Surprise! MI RB Justice Hayes is the newest member of Michigan's class of 2011.
That's more like it.
|4*, #14 RB||4*, 5.9 #3 APB, #84 Overall||4*, 79, #22 RB|
The three recruiting sites are in approximate agreement on Hayes' size: he's 5-10, and with weights listed from 175-182, I'm inclined to go with the weirdly specific one. We'll settle on an average of 180 pounds. Scout Profile:
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
On himself, also from the Scout profile:
“I’m quick and have great speed. I can make defenders miss and take it to the end zone on any given play. I’m also not afraid to go up the middle, but I’m more of a shifty, all-purpose back. I still want to continue getting faster and work on my flat out speed. Plus, I want to get bigger and stronger and be more of an every-down back.”
The top-end speed comment is echoed by the scouts. ESPN:
Has good top-end speed and an extra gear to separate when he turns the corner but does appear quicker than fast at times. That said, Hayes has big-play potential with his initial burst and ability to reach top-speed extremely quick.
This sentence fragment essentially says "Justice Hayes has good top-end speed, but does not have good top-end speed." The Worldwide leader has much more:
Hayes is a quick, gliding running back with a lot of natural ability... Flashes great elusiveness and suddenness through the hole and second level... 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... Very slippery and does not give defenders a clean shot. Polished hands and receiving skills out of the backfield add to his upside...
Which all leads to the payoff:
Would make an ideal space-player in a spread offense at the next level; could develop into a great weapon if used creatively.
Though he's been exclusively evaluated as a running back by the recruiting sites, that seems to imply that he's athletic and versatile enough to play multiple positions at the next level, including slot. In fact, the main body of ESPN's breakdown sounds like the ideal slot.
Hayes's coach breaks down his game a bit, in comparison to former Michigan signee Reggie Benton and reigning Heisman winner Mark Ingram:
"They'll find a way to get themselves in the open, make guys miss and get into the end zone... Either they've got vision and can see things other kids can't - those cutbacks, those lanes, those little areas - or they don't." ...
Delaney said the one area in which Hayes stands out is as a receiver. Hayes has caught 41 passes for 448 yards and four touchdowns the past two seasons. "If nothing else, Justice could be a receiver in college," Delaney said. "Being able to bring him out of the backfield allows us to do so much more. His hands are better than Mark's, and Mark has real good hands."
"Could be a receiver in college," given everything else we've read, and the current composition of Michigan's recruiting class... sounds like a future slot to me.
Since Hayes recently decommitted from Notre Dame, he obviously held an offer from the Irish. He picked Michigan over the Domers and Tennessee in his short re-recruitment. Hayes also held offers from almost the entire Big Ten (he lacked Ohio State and Penn State), including Michigan State, who cannot recruit in-state, it appears.
Hayes had a senior-year injury (fear not, just a broken wrist - unlikely to have long term effects, since he isn't Brandon Minor), which limited his production, but Scout brings the details on his sophomore and junior stats:
He rushed for 1,122 yards on 163 carries and five touchdowns as a sophomore. Also caught 22 passes for 239 yards and one touchdown.
Justice Hayes finished his junior season with 1,400 yard rushing for 15 touchdowns on 175 carries.
Those don't seem terribly specific (his Youtube highlight, embedded below, has sightly different junior numbers), so I'll look for more precise stats when researching Friday Night Lights. Speaking of which, expect a slight delay today, as I add numbers for Michigan's newest commit.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout and Rivals are nearly in agreement: The former says 4.45, the latter 4.44. Hayes is a guy who's forthcoming about his own lack of top-end speed, and those are very impressive numbers. I'll bestow three FAKES out of five.
Here's his junior year:
I couldn't find any free senior video on the tubes.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As implied above, it sounds likely that Hayes's eventual destination is as a slot receiver. It'll be a crowded backfield for the next few years, and the Wolverines will have an option in Dee Hart that seems more like a perfect fit for the RB position in this offense than Hayes is. He may get some backfield carries here and there, but the majority of his contributions should come as a slot. There's a chance he plays defense instead, but that seems unlikely.
So, likely position change, coming off a senior year injury, going to a spot that will have lots of experienced depth? Sounds like a certain redshirt to me. After a year to watch and learn, Kelvin Grady and Tae Odoms will graduate, leaving just Terrence Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, and Drew Dileo competing for a spot opposite Roy Roundtree.
So, it sounds like he won't be an every-down type of contributor until his redshirt sophomore season, which gives Justice plenty of time to learn the offense, and get a bit of experience as a sub before he'll be relied upon. I'm not sure if he might get a bit of time on the return unit before that, but it's another way to get him on the field.
As a junior and senior, Hayes has the potential to be an All-Conference performer. I also predict at least three years of horrible "Justice in Ann Arbor" jokes from TV announcers.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Hayes has probably taken the only available scholarship for an RB/slot player, meaning DeVondrick Nealy and Prince Holloway are probably out of luck. Justice's commitment gives the Wolverines the #1 and #3 All-Purpose Backs to Rivals, a formidable duo to say the least.
The story in recruiting stays the same: The Wolverines are probably looking for one outside receiver (though it's not imperative), a tight end, and one more offensive lineman. The rest of the scholarships should be spent on defense.
Speaking of that outside receiver spot, with Sammy Watkins's surprising commitment to Clemson, might Hayes be able to convince his buddy DeAnthony Arnett to consider the Wolverines again? I'm not sure, but it would be welcome.