Justice Hayes, three early enrollees among Michigan football spring standouts
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Brady Hoke rarely gets too specific with the media when asked his opinion on specific players.
The Michigan football coach did, however, name several surprise standouts Thursday as the Wolverines approach the midway point of spring practice.
A good portion of those surprises have yet to play at down at Michigan, including redshirt freshman running back Justice Hayes.
"Hayes has shown some things with his abilities," Hoke said. "And I think the linebacker position is a very competitive position, having (freshmen) Joe (Bolden) and Kaleb (Ringer) kind of in the mix there a little bit puts a little pressure on some of the older guys."
Hayes, a 5-foot-10, 176-pounder from Grand Blanc, redshirted a year ago in a rather deep Michigan backfield. The Wolverines return leading rusher Fitz Toussaint as well as primary backup Vincent Smith.
But with the graduation of Michael Shaw and the snaps sophomore Thomas Rawls' is splitting between fullback and tailback, Hayes might not be as deeply buried on the Wolverines' depth chart in 2012.
As for the linebacker position, Bolden and Ringer have taken advantage of their early-enrollee status.
Earlier in camp, Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said he was a big fan of both Bolden, Ringer and freshman safety Jarrod Wilson, but he was going to have to see how things shook out once pads were put on.
Pads have been donned and, so far, Hoke approves of all three players -- Wilson included.
"Jarrod Wilson's working well right now at safety," Hoke said.
As far as veteran standouts go, Hoke pointed to senior receiver Roy Roundtree and junior wideout Jeremy Gallon as two players who have been on point throughout spring camp.
Roundtree, who will move to flanker this season, is looking to rebound from a 19-catch, 335-yard campaign from a year ago. Gallon, meanwhile, looks to build off a surprising sophomore season that saw him make 31 catches for 453 yards and three touchdowns.
Though there have been a few sleepers early on in spring camp, Hoke says the thing he's most excited about thus far is the overall position battle competition throughout the roster.
It's not quite where he'd like it, but then again, it probably never will be.
"I like all (the competition) that's going on," he said. "How much I like it is probably a five on a scale of one to 10.
"But that's OK, too."