OVERVIEWJay Ajayi’s rise through the collegiate ranks is due to the coaching staff having complete confidence in his character, work ethic and relationship at the university to afford the player a “second chance.” That second chance would allow the All-American to reward the coaches and university officials during his three seasons as a major contributor.
By the time Ajayi would declare that he was leaving Boise State for the National Football League, his name was etched into numerous places within the Mountain West Conference and school record books. He ended his time with the Broncos as the school’s second-leading rusher (3,796 yards) and scorer (55 total touchdowns, including 50 as a ball carrier).
Ajayi ranks second in the league with 17 100-yard rushing performances, setting the season record with eight consecutive games going over the “century” mark. He also tied the MWC mark with nine straight contests where he scored at least one touchdown. His 32 total scores in 2014 set the conference season-record, ranking second on the annual sheets with 28 rushing touchdowns.
Ajayi was born in London, England to Nigerian parents and moved to the United States, settling in Maryland when he was in fourth grade in 2000. He eventually moved to Texas, but still retains his British citizenship, though he hasn’t been able to find a time to go back since he left. Like most kids growing up in England, Ajayi was hooked on soccer. And it was apparent early on that he had talent.
After moving to the United States for his father’s job, Ajayi continued to play soccer. He had dreams of maybe returning to play professional soccer in England or even trying out for the Nigerian National team one day. But things changed one afternoon while in the fourth or fifth grade when a friend from elementary school invited him to come watch his football practice. While watching from the side, a coach mistakenly took him for a player on the team and asked him to participate in a drill.
In two varsity seasons at Liberty High, the 175-pound ball carrier ran for just under 3,900 yards. As a junior, he collected 1,627 yards on 209 attempts (7.78 ypc) that included 20 touchdowns. As a senior, Ajayi rushed for 2,240 yards on 225 carries (9.96 ypc) and 35 touchdowns. He was considered a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, as that recruiting service rated him the 41st-best running back prospect in the nation.
The 2010 second-team All-State choice was also a two-time All-Conference pick, adding All-Collin County and Collin County Player of the Year during his senior season. In track, Ajayi earned one letter at Liberty High. He was a member of the 4x400-meter (3:21.75), 4x200m (1:29.44) and 4x100m (42.86) district championship teams. He was also a member of The National Society of High School Scholars.
Ajayi red-shirted at Boise State during the 2011 season, but ran afoul of the law off the field in an incident that could have ended his Broncos career before it even began. While performing with the scout team, but in October, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor theft for trying to steal sweatpants from Walmart, according to the Idaho Statesman.
The report said that Ajayi was fined $389.50 and given five days of jail time with options (served the time by picking up litter or participating in a work release instead) and had his 85-day jail sentence suspended.
Former Boise State coach Chris Petersen nearly kicked Ajayi off the team. It was only after Ibi traveled to Boise and pleaded with the coaches to give him another shot that he was allowed to stay, but only if he redshirted. A week later, things got even worse. Motivated to earn back the trust of his teammates and coaches with hard work on the scout team, Ajayi had barely gotten back on the field when he went down in practice with a yell and a serious knee injury. His anterior cruciate ligament was torn.
After a promising freshman year, when Ajayi tallied 548 yards, averaging 6.68 yards per carry and scored four times on the ground, he became the Boise State Broncos workhorse in the backfield, putting together an all-conference season in 2013 with his unique blend of size and track speed.
Ajayi carried the sphere 249 times in 2013, the seventh-best season total by a Bronco. His 1,425 yards rank sixth on the BSU annual sheet. He also took the fourth spot on that list with 18 touchdown runs, adding 222 yards and another score while pulling down 22 passes. He concluded the season with a team-best 114 points scored and rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his twelve starting assignments.
The 2014 season was an outstanding one for the junior ball carrier. Ajayi set the school records with 1,823 yards on 347 carries (5.25 ypc) and 28 touchdowns, setting more BSU records with 2,358 all-purpose yards and 32 total touchdowns, which also established a Mountain West Conference season-record. He placed third on the team with a career-high 50 receptions, good for 535 yards and four more scores.
SCOUTING ANALYSISThe 2014 season will be a year to remember for Ajayi, as he ranked second in the nation with 32 total touchdowns, 28 scoring runs and 347 attempts, piling up 1,823 yards on the ground while snatching 50 passes for 535 yards. He is a creative open field runner with that sudden burst of speed that allows him to immediately gain advantage through the rush lanes. He is an elusive cutback runner with precise plant-and-drive agility. He has the body control and lower body flexibility to stop and go with no wasted motion and is effective at utilizing head fakes and his hip wiggle to set up the opponent.
Ajayi’s hip-shake and wiggle lets him change direction in an instant to run through the cutback lanes. He can cut on a dime and reach the corner, as he has the speed to go the distance. He explodes out of his stance through the rush lanes and is very decisive attacking the holes. He has the loose hips and wiggles to make the initial tackler miss and stays low in his pads to burst through the pile. He gets to top acceleration in an instant and has crisp moves in and out of his cuts.
The Bronco’s suddenness lets him gain instant advantage, even when he doesn’t have the luxury of open lanes in front of him. He will not hesitate to take the ball up the gut, but because of some size limitations, he has to rely on his line to create space for him. He is the type of player that needs room to run and can get bottled up inside, where his leg drive is only adequate. He is good at picking, sliding and accelerating through the holes, but he is not the type that will run through and punish tacklers.
Ajayi will run the ball hard up the gut, but unless he redirects or bounces wide, he is not the type that can break many tackles taking the ball up the middle. He has good weight room strength, but needs room to operate and seems to get too narrow with his base when having to power through arm tackles. He just lacks the leg drive to break those tackles, making him only adequate to gain additional yardage upon contact. He is just not the type that can punish defenders.
Ajayi has good change of direction agility and the vision to locate and settle into the soft areas. He is best used on controlled routes, but has the speed to line wide. He is quick to uncover and has the anticipation skills to work back to the ball. Still, his experience is mostly on dump-offs and screens. He is an explosive runner once he gets to the ball.
The junior is very deceptive varying his speeds to break free along the perimeter. He has the burst to outrun defenders when working in space and most of his long runs have been the result of his explosive second gear. Fumbling has never been an issue, as Ajayi works hard to maintain proper ball security. He protects the ball well by keeping it close to his body, usually carrying it away from the defender. He has good functional arm strength and does a good job of covering up on contact. Look for Oakland and Minnesota to make a “run” at the tailback if he slips through to the third round.
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