Michigan 18, Penn State 13

Tag: Justice Hayes

12Oct 2014
Uncategorized 22 comments

Michigan 18, Penn State 13

Devin Funchess scored Michigan’s lone touchdown (image via CBS Detroit)

So this is what a victory feels like. It seems like it has been a long time since Michigan won a game, and I guess that’s pretty accurate. Michigan went almost a full month, from September 13th to October 11th, between victories. For the previous couple weeks, I had some optimism. This week I was steeling myself for another disappointment. But this makes my weekend a little bit happier, and now we have two weeks to revel in the glory of beating a mediocre Penn State team before facing Michigan State.

Devin Gardner needs bubble wrap. I just received a couple orders from Amazon, so I would be glad to donate some bubble wrap to protect Michigan’s only competent quarterback. He did not have a great game (16/24 for 192 yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interception), but the other quarterbacks on the roster look downright terrible this year. I think Michigan needs to seriously look at any grad-year transfers this off-season and see what they can find. Brady Hoke said after the game that second-stringer Shane Morris – who was concussed two weeks ago – could have played, but it was Russell Bellomy who entered the game when Gardner injured an ankle. Bellomy – whose career numbers were 4/21, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions prior to the game – promptly handed off several times and then nearly threw two interceptions, including a certain pick-six to middle linebacker Mike Hull if only Hull could have held onto the ball.

The whole team needs bubble wrap. The list of injuries keeps growing, and it seems every game involves a series of scares. Let’s run through the injuries that have occurred over the past week or so:

  • Starting quarterback Devin Gardner (probable sprained ankle)
  • Starting running back Derrick Green (broken collarbone)
  • Starting wide receiver Devin Funchess (aggravated sprained ankle)
  • Starting wide receiver Jehu Chesson (undisclosed lower leg injury)
  • Starting kickoff/punt returner Dennis Norfleet (undisclosed injury, but returned to game)
  • Starting defensive tackle Willie Henry (probable broken hand)
  • Backup tight end Khalid Hill (torn ACL)
Gardner, Funchess, and Norfleet all returned to the game, but the former two seemed hobbled. That list doesn’t include virtual starting linebacker Desmond Morgan, starting left guard Erik Magnuson, and virtual starting nickel corner Jabrill Peppers, all of whom have been injured for several weeks and whose returns from injury are in question. I also did not see backup nose tackle Ondre Pipkins on the field last night. Football is a tough sport, and injuries happen to every team. But Michigan was down six starters for the entire evening (Green, Chesson, Henry, Morgan, Magnuson, Peppers) and three more for stretches of time (Gardner, Funchess, Norfleet). Michigan has enough troubles when healthy, but it’s tougher to stay competitive when so many people are missing.
Penn State’s offensive line is approximately as bad as Michigan’s. The Wolverines held the Nittany Lions to 54 rushing yards on 35 carries (1.5 yards/carry), including 6 sacks of quarterback Christian Hackenberg. This is either the best Michigan’s defensive front has looked in a long time, or PSU is just bad up front. Unfortunately, it’s probably the latter. Regardless, the Wolverines made 11 tackles for loss and those 6 sacks in the game, both of which are reminiscent of opponents’ statistics against the Maize and Blue. I have to give credit to the likes of Brennen Beyer (4 tackles, 2 sacks), who doesn’t do anything flashy but has held his ground enough to lead the team in sacks so far this season. Penn State was running the ball decently at the beginning of the game when Michigan was missing Ryan Glasgow (who appeared to miss the first quarter, perhaps because of some undisclosed disciplinary issue) and Henry, their two starting defensive tackles. After that the line really seemed to shut them down.

Christian Hackenberg did not impress me. Maybe I’m looking for reasons not to be impressed by Hackenberg, but he has never looked good to me. He does a decent job of checking down to open receivers, and he has a strong arm. I will admit that his touchdown pass to DaeShawn Hamilton was very well done, and there was not much Blake Countess could have done on that play. Otherwise, I would say his best quality is fending off would-be tacklers to create extra time, kind of like a slower Ben Roethlisberger. I would take him at Michigan right now, but I just don’t see the reason for the hype. I didn’t see it last year, either, because I thought he was a guy getting bailed out by his receivers. Time will tell, I guess.

Michigan’s rushing struggles continue. Penn State has one of the best run defenses in the country, so maybe this was bound to happen. But Michigan just couldn’t run the ball with any consistency last night. Other than a 25-yard zone read keeper by Gardner, Michigan had 20 carries for 47 yards from their backs (and slot receiver Dennis Norfleet). With Green out, the new starter is De’Veon Smith (12 carries for 24 yards), who is too slow to do anything outside the tackles. The next guy is Justice Hayes (7 for 20), who has speed but doesn’t break tackles. Drake Johnson did not touch the ball. Furthermore, they barely attempted any runs to the right, presumably to avoid running behind right tackle Ben Braden.

Hooray for Matt Wile. A week after getting a potential game-tying field goal blocked, Wile looked pretty darn solid as the placekicker. He went 3/3 on field goals from 45, 42, and 37 yards. The first two were right down the middle, and the go-ahead, 37-yarder was squeezed tightly inside the right upright.

The uniforms weren’t bad. I’m a traditionalist, and I really like Michigan’s regular uniforms. But I have to say that I thought the one-off uniforms looked pretty good. The navy blue jersey-and-pants combination looked slick, and I liked the maize shoes. I wouldn’t mind seeing something like them again, but I have not been impressed with most of Michigan’s alternate uniforms. My one problem with these was that some of the 6’s looked like 8’s, so I thought Jourdan Lewis was #28, Jack Miller was #80, Ryan Glasgow was #98, etc.
Thank goodness for a bye week. These guys need a week off, and hopefully Brady Hoke will give them a chance to rest and recuperate. Several of the guys listed above should be better by the October 25th game against Michigan State. Add to that the fact that it’s a tough opponent, and the Wolverines really need this preparation time. I do think Hoke can work his way out of the hot seat with a strong finish to the season, but that probably has to include a victory against the rival Spartans.

Go Blue! Yeah.

14Jul 2014
Uncategorized 18 comments

2014 Season Countdown: #42 Justice Hayes

Justice Hayes

Name: Justice Hayes
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 190 lbs.
High school: Grand Blanc (MI) Grand Blanc
Position: Running back
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #5
Last year: I ranked Hayes #55 and said he would have 15 carries for 60 yards as a backup. He had 2 carries for 6 yards, 6 catches for 40 yards, and 1 kick return for 8 yards.

Hayes had quite a roller coaster of a year last year. To begin the season, he was buried on the depth chart at running back. In the middle of the year, the coaches stated publicly that Hayes would move to wide receiver permanently. At the end of the year, he started the bowl game against Kansas State – at running back. Despite starting a game at running back, he finished the year with 2 carries. How many running backs in history have started a game but finished with fewer than 3 carries in the whole season?

Hayes’s problem seems to be that he’s not quick enough to be a scat back, and he’s not big enough to power through tackles. And while Michigan hasn’t exactly been rife with running back talent over the past couple years, they have had guys who were either quick or big, who were enticing enough to put on the field regularly. One big obstacle in his way was Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is now trying to make it in the NFL. Another medium-sized obstacle was Thomas Rawls, who will be pounding away behind Central Michigan’s line this season. That leaves two boulder-sized barriers (and a potential third) in sophomores Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith (and Ty Isaac, who will probably be forced to redshirt after transferring from USC). Normally, I would probably put the third-string running back lower in the countdown, but Hayes is supposedly the best pass protector of the bunch and could carve out a role as a Vincent Smith-style blocker and designated screen guy. Redshirt freshman Ross Douglas is a small, quick guy and Dennis Norfleet could catch some screens, but both are inexperienced at playing running back in college. Hayes will probably once again have more receptions than carries.

Prediction: Backup running back, third down guy; 10 carries for 35 yards, 12 receptions for 100 yards and 1 touchdown

10Jan 2014
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Poll results: Who will lead the team in carries in 2014?

According to readers, Derrick Green is the leading candidate for the starting running back job in 2014

I may present this poll again closer to the season, because a new offensive coordinator will mean a different philosophy and perhaps some different personnel. But in the meantime, before Al Borges was let go, I asked which running back would get the most carries in 2014. What you said:

Derrick Green (So.): 60%
Green had 83 carries for 270 yards (3.3 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns in 2013. Green showed pretty good speed and fell forward after contact, but he didn’t break many tackles or show a lot of wiggle. Of course, nobody should have expected a 6’0″, 230 lb. running back to show much wiggle. He did start off the year heavier than he should have been, which may have diminished his effectiveness. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and his fellow Alabama staff members recruited Green to Tuscaloosa, so it would make sense that Nussmeier has an eye toward Green being his horse.

De’Veon Smith (So.): 30%
Smith had 26 carries for 117 yards (4.5 yards/carry) as a freshman. After not playing much early in the year, something got sparked in him during the last few weeks of the regular season, when he totaled 15 carries for 98 yards (6.5 yards/carry) against Northwestern and Ohio State. Smith is a more violent runner than Green, but his speed leaves something to be desired.

Drake Johnson (RS So.): 3%
Johnson had 2 carries for 9 yards before tearing his ACL in the season opener against Central Michigan. Up until that point, he had been listed as Michigan’s #2 tailback. An accomplished high school track athlete, Johnson’s main claim for playing time was based on his speed. The fact that he tore the ACL in late August means he should be almost back to full speed by the time the 2014 season rolls around, but sometimes it takes a couple years for guys to totally recover.

Other: 2%
This could refer to junior Dennis Norfleet, who moved to slot receiver; or redshirt freshman tailback/fullback Wyatt Shallman, who looks like an H-back to me; a freshman like Jeff Jones or Vic Enwere, neither of whom have committed to Michigan; or perhaps quarterback Devin Gardner. If you gave me all of their carries combined, I would still bet on one of the other guys.

Justice Hayes (RS Jr.): 1%
Hayes had 2 carries for 6 yards on the season, but by golly, he was the starting running back against Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The best thing Hayes has going for him is some decent speed, but he doesn’t have the greatest vision or tackle breaking ability. He was even reported to be moving to slot receiver before injuries and ineffectiveness forced him back to running back.

Thomas Rawls (Sr.): 0%
Rawls had 3 carries for 12 yards and 1 touchdown, all of which came against Central Michigan in the season opener. He played some special teams after that, but you wouldn’t really have known he played at all unless you checked the participation reports after the games. There have been rumors that he will not return to the football team in 2014.

29Dec 2013
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Kansas State 31, Michigan 14

Quarterback Shane Morris got his first career start and did a solid job.

Shane Morris looked halfway decent. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always had pretty high hopes for Morris. But I expected him to look a little more high-strung in this game. Offensive coordinator Al Borges did a smart thing by starting Morris off with a bunch of screen passes. Unfortunately, by the time Borges thought about pushing the ball down the field, it was because Michigan was down and Kansas State knew it. One point about screens is that you want to suck the defense up and eventually throw over the top, but Borges wasted the opportunity. Morris finished the game 24/38 for 196 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus he had 4 carries for 43 yards. You could tell his timing just wasn’t there with the receivers and the offense. Some of his throws were late, some screens were slightly off target, and some of his passes were thrown too hard to give his receivers much of a chance to catch them. All in all, he played well enough that Michigan might have been able to eke out a win if they had semblance of a running game.

No semblance of a running game. Oh, yeah. About that. Well, despite what I think is a mediocre group of interior defenders, Michigan couldn’t get any push up front. The young offensive linemen weren’t whiffing on blocks like they were early in the season, but the Kansas State defensive tackles were controlling the line of scrimmage and letting the linebackers and safeties clean up. Michigan’s coaching staff seemed to realize their struggles up front, and despite having a fair amount of success with the fake bubble screen draw in the previous couple games, the play was basically abandoned for a couple straight-up inside zones and a bunch of reverses, sweeps, touch passes, etc.

Rich Rodriguez stopped by to coach the defense. I like defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, and since I’m not an idiot, I don’t think Mattison should be fired. But I thought this was a pretty dismal effort for what is actually a solid defense. The players just didn’t seem inspired to dominate, and the game plan was poor. The guy you must  stop on Kansas State’s offense is Tyler Lockett, and he abused Raymon Taylor time and time again (plus Blake Countess at least once). When he was singled up early in the game, I saw the formation and said “Slant.” And there it was. When he was singled up later on the same drive, I saw the formation with Raymon Taylor lined up inside and said “Slant and out.” Sure enough, Lockett beat Taylor by faking the slant and then beating Taylor with an out route. Lockett needed to be bracketed, and the corners needed safety help over the top. Elsewhere, guys like Cam Gordon were losing contain on the passing quarterback, as if they didn’t know he could run a little bit. When I was watching film leading up to the bowl game, I saw Kansas State as a mediocre power running team with one good receiver, and they were still able to impose their will on Michigan.

Tyler Lockett is good. After seeing Lockett’s highlights from the other twelve games and then watching him in this one, I think Lockett (10 catches, 116 yards, 3 touchdowns; 2 kickoff returns for 74 yards) could play for any team in the country. It was frustrating to watch him beat a fairly good duo of corners in Taylor and Countess, but you have to tip your cap to a player like that. Lockett’s going to get his yards, but you can’t let the other players beat you. Unfortunately, running back John Hubert (15 carries, 80 yards, 1 touchdown), quarterback Jake Waters (21/27 for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air, plus 12 carries for 42 yards), and the defense beat Michigan, too.

Ryan Mueller is just a guy. I mentioned this before the game, but I was not impressed with what I saw from Mueller on film. The Big 12’s Defensive Lineman of the Year had just 1 tackle against Michigan despite playing against the Wolverines’ second-best offensive tackle and chasing a freshman quarterback.

The running back situation. Redshirt sophomore Justice Hayes earned the nod at running back and turned in a nondescript performance. He caught 3 passes for 22 yards and had 1 carry for -1 yard, the latter of which seemed to be him just tripping and falling to the turf of his own volition. I believe Michigan’s game plan involved trying to get the edge against a team that the coaching staff felt was too stout up the middle for the interior offensive line to handle. Unfortunately, Michigan has mainly recruited inside runners during Hoke’s tenure (Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith, Thomas Rawls). Without a good tailback option, Borges tried to hit Gallon on jet sweeps and reverses, Devin Funchess on a double reverse, etc. When your pocket passer of a quarterback leads the team in rushing, and your running backs combine for 8 carries and 13 yards, that’s a terrible recipe for success. It didn’t matter whether it was Hayes, Green, Smith, Rawls, or Toussaint running behind that line, though – there was just nowhere to go.

No hurry-up offense. Michigan didn’t really go to a hurry-up offense until their final drive, which was extremely frustrating. Would it have made a difference in the final outcome? Probably not. But it seemed like Borges and head coach Brady Hoke had basically decided to give up and try to develop the kids for next year. Maybe they just didn’t feel their freshman quarterback could handle running a two-minute drill for such an extended period, but at least give it a shot. Even if you chuck the ball deep and it gets intercepted, at least you tried. The only play where Michigan truly attempted to go over the top was on a pass to Jeremy Gallon where he got interfered with after it seemed like Morris and the receivers thought they had a free play when a Kansas State player jumped (he didn’t cross the line of scrimmage). When your quarterback is known for his cannon arm, you would think at least three attempts downfield would be warranted.

Head(s) should roll. Hoke and athletic director David Brandon need to make some tough decisions this offseason, and at least one staff change needs to take place. Hoke is a loyal guy, but I think Brandon will insist because he’s a business-oriented guy and needs to make donors happy. Running backs coach Fred Jackson isn’t the problem, but he might retire whether he’s asked to or not. Offensive line coach Darrell Funk would seem to be the easiest guy to axe, because his position group was the worst on the team. Offensive coordinator Al Borges does things like score 41 points against Ohio State and call plays that result in record-setting performances (Gallon’s game against Indiana, Gallon’s season receiving record, Gardner’s statistics against Ohio State and Indiana, etc.), so he’s a tougher choice. I also think a guy like wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski might be miffed if he gets passed up for a new offensive coordinator. Rumors are that secondary coach Curt Mallory has been looking for a head coaching job at a smaller school, too. There could be a lot of staff upheaval in the coming months.

Congratulations to Jeremy Gallon. Gallon surpassed former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards for two records in this game. Gallon caught a pass in 39 consecutive games (Edwards was at 38), and he also set the single-season receiving yardage record with 1,373 yards (Edwards had 1,330 in 2004). He had 9 catches for 89 yards in this game, 1 carry for -5 yards, and a pass to Justice Hayes for a two-point conversion, hearkening back to his high school days as a single-wing quarterback at Apopka High School.

7Sep 2013
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Poll results: Who will lead Michigan in rushing for 2013?

It’s not the most timely thing, but I set up a bunch of polls during the summer and never “released” the results. It’s still early enough in the year to be relevant, though, so I’ll be kicking out some posts about predictions for the year. Today’s question: Who will lead Michigan in rushing?

Fitzgerald Toussaint: 52%
Fifth year senior Toussaint was the obvious choice, since he was a two-year starter coming into 2013. Unfortunately, a broken leg last fall put his status into question. He had 57 yards in the opener against Central Michigan.

Derrick Green: 40%
True freshman Green got more votes than I thought he would, but maybe it was warranted after a 58-yard debut against the Chippewas. After being listed near the bottom of the depth chart for week one (perhaps due to a sprained ankle he suffered at the beginning of August practices), he’s the #2 guy going into Notre Dame.

DeVeon Smith: 1%
Smith, another true freshman, had just 12 yards against the Chips. In my opinion, he does not have the speed to be a dynamic back, but injuries have felled Toussaint frequently, so there’s a chance; unfortunately, that chance probably would involve bad things happening to the guys ahead of him.

Drake Johnson: 1%
There’s no chance for redshirt freshman Johnson, who tore his ACL early in the season opener. He’ll finish the year with 2 carries for 9 yards.

Thomas Rawls: 1%
Rawls, a junior, had 4 carries for 12 yards in the opener. He looks quicker than he did last season, but he’s still pretty low on the depth chart after a couple uninspiring years.

Devin Gardner: 0%
Sacks will probably prevent fifth year senior Gardner from having a real shot at leading the team in rushing. He has the speed to turn broken plays into big runs (or passes), but his 52 yards against Central Michigan were largely a function of CMU’s inability to hem him in. More athletic teams probably won’t struggle quite as much, although Gardner will get his share of yardage.

Dennis Norfleet/Other: 0%
Sophomore Norfleet had 38 yards on a reverse last week, but as a slot receiver, he won’t get a ton of opportunities.

Justice Hayes: 0%
Redshirt sophomore Hayes has been near the bottom of the depth chart for his entire career, and that seems not to have changed. He was the last running back to get a carry against Central, and his lone rush netted him 7 yards.