Under Ayeni's watch, the Rockets ranked 14th nationally in rushing during the 2013 season, averaging 240.6 yards per game, while workhorse David Fluellen led the conference in yards per carry and rushed for 1,121 yards despite missing three games with injury.
Ayeni graduated from Northwestern in 2003 with a bachelor's in communications and a minor in sociology. He played two seasons in the NFL, the first with Tony Dungy's Colts and the second with Mike Martz' Rams.
AllCyclones.com caught up with Ayeni on Thursday for an exclusive interview.
AllCyclones.com: I think many would agree that, in terms of raw ability, not much changes by the time a running back gets to college and by the time he leaves. So what does a running backs coach focus on?
Ayeni: "Physically, you're gonna get bigger, faster, stronger. But these guys come in and they're natural runners. Now they've just got to fit our system, whether it's one-cut thing or stretching it out. They have to understand the scheme. The biggest thing I try to do with these guys is I try to teach the start and the finish.
"It starts out, what we're doing, how you're getting to Point A. The finish is protecting the football, finishing runs, making guys miss and stuff like that. In between, that's why I recruited you. The special stuff in between the start and the finish. That's why it's fun for me. I've coached some really good players and I allowed them to fit our scheme and then use their natural ability."
Q: What running scheme did you use at Toledo?
Ayeni: "We were a zone team but mixed in a little power and a little counter, but we were inside and outside zone."
Q: And then what was it like coaching and teaching David Fluellen?
Ayeni: "It was awesome. We came in together and ended up going out together. He was a young player with a lot of talent and ability but he was a good player. He became a great player by listening, doing the right things and wanting to be great.
"That's the cool thing for me, I got to teach him every step of the way. The NFL, he wanted to know how to get there. And he's gonna get there."
Q: So he came in as a talented guy, of course. What sort of nuances did you help him with?
Ayeni: "Schemes, protections. He was a talented kid but he wasn't mature. He wasn't a finished product by any means. He had to buy into the weight room, he had to buy into eating right, he had to buy into watching film. He had to understand the difference between running the zone and using a drop-cut and running the outside zone.
"It's fun. He just bought in. You see what happened. He became one of the best backs in the country. It didn't matter if we're playing Missouri and he got 111 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving or we're playing Western Michigan and he's got 220 yards. Every week he showed up. Consistency was his biggest deal."
Q: He was involved in the passing game as well?
Ayeni: "Absolutely, all my guys were. You're a three-down back for me. We're gonna develop you as a runner, a receiver and a blocker."
Q: Have you gotten a chance to look at Iowa State's running backs, whether statistics or video?
Ayeni: "When I came up here a couple weeks ago they showed me some clips. Talked about the Wimberly kid, talked about some other guys. Nothing extensive. But they keep saying they're good guys and ready to be coached, brought up and developed.
Q: As a RB coach, one of your primary jobs, as it is at many schools, will be serving as a main recruiter. You'll recruit Texas and the Midwest. What experiences do you have in those parts of the country?
Ayeni: "I got to recruit Dallas this year. We were down there to get speed and we got a couple linemen committed to Toledo, so it's kind of funny. The biggest thing is getting relationships, getting to know people.
"For me, being a guy who played in the NFL, had some success at Toledo, people are starting to know about that. There's a lot of people who are gravitating towards that. A lot of people want to help that. I've gotten a ton of calls about players or guys who want to help me be successful. It's exciting and it's fun and I think it'll be good to [be affiliated with] a BCS school.
Q: You coaches kind of have two full-time jobs. You're a coach — you've got to prepare the guys, watch film — but you also have to recruit all the time. How do you stay sane?
Ayeni: "Well, I don't have a wife or kids. My Mom's on my case about that. I've got a lot of time to pour into work. Coaching my kids, I'm like a father-figure to them. I'm in their business every single day. I'm going to make sure they're going to class and doing the right thing and staying out of trouble.
"If you look at my guys at Toledo, nobody had off-the-field issues, they all graduated and they're pretty damn good. I'm preparing myself [to be a father, someday] in that regard. I've got a lot of time to go recruit and really evaluate, whether it's staying late to watch [recruit] film or film from practice, because I've got nobody to go home to.
"I'm a young guy and it's long hours and it's tough, but it's fun. But I know the fan base at Iowa State wants to win, so I've got to do my job.