Speedy Hayes Making His Presence Felt

Speed is something that can’t be taught. Players either have it, or they don’t. De’Chavon Hayes has it. A lot of it. After being forced to sit out the 2014 season, the junior college transfer has been one of Arizona State’s standout players through the team’s first couple of bowl practices. Whether lined up at wide receiver or in the backfield, Hayes has showcased his swiftness and versatility.

“That’s cheating,” mutters a member of the Arizona State coaching staff as De’Chavon Hayes sprints for his second touchdown of 50 or more yards on the day and his third this weekend. It’s not cheating, but when Hayes is able to accelerate in the open field, it almost seems a bit unfair.

It’s only the second practice of 15 for the Sun Devils as they prepare to take on Duke in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on December 27th, but already Hayes is making an impression on just about everyone.

Last year, Arizona State landed one of its highest rated recruiting classes in the program’s history. Four of those recruits started for the Sun Devils in 2014 and a handful more saw significant action in their first season in Tempe. One who didn’t, but yet could make a major impact in 2015, is Hayes.

Hayes starred at Lackawanna College where in two seasons he rushed for 1,625 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns. As a sophomore, the speedy back averaged 119.6 rushing yards per game and was rated by ESPN as the second best junior college running back in the nation.

Hayes reportedly chose Arizona State over offers from Kansas and Oklahoma, providing the Sun Devils with a versatile running back they hoped could replace another one-time junior college transfer in Marion Grice.

Unfortunately, Hayes’ arrival in Tempe was slowed when it was discovered that he was a credit shy of qualifying, forcing him to re-take a class over the summer before being allowed to join the team.

“I couldn’t dress with the team,” recalled, “so I just sat on the sidelines and watched them play. But that definitely gave me a motivation that when I do get active, to come out here and just ball out.”

While Hayes still cannot officially join his new teammates on the field in the ASU’s upcoming bowl game, he’s used the first two days of practice to put both the coaches and his teammates on notice and set the stage for what could be a very interesting Spring Camp for the Sun Devils in just a few short months when Hayes will look to compete for a spot on the two-deep depth chart heading into the 2015 season.

“It definitely feels great being out here,” he said, "Especially for me being ineligible. It feels great to come out here and show the coaches what I got. I’m definitely feeling confident, especially when I’m at receiver. I feel like can’t no DB check me while I’m out there. I definitely feel confident with my speed, like I can get past anybody.”

While the junior says he was initially frustrated to learn he’d be forced to sit out 2014 season, Hayes used the time off to his advantage. He put in extra time learning from some of the team’s veteran players, easing his transition to the college level while also developing his body to handle the day-to-day grind as a member of the scout team.

“When I first got here, I talked to D.J. Foster a lot but the main person has been Jaelen Strong,” he said. “He’ll be working with me at wide receiver when I come out here and help me with my routes. He’s the person I’ve been with the most and he’s taught me a lot about the game.

“It definitely was a benefit. I was frustrated but I put myself in that position. By me redshirting, I got a lot stronger and a lot faster, so I think I was able to use it as an advantage.”

It’s tough to imagine that Hayes, who boasts a 4.39 forty time, could get any faster, but watching him in practice this week, it’s clear he has a step, or maybe two, on some of the competition.

While Hayes made his mark as a running back at Lackawanna College, the speedster has proven to be just as effective at wide receiver in his limited action at ASU. At 5-10 and 188 pounds, Hayes says he hopes to add an additional five pounds over the offseason to prepare for a dual-threat role.

“Just put me anywhere on the field and I feel like I can make plays,” he said. “As long as I’m on the field, I feel like I can make plays for the team. I’m an athlete. You can put me at wide receiver, running back, outside receiver, slot.”

And special teams too, an area the Sun Devil struggled to generate much offense from in 2014. But if Hayes has it his way, that’ll change next season.

“Yeah, definitely on special teams next year,” he said. “That’s one of the things I said I’m going to kill at next year, is special teams. My goal is to at least take five or six of them to the house next year.”

For now though, Hayes, who has two years to play two and says he plans to major in Psychology, is looking to finish off the next two weeks strong before the bowl game and set the tone for Spring Camp when he should be a full go for the Sun Devil offense. “Just the coaching staff, the vibe, the whole support system from the coaching staff, and the community as well,” said Hayes when asked what’s he enjoyed the most so far at ASU. “The offense fits me. I can go anywhere on offense and they can utilize my skills. I definitely love it out here and this is the best team for me.”

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