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On the Improvement of Baylor RB JaMycal Hasty

JaMycal Hasty has had an up and down career thus far at Baylor. He seems to have found himself as a redshirt Senior.

NCAA Football: Baylor at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Hasty as a Prospect

JaMycal Hasty was a highly rated prospect when he signed with Baylor back in 2014. Coming out of powerhouse Longview high school in east Texas, Hasty was the feature back in a system that still ran an old-school, power running scheme. His style was to hit the LOS fast, make a man or two miss, and then hit the outside with his incredible speed.

Besides being very productive at a large Texas high school, Hasty had incredible testing results. He was a RB that you could dream on.

By numbers alone, Hasty is one of the most athletic backs in the Big 12. The problem, of course, is that numbers alone do not make a good Big 12 player. Over his years, it seems that Hasty has struggled putting his elite athleticism into action. Whether it be running style, injuries, or confidence, I don’t think that from his Freshman through Junior season we ever saw Hasty at his peak.

But something has happened as a senior. After a slow start, Hasty has taken advantage of Trestan Ebner’s injury and firmly placed himself in the RB rotation. And in my opinion it is because he has figured out how to take his two extreme attributes—elite speed along with incredible physical strength—and find a happy medium.

The Speed Demon is Also the Weight Room King

Over the past few years, coaches have frequently noted that Hasty is the king of the Baylor football weight room. Despite his 5’9” height, Hasty is near the top of the leaderboard in many of the explosive movements: squat, powerclean, etc.

What makes this interesting is that this not some linebacker putting up these numbers, it’s a very fast RB. Hasty ran a 4.49 laser 40 time in high school, one of the best times in the nation. Announcers like to claim that every fast skill athlete in college football has “4.4” or “4.3” speed, but very few actually do. My friend at Baylor once told me, as we speculated how fast I could throw a baseball, “radar guns are rude, man.” It’s the same with laser systems for the forty yard dash: Kendall Wright was showered with the descriptor “4.3 speed” while at Baylor, and then ran a 4.61 at the NFL combine. All this to say, do not overlook a 4.49 forty—Hasty is very fast.

This is where I move into pure speculation. I think this dual reality—elite speed with tank-like strength—has made it difficult for Hasty to establish a running style. It is as if on one play he would try and use his speed, making too many lateral moves instead of plunging forward, but then on the next he’d attempt an Earl Campbell and plant the crown of his helmet into a defender’s chest after a 3 yard gain. I’ve seen him monikered as both too patient—i.e., “dancing” behind the line of scrimmage for too long—and as not patient enough, hitting the hole too fast and running into the back of his own OL. All of this said to me that Hasty was a guy who hadn’t quite figured out who he was yet.

Hasty Has Figured it Out

This is not exactly an original idea I am having. Matt Rhule said as much in a recent interview: Hasty has figured out who he is as a runner and is sticking to it. But what is that, exactly?

For one, I think Hasty has figured out that the best way to employ his tank-like strength is not to seek out defenders and punish them, but to instead use that strength to slough off defenders as they haplessly try and drag down a guy who can squat a small car. Take his shorter TD run against OSU for example:

To be sure, Hasty is attacking the defender. But he is not bowling over him—Hasty is attacking the defender’s weak shoulder, knowing that he is strong enough to blow through the contact and reach the endzone. This is how strength is properly utilized.

Secondly, I think Hasty has gained a better feel of when to quickly attack the LOS and when to be patient. Here is at terrific run (with some great blocking!) on a 3rd and long running play. Hasty recognizes that, because the back 7 defenders are dropping back to defend the pass, his only threat of being quickly tackled is from defenders on the line of scrimmage. He uses his quickness to beat the DE to the LOS and then makes a good cut to get the first down.

A couple of great games does not mean that all bad habits are erased. But Hasty has shown some improvement—consistently, most importantly—recently demonstrating that he could be a major weapon down the stretch. Hasty is a very reliable blocker in the passing game. If he can be as productive as Lovett and Ebner in the running game, he’s clearly Baylor’s best back.