Player Capsule: De'Chavon Hayes
Weight: 187 pounds
2015 season quick review: It was expected Hayes would play a major role for the Sun Devils on offense last season as a slotback/running back player. But he struggled out of the gate against Texas A&M and never developed into a reliable offensive player, primarily because he didn't have schematic fluency.
SunDevilSource.com analysis: After a season in which Hayes underperformed internal expectations on offense he was moved to the defensive side of the ball for bowl practices. Since then he's primarily practiced at cornerback, and showed a lot of potential on defense. Hayes is going to have a limited role on offense according to ASU coaches, but spend the vast majority of his game action in the ASU secondary.
Hayes is arguably the fastest player on the ASU defense and probably top-3 on the team along with running back Kalen Ballage and wide receiver Cam Smith. Hayes has really good close area acceleration and adjustment quickness. He's able to overcome split-second reaction errors that would ruin the chances of less athletic players on any given rep. So he has a wider margin for error on the field, which is a huge advantage.
Man coverage ability on the field side is Hayes' strength. In a stripped down style of playground football, he's going to be great. In Cover 0 and Cover 1 situations he should hold up well, and ASU runs a lot of both. The more layers of processing that are put upon him -- coverage reads in zone, communicated pre-snap adjustments based on motions and shifts, etc. -- the harder the challenge of assignment soundness will be.
ASU may have to play more conservative zone coverages at times this season if others in the secondary aren't able to handle the athletic demands of so much man coverage. That's where we'll have to take a wait-and-see attitude with Hayes' effectiveness. A lot was expected of him on offense last season, and it wasn't an athletic limitation that stopped him from fulfilling it. He's now going to get a chance to show that it won't be the case on defense.
There's enough of a physical disposition that Hayes will compete and won't shy from contact. Getting off blocks and being stout against the run won't be his strengths but shouldn't be huge liabilities either as far as coverage corners go. But he's going to have to earn his keep by being able to fill his role on passing defense, where ASU had a disastrous 2015.
Hayes could also be ASU's punt returner. He averaged 8.7 yards per return on 14 attempts last season, and is one of several players in the mix for the job this year.
Projected depth chart status: At the beginning of the season Hayes is going to start at the field side cornerback position. His play is important for a secondary that is very thin on scholarship athletes of his caliber, but a lot is uncertain and must be proven still.