2011 Countdown: #86 Justice Hayes

2011 Countdown: #86 Justice Hayes

June 4, 2011
Justice Hayes

Name: Justice Hayes
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 182 lbs.
High school: Grand Blanc High School in Grand Blanc, MI
Position: Running back
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Hayes was a high school senior (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 72

Hayes was a 4-star recruit to every service and the #85 player in the country to Rivals.  That seemed a little high to me, but when the services are in lockstep, hopefully that means something good.  Hayes is good in space but doesn’t have a second gear to break away.  Without great size or speed, his ceiling seems a little limited to me.  However, I do think he fits better in more of a pro-style offense than he did in a zone read option spread, where I saw him more as a slot receiver.  He could still play receiver in a pinch, but hopefully it doesn’t come that.

His senior season ended early due to a wrist injury, but that shouldn’t affect his freshman year of college.  What should affect his freshman year of college more than the injury is the fact that Michigan has a bunch of experienced running backs in the stable and ready to go.  That ought to give Hayes time to bulk up and get used to the ways of the college world.

Prediction: Redshirt


  1. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    If he lives up to his 4-star billing and nobody else steps up, I could see him not only contributing this year, but starting.

  2. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:05 p.m.

    You could say that about almost anybody on the roster. You're essentially saying, "If everyone else sucks and he doesn't, he might start." I'm not certain that he'll redshirt (although I think he should), but I'm fairly certain that he won't be starting this year.

  3. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    He isn't that slow, he is a 4.5 guy and he runs track (before his injuries)

  4. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    @ Anonymous 1:59 p.m.

    He's not very fast on film.

  5. Comments: 21382
    Painter Smurf
    Jun 04, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    Any chance he can play WR? If he has receiving skills, his path to playing time might be easier there. Robinson and Gallon appear to be bombing out with the new staff (as well as the old one). My sense is that Hoke will be targeting Anthony Thomas types at RB going forward. And with all of the current numbers at RB, I expect Hayes will have a tough time seeing the light of day.

    Of course, if he comes in and is better than expected, the coaches will play him. Some fans are hoping that one of the current players will magically become good, but I am skeptical. I have a glimmer of hope for Troussaint, but I fear his injuries have slowed him down. So the better of Rawls and Hayes should play this year.

  6. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Seems low for the top ranked recruit in the class (according to Rivals at least), but that probably says more about the class than Hayes.

    I'd argue he has a better shot than Rawls of competing because Michigan already has several power backs (Hopkins, Cox) but lacks a big play threat (Shaw, Toussaint?). I could also see Hayes being used to return kicks with Stonum out of the picture.

    That said, I kind of hope both red-shirt because they're unlikely to contribute much.

  7. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    @ Painter Smurf 3:26 p.m.

    I do think Hayes could play wide receiver. I don't think he would be a big play guy in the passing game, but I think he could be an eventual starter. He has enough speed and change-of-direction skills to get open and make a few things happen.

    I don't think Hoke will recruit Anthony Thomas-type backs exclusively. Bri'onte Dunn is a Thomas clone, but there are several backs being recruited, and not all of them are 6'2" and 225 lbs.

    I don't think the better of Rawls and Hayes SHOULD play this year. They should redshirt if they're not one of the top few backs. It's not like they need experience for next year, either. Every single one of our backs has eligibility remaining beyond 2011 except Shaw.

  8. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    @ Lankownia 3:27 p.m.

    Yeah, I'm not extremely high on Hayes. He just doesn't have the "it factor" to be a big-time back. I think if he's our go-to guy at any point, that means we'll have an underwhelming running game.

  9. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 7:59 PM


    I would argue that Cox absolutely has enough speed and burst to be a big-play threat…at least as much speed on the field as Hayes.

    I do agree that Hayes could return kicks depending on Stonum.

  10. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    By the way, I think we have enough guys who can contribute on kick returns (Odoms, Gallon, Terrence Robinson, Toussaint, Vincent Smith, etc.) that we don't necessarily need to burn a freshman's redshirt to do it. I don't see much Hayes offers in that department that we couldn't get from, say, Vincent Smith. Smith is just as shifty, just as heavy, and doesn't necessarily have elite speed but is quick enough to get you some decent returns.

  11. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 8:42 PM

    Blerg – you know I've defended Smith many times but I have very little excitement about him returning kicks. I certainly don't want to see my kick-returner getting caught from behind on a regular basis. I'd still love to see Shaw do more of it since that's where his talents would seem to translate best in my eyes.

    As for Cox, I think we all like his upside and he has the physical package to be an every-down type of back, but I'm still not entirely past the fact that he was a 5th string guy in an uninspiring backfield. we'll see…

  12. Comments: 21382
    Jun 04, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    @ Lankownia 4:42 p.m.

    So you'll defend a running back who won't make big plays and gets caught from behind…but you won't support a kick returner who won't make big plays and gets caught from behind? That seems a bit odd. For the record, I'm not supporting Smith as option 1A for returning kicks. All I'm saying is that I think Smith and Hayes would probably be about equal in the kick returning department, so there's no reason to burn Hayes' redshirt when Smith could do an equally average job.

  13. Comments: 21382
    Jun 05, 2011 at 12:25 AM


    Not to rehash our ongoing disagreement about the running backs, but were we differ is in viewing the position as more than running with the ball. Kick returners are about making big plays. They just run – not complicated. In contrast, RB's have to know the plays, know their blocking assignments, run routes, and catch passes. Theres value to reliably diving or pounding ahead for 3 yards for a RB, but not a kick returner. So yeah, they're different positions and thats why WR and even DBs can make excellent kick returners but not RB. And the flip is true as well – some RBs aren't good kick returners. The things that Smith does well don't translate to kick off returns.

    I won't pretend to know how good Hayes will be, but I'd be willing to bet that Smith knows the playbook, his assignments, and can block better than Hayes just because of his experience and what he's proven to be proficient at.

  14. Comments: 21382
    Painter Smurf
    Jun 05, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    My prediction is there will be a brief, intense competition at RB through maybe the first or second game. The coaches will wind up with one or two at the head of the pack (albeit, not stars), and the rest will be destined for the bench. If Hayes or Rawls are good, I think they will play. The roster seems full of sub-par backs by UM standards and the coaches will be itching to find a good player. I have trouble imagining Cox or Shaw becoming good starters this late in their careers. Smith and Hopkins are more one-dimensional guys. I have a feeling Troussaint could be the guy, but that is just a hunch. So if either of the freshmen look like a legit back in the making, I don't expect Hoke to waste time getting them in there, despite all of the numbers.

  15. Comments: 21382
    Jun 05, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    @ Lankownia 8:25 p.m.

    We'll just have to agree to disagree, I guess. Kick returners don't have to make big plays. It's nice if they do, but if you don't have a guy who can do that (which I'm not sure we do), then I'll take a consistent returner if Smith can be that. Vision and quickness are more important than flat-out speed, and Smith does seem to have those first two things.

    Anyway…like I said, I'm not advocating for Smith as a returner. I'm just saying that Hayes doesn't offer us anything that isn't available amongst Shaw, Toussaint, Cox, Smith, and a variety of slot receivers.

  16. Comments: 21382
    Jun 05, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    @ Everyone

    One other thing to take into account is the number of running backs on the roster. Michigan will have 8 scholarship running backs in the fall. Rawls is generally thought to be the most likely of the freshman running backs to play/start. All the other backs have redshirted or are upperclassmen (senior Mike Shaw, junior Vincent Smith), meaning that if Hayes and Rawls play…you're playing 8 running backs in one season and redshirting zero. That just doesn't seem to be a way to manage your team's scholarships.

  17. Comments: 21382
    Painter Smurf
    Jun 05, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    It just seems rare that a good RB red-shirts, independent of the depth situation. I cannot remember the last productive UM RB who redshirted (someone else probably can). And since much of the current depth is questionable, these freshmen will play if they are good. I am confident that at least one of them will play – probably Rawls. Some of these upperclassmen will be pushed to the side early in the season and never get another shot. RB seems to be one position where seniority can be detrimental.

  18. Comments: 21382
    Jun 05, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    "You could say that about almost anybody on the roster. You're essentially saying, "If everyone else sucks and he doesn't, he might start." I'm not certain that he'll redshirt (although I think he should), but I'm fairly certain that he won't be starting this year."

    You can't say that about everybody else, because there are other position groups where the talent is proven, especially with upperclassmen. There's almost no way that an incoming WR, QB, or offensive lineman could come in and get significant playing time. Running back, on the other hand, is a job begging to be grabbed by somebody.

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