The 2013 season will bring a different role for the sophomore sensation who made an immediate impact last year as a slotback in Gus Malzahn's fast-paced offense. In the spring, Hayes made the transition to defense and will return to the secondary as a cornerback, a position for which he was originally recruited.
"It's always gonna' be tough when you're changing positions, but I feel like I've been here before," Hayes said today on the The Ticket's AstAteNation Radio program. "I played a lot of defense in high school."
Hayes earned All-State honors in his senior season after averaging 90 tackles per season as a varsity player.
"I think the biggest difference in playing offense and defense is a mindset," said Hayes.
Last year as a ball carrier, he averaged an impressive 9.3 yards per rush on his way to rolling up 538 rushing yards, second only to starting running back and Doak Walker Award candidate David Oku. Lindy's pre-season football magazine cites Hayes as "the best athlete in the Sun Belt Conference."
The speedster is expected to continue to play in select offensive packages this fall. He'll also be used once again as a return specialist, meaning he's probably one of the few Division One players in the country to be used in all three phases of the game...offense, defense and special teams.
The Heflin, Alabama native doesn't hesitate when asked about which game on the 2013 schedule excites him the most.
"Oh there's no doubt, I can't wait until that second week of the season when we go to Auburn."
Not only will Hayes and his teammates face their former head coach in Malzahn, but he'll be playing approximately two hours from his hometown. Despite Jordan-Hare Stadium's daunting reputation, Hayes won't be intimidated.
"When we play these big schools on the road, it doesn't really bother me at all. I feel very little pressure on me and my guys."
Randy Myers is the co-host of AstAteNation Radio. The program airs Monday-Friday from 11-1 on The Ticket 970am/95.3fm and on the web at 953theticket.com.
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