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.