL be a monster on KR PR. The kid can get to the outside in a snap and make the defense pay.

yossarians tree

August 18th, 2011 at 3:57 PM ^

The Desmond Howard comparison is excellent (if it can be excellent to compare a freshman to a Heisman Trophy winner). Especially with the glowing remarks about his hands. The size and speed and elusiveness are all similar to DH.  Hayes could be moved all over the field--and let's remember the other Heisman winner, Sir Charles, was also a star RB in high school.


August 18th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

he reminds me of a small ted ginn, though obviously i hate ginn.  no one ever thought of ginn as a RB, but hayes as more wiggle than ginn did as a WR.  ginn was a great KR though and i think hayes will be too.  i also liked hannibal's desmond comparison.


August 18th, 2011 at 4:06 PM ^

No known relation to Woody Hayes, TG.  Otherwise I might worry.  This guy is going to be a winner for us provided he remains healthy.  Let freedom ring and Justice prevail for All (all Wolverines).

skunk bear

August 18th, 2011 at 4:08 PM ^

If Hayes really is the "perfect physical cornerback" the only way that would be a waste, given our needs in the defensive backfield, is if Hayes would otherwise be our feature back.

Does anyone know: Is Hayes set on being on offense?


August 18th, 2011 at 4:11 PM ^

Not to be a downer, but to me he doesn't look as fast as Breaston (let alone Desmond or Ginn as other commenters suggest).  I'm excited about this kid but I think it's important to not put unrealistic expectations on his shoulders.  I mean he's fast but there a few clips of defenders catching up to him.  Once Breaston, Desmond, or Ginn were past you, nobody was going to catch them. 

Am I the only one thinking this?


August 18th, 2011 at 4:20 PM ^

That you meant this year, not ever.

Breaston was Breaston, but as to not really having anyone like him in addition to some menioned I can think of Mercury Hayes not too long before him, and really a lot more like him in all purpose use, Derrick Alexander. But all that (and Desmond too) makes him sound more like a receiver.

And it was a joke, but man, I wish I was as successful at panhandling as Rich is (or any major ex-coach).


August 18th, 2011 at 4:27 PM ^

Hayes has more upside potential as an explosive running back than others.  He has awareness and can shift.  We can't defense our way to wins without putting points on the scoreboard to balance.  Our initial losses this season will result from our inability to score more than from our defense shuts down with experienced defensive players.  I would rather see Hayes on special teams because he can break it open and we'll need every point we can garner especially once we run at Wisc-y.


August 18th, 2011 at 4:59 PM ^

Forget about his actual speed, this kids greatest asset is that he NEVER stops moving his feet. That is something that many players have trouble with. He doesn't waste movement.

I really like Hayes and believe he is going to be a big time player for us.


August 18th, 2011 at 5:02 PM ^

when i saw the breaston comparison the first thing i thought was "slant patterns in the most obvious situations bashing of breaston's chest."

glad this was qualified


August 18th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

Finding the right position for a player can be a pretty spectacular thing.  Remember, Desmond Howard was an all-state running back in high school.  Thank goodness someone was smart enough to make that switch.  I'm not saying which position Justice is best-suited for, whether it is as a slot receiver, a tailback, or a cornerback.  But I am excited that he is versatile enough to play all those positions because chances are he'll excel at at least one of them; it is always great to have options.  Certainly there is nothing to indicate that he can't excel--he is nearly the exact same size as Desmond was during his UM playing days.  (And no--I'm not making a 1:1 comparison of Hayes to Howard; just a general observation.)

Blue boy johnson

August 18th, 2011 at 5:28 PM ^

Am I missing the joke again or is this statement as ludicrous as I think


Why Steve Breaston? Michigan hasn't had an all-purpose Weapon like Breaston since his departure and hadn't really had one before.

Blue in Seattle

August 18th, 2011 at 6:19 PM ^

Just the fact of demographics.  This blog is read and written primarily by people who watched michigan after 2000.

Anthony Carter was the #1 (literally and positionally) WR, he returned punts, he returned kickoffs.  He ran end arounds, reverses, etc.  Now that didn't happen as frequently in the Bo era as it does now, but Bo definitely knew AC was a special player from day one.  And used him that way.

Even though AC no longer has the highest career receiving yardage, you have to remember that he got his yardage at a time when less games were played per year, when less passes were thrown at Michigan, etc. 

AC is second all time in receiving yards and second in Touchdowns.  Both behind Braylon Edwards.  BUT those yards and touchdowns cam from only 161 completions versus Braylon's 252 completions.  Or when AC caught the ball, he averaged 19.1 yards, and Braylon averaged 14.1

Breaston compiled 1696 yards over 156 completions, or an average of 10.8 yards per completion.

I'll agree that Breaston was quick and shifty and returned kickoff's, so was a versatile weapon.  But I think the hyperbole bug bit Brian on that statement.

Here's a link of stats in case I have a bad data source.


August 18th, 2011 at 5:36 PM ^

anyone doubting the "flexibility" of Hoke-Borges... or the ability of Hoke to let Borges do his thing...just go over to Annarbor.com and watch the short tape of yesterdays offense vs defense and you will see a huge variety of play calls, including several read options.  Case closed.


August 18th, 2011 at 5:57 PM ^

Seeing that the days of running the same exact formation for 90% of our plays are behind us, I think this could pose massive matchup problems with even the smallest bit of creativity. If he puts on 15 pounds, DBs will be too small and LBs will be too slow to cover him. Last time I checked, pro style, especially with an al borges offense does not mean 3 yards and a cloud of dust 3/4 of the time. Moreover, small quick backs can be quite successful in even the most classic of pro style offenses. SEE: Reggie Bush.


August 18th, 2011 at 6:32 PM ^

See last year's SDSU team where Hoke Borges' offense featured a small back who was the feature back and ran for a ton of yards. Imagine a set with Denard at qb, Hayes at RB and a thumping fb.
<br>Few teams would e able to account for Denard and hayes' speed.


August 18th, 2011 at 9:39 PM ^

Ronnie Hillman. 5' 10" 180 lb. box of jump cutting quickness, ran for 1,500 yards (5.8 avg) as a true freshman feature back in this MANBALL offense

With nothing approaching Hayes' recruiting profile/rankings

Go ahead and elevate to 'very high'


August 19th, 2011 at 9:09 AM ^

I like the Breaston reference, too.  I don't think Hayes is as fast as Breaston was, but he has the same sort of body type and running style.