ASU football relying on versatility, comeback effort from Gump Hayes

After an ineffective 2015 season on offense and not a ton of action on defense, Hayes is looking to help the team out in more ways than one.

Once just a speedster, redshirt senior Gump Hayes is looking to become ASU football's most notable token of versatility. 

Hayes' two-way play has been a common story throughout the first two weeks of spring practice as he has been alternating days on offense and defense. One day, he's in a maroon jersey working with the running backs. The next, he's in white practicing with the defensive backs. 

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Hayes was relatively ineffective on offense in 2015, carrying the ball 16 times for 65 yards and catching just 11 passes for 44 yards. 

On special teams, he averaged 8.4 yards per punt return and 17.2 on kick returns — the latter was about 10 yards less than receiver Tim White averaged. 

In late September, amid some early-season injuries in the secondary, the ASU coaching staff decided to try its hand at moving Hayes to defensive back, meaning he would be playing both ways. 

The most Hayes played at defensive back in a game was during the second half of the Cactus Bowl loss to West Virginia. 

Gump Hayes from Justin Toscano on Vimeo.

But besides the new system and scheme to be learned at ASU, cornerback is nothing new for the junior college transfer, who played there in high school. Additionally, he was recruited out of Lackawanna College by Clemson and Marshall to play defensive back. 

"I always feel like I can play multiple positions on the field and dominate at a lot of positions," Hayes said.

New defensive backs coach TJ Rushing seems to be making an impact on the secondary already with his energy and enthusiasm. 

Hayes described Rushing as a coach who doesn't make his corners feel miserable. Instead, he instills confidence based on allowing his guys to have fun while working hard on the field and in the film room. 

"He's been around some Hall of Fame receivers like Marvin Harrison," he said. "He knows what it takes at that corner position. He knows the techniques."

Through two weeks of spring ball, Rushing has noticed Hayes' work ethic, spending extra time on the field and in the film room. 

Rushing said he has harped Hayes on fundamentals, noting that if he gets his base down, he will be fine moving forward. 

"I think that he's a special talent," Rushing said. "He's a guy that we're trying out there. See how he does, see how he likes it, see how he grows."

His play-making abilities weren't on display much last season, but the possibilities are perhaps endless with new running backs coach John Simon, who said Hayes is doing a good job of showing improvement and recognizing his assignments on offense thus far. 

The first of Hayes' qualities that Simon pointed out was the obvious choice: Speed. He said the staff is currently figuring out how the versatile two-way player fits new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey's system.

"Gump is a guy that can do a lot of things for you," Simon said. "We have to find ways to put him in the right situation to be successful. ... He's a big play guy, so we pretty much know what we have out of Gump."

However, Simon said the coaches already have some "Gump plays," a package which will be designed to get him into open space with room to work. 

Down and distance won't be a big factor in when the plays for Hayes are called, Simon said. The focus will instead be on getting him the ball at certain points of the game and keeping him involved.

"He plays fast, he knows what his skill set is," Simon said. "When you put the ball in his hands, he understands how to play fast, so that's what we're excited about."

Notes

  • On Monday, head coach Todd Graham announced that linebacker Chans Cox will miss the 2016-17 season after he has foot surgery. 
  • Graham said redshirt junior wide receiver Cam Smith has looked good in the spring thus far. He said the team missed Smith the most because he had the most explosive plays on anyone on the team the year before, including former ASU and current Houston Texans receiver Jaelen Strong.
  • ASU signee Chase Lucas attended Monday morning's practice.

Related links:

Expectations galore, but no result for ASU football this season

Class is in session: Welcome to ASU coach Todd Graham's school of football


Reach the reporter at Justin.Toscano@asu.edu or on Twitter @justintoscano3.

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepresssport on Twitter.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.